BLACK HISTORY MONTH: ENTREPRENEURS
WRITTEN BY CHARLES ODUGBESAN
To round off Black History Month for 2017, we at 14HQ want to acknowledge some of the wonderful creative and entrepreneurial minds of today. Often as young black men and women we champion the endeavours and the legacy of athletes, musicians or performers of some kind. And in doing so, we may seek to follow suit as the only means of leading a successful life. Meanwhile, entrepreneurs, intellectuals, inventors, activists and politicians are unsung and (sometimes) forgotten men/women in black history. It’s possible we can dream of being like these people as well! So let’s bring some of them to light. I was overwhelmed with choices so I’m rounding this list down to my top 3 picks.
Oprah Gail Winfrey (1954-)
Following an unstable and abusive early life, an 18 year old Oprah Winfrey got her big break in the media world after winning a beauty pageant which landed her a part time news role at a black radio station. 4 years later she was hosting her own show ‘People are talking’ for 8 years in Baltimore, before her move to Chicago where ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’ was born on September 8th 1986. Unlike most talk shows that discuss trivial flash topics, conversation on Oprah’s show has always been more stimulating and deep rooted. She put emphasis on discussing the real trials and tribulations of real people in Middle America. The show grossed over $100 million in its first year and 30 years on, with magazines, radio shows and the Oprah Winfrey network being added to the empire, she has never looked back. Today her Net Worth is estimated at over $3 billion and she is one the richest black women on earth.
Robert Louis Johnson (1946-)
Bobby Johnson was the man in his early 30’s who sought to take advantage of a gap in the cable television market. Already in the late 70’s black radio shows and black magazines were established. Logically, the next step would be a programme/network dedicated to showing black television shows. Johnson exploited that gap and was able to launch Black Entertainment Television (BET) in 1980. It wasn’t an overnight success by any means. BET took 5 years to turnover its first profit and 11 to be officially billed on the New York Stock Exchange as the first black owned business. But over time its appeal, popularity and status rose and in 2000 Johnson would sell his 42% share of the company to Viacom for $3 billion and became CEO for a further 6 years. 71 year old Johnson’s net worth is around $600 million now, but he will forever be remembered as the first black billionaire.
Jamal Edwards