February is Black History Month, and it turns out black entrepreneurs have been soundly kicking butt in business since the 1800s. Whether laundering clothes for goldminers, persisting to become the wealthiest African American alive, or making the right product for the right people, these entrepreneurs are worth celebrating for Black History Month.

Robert F. Smith

Robert F. Smith founded Vista Equity Partners in 2000, and has since become a self-made billionaire. In 2017, Forbes named Smith as one of the top 100 greatest business minds living, and Forbes also described Smith as the wealthiest African American alive, making him even wealthier than Oprah Winfrey. Smith started his career as a chemical engineer, but went on to attend Columbia Business School, where he earned an MBA in financing and marketing.

Madam C. J. Walker

Madam C.J. Walker was the first American woman of any skin tone to independently become a millionaire, and she did it by developing a line of products designed specifically for black women in 1905. Walker went on to tour the country, presenting on her products and giving demonstrations. She opened a factory in 1908, and the rest is history.

Clara Brown

Clara Brown was born a slave in Virginia in 1800. When her master died, he stipulated in his will that she be freed, and Brown moved out West in pursuit of the Colorado Gold Rush. Brown made her fortune working as a cook, maid, and nurse to gold miners. She eventually went on to open the first laundry in Gilpin County in Central City and invested the proceeds of that business in mine claims, real estate, and land. Brown was known as the angel of the Rockies because she devoted the rest of her life to helping others any way she could, from hosting Sunday School in her home to giving philanthropically to help other liberated slaves move West.

Article by Charles Jackson, President of AFEUSA

Charles Jackson AFE Board