Black entrepreneurship predates the Civil War, and there are some incredible black entrepreneurs out there today. I’ll cover some of the most influential and well-known black male businessmen to date in this list.
This list includes current and previous black men who established their own businesses, brands, and even markets. Read on to learn more about the trailblazers who are helping to shape the world.
Daymond John is best known for his role on Shark Tank, a popular reality TV show where entrepreneurs seek investment money from successful businessmen and women on the panel.
However, Daymond’s accomplishments are varied and wide, from starting his first business selling customized pencils in the first grade to growing his clothing brand FUBU into a multi-billion dollar business.
Daymond’s career began in grade school when he sold customized pencils to classmates. In his teenage years, he got the idea of an African American men’s clothing line and learned how to sew from his mother.
After recruiting some friends, his mother getting a second mortgage on her house, and using music videos to promote his clothing brand, he grew FUBU into the six billion-dollar business it is today.
Daymond John remains one of the most influential black male entrepreneurs in the market today and inspires all entrepreneurs everywhere.
His contemporaries listed Michael Jordan as “the greatest athlete of all time,” and it’s no wonder. His athletic accomplishments helped grow the popularity of NBA basketball in the 1980s and 1990s, growing them into the powerhouse they are today. He led the NBA in scoring for seven consecutive years and is still a household name today.
In addition to being a world-renowned athlete, Michael Jordan is also a savvy businessman. He was the best-paid athlete in the world when he was still playing, and he still makes bank from endorsements and uses his name for branding.
His most popular endorsement is Air Jordans, a brand of basketball shoes with Nike, and over time he’s earned 1.3 billion from the brand. His total net worth stands at about 1.6 billion dollars.
At the beginning of his basketball career, Jordan was told he was too short to play but responded by working even harder. His business deals and endorsements have led him to be one of the wealthiest athletes of all time, in addition to being a wise entrepreneur.
One of the wealthiest people in hip-hop is Sean Combs, better known as P-Diddy. He started as a talent director at Uptown Records before starting his own label Bad Boy Entertainment. His estimated net worth is 885 million dollars, making him the third wealthiest rapper of all time, just behind Jay-Z and Kanye West.
Sean was born in Harlem and was encouraged to chase his dreams from a young age. After starting his own label, he signed on a lot of big names in the music industry, such as The Notorious B.I.G., Usher, Aretha Franklin, and more, in addition to becoming an accomplished musical artist.
In addition to music royalties, P. Diddy has several sponsorships and investments to pad out his portfolio. He owns half of Ciroq vodka, the other half owned by Kanye West, in addition to a stake in DeLeon tequila and Aquahydrate
George Foreman is the second athlete to grace this list, but for the same reasons. While he is primarily known for becoming the heavyweight boxing champion at forty-five, he is also known for George Foreman Grills. George Foreman sold the rights to use his name to Salton Inc., which used it to market the grills, and became a huge success.
George Foreman grills are still on the market today and are George’s best investment, although he made several other lucrative deals throughout his career.
While the grills have made him 200 million of his 300 million net worth, his other product endorsements and licensing have earned him his last 100 million, making him a wealthy entrepreneur indeed.
If Sean Combs is the wealthiest person in hip-hop, then Shawn Carter is the second richest. He’s better known as Jay-Z, and his entrepreneurial spirit is evident in the song “Entrepreneur,” in which he collaborated with Pharrell Williams.
His net worth is 810 million, and his wealth began to grow after his rapping career took off in the 1990s. He then founded Roc-A-Fella Records, his first large-scale investment. He then found Rocawear, a clothing brand that sold 700 million dollars at its peak in the early 2000s.
The 40/40 club, a sports bar, was founded in 2003 and now has five locations in separate cities. Roc Nation, Jay-Z’s newest recording label, Roc Nation Sports, and even the streaming service Tidal, Jay-Z’s investments and businesses are wide and varied.
Jay-Z has businesses and investments everywhere. His entrepreneurial spirit has led him to become one of the most recognizable names in hip-hop and an American household name.
Fredrick Hutson was incarcerated for drug dealing for four years, and during that time, he became painfully aware of a problem all inmates face. Communication. When he got out, he put all of his entrepreneurial spirit towards fixing that problem. And thus, Pigeonly was born.
Pigeonly is a company that focuses on communication between inmates and their families. All communication between the prisoners and their loved ones must be carefully screened; calls, pictures, and even visits were expensive and out-of-reach for low-income prisoners. Fredrick sought to change that.
After a lot of work, he founded Pigeonly, a tech company that focuses on making screening easier, faster, and cheaper so families can communicate with each other. He breaks down both barriers and paradigms, so prisoners miss less of their lives in prison and more time connecting with loved ones.
Fredrick has a net worth of 6.6 million, but it’s only likely to grow in the coming years as Pigeonly grows its consumer base and services.
Christopher Gray’s mother had two jobs and three kids, so he grew up in deep poverty during the recession. However, his determination to go to college was unwavering. He spent up to twelve hours a week looking for and applying to scholarships at his local library, netting him 1.3 million dollars.
“The Million Dollar Scholar” then realized just how much scholarship money was out there for students like him and came up with the idea of Scholly, an app designed to help students find scholarships for them.
He went onto Shark Tank and got forty grand to start his business, and since then, Scholly has helped students find over 70 million dollars in scholarships.
Robert L. Johnson
No entrepreneurship list would be complete without this black icon. Robert founded BET, the Black Entertainment Television network, with his wife Sheila in the 1970s. Over the next decade, they grew the company from a few hours of airtime each week to an entire channel and network.
BET became the first black-owned company on the New York Stock Exchange, and Robert sold it in 2001 to Viacom, making him the first black billionaire.
He now owns RLJ companies which have stakes in everything from television to sports. Robert L. Johnson still serves on the board of directors for many publicly traded companies, even in his retirement, including Lowes, KB Home, Elevate Credit Inc., and more.
He broke barriers, gave African Americans a voice in television, and became one of the wealthiest African Americans alive today. His legacy is inspiring for all black Americans to continue pushing forward.
Andre Young is officially the third richest person in hip-hop; however, many people also know him from Beats by Dre, an electronics brand he sold to Apple for 3 billion dollars. Dr. Dre’s success in electronics comes from intimate musical knowledge and experience.
His career first took off when N.W.A. launched their debut album “Straight Outta Compton.” Afterward, he went solo becoming a music producer for some big names and releasing his albums. He went on to found his recording label Aftermath Entertainment.
Then he started Beats By Dre, which was a huge success. The high-quality electronics brand sold to Apple in 2014 for 3 billion dollars, cementing him as a world-class entrepreneur and the third richest man in hip-hop.
For this next one, we’re going way back to the early eighteen-hundreds when a black man purchased his freedom from a Virginian slave-owner. Robert Gordon worked for a Virginian yachtsman in a coal yard.
The owner allowed Robert to keep the coal dust that settled all around the yard, and while the particulars of how he did it are unknown, Robert took that coal dust and marketed it to the coal buyers for a profit.
Robert saved up thousands this way and eventually negotiated with his owner for his freedom. After purchasing his freedom, he moved to Cincinnati and began a coal business.
With sharp instincts and savvy business skills, Robert Gordon became the largest coal trader in Cincinnati, much to the chagrin of his white competitors.
While they tried to push him out of business, he used clever tactics to purchase coal cheap from them and then wait until their stores ran low to sell it back at a marked-up price. Eventually, he retired and left the business to another black businessman, putting most of his money into real estate. He died one of the wealthiest black men in the nation and spent the latter part of his life mentoring young black businessmen, inspiring the black community.
Jason is the owner of the “Netflix of Africa” iROKOtv, a streaming service that focuses on Nollywood or Nigeria Hollywood content. iROKOtv was his tenth business venture and his most tremendous success; however, he faced many challenges in getting it off the ground.
One of his problems was the digital divide. Many places in Africa still don’t have decent internet, which can affect his subscriber count. Sometimes he had to purchase the licensing rights to a movie in Nigeria and fly back to the U.K. to add it to iROKOtv’s library.
After years of determination and hard work, success finally found this Nigerian-born businessman. His determination led him to grow iROKOtv into a 40 million dollar business. With the most extensive streaming library of Nollywood content globally, his company is likely to grow in the coming decades as more and more Africans get access to the internet.
Damola moved to the US from Nigeria at age six. He was an undocumented immigrant who had a confused understanding of US policies and laws. Later in life, he graduated with a degree in finance and found Civic Eagle.
Civic Eagle provides transparency and simplification to the democratic process. It gives users a clear understanding of laws and policies in their area, making it perfect for businesses and companies. However, Damola’s goal is to combat political apathy and get regular people more involved in the democratic process.
Damola struggled with Civic Eagle for three years until he developed the software Enview. Enview enabled businesses and companies to get a clear view of legislation affecting them, what policies they need to follow to be compliant, and what forms and permits they need to run their businesses legally.
Now Civic Eagle has 2.3 million dollars in funding to grow their services and help the average joe understand the legal jargon that governs their lives.
Top Black Male Entrepreneurs, Final Thoughts
Ultimately, these black male entrepreneurs stayed strong and broke down the walls they faced to become successful. They each used their talents, stuck with their businesses in the face of defeat until they found the success they worked so hard for.
Whether creating a new television network for African Americans, going solo and making their own recording labels, or helping connect families, they each made their mark. They became wealthy entrepreneurs who will inspire others for years to come.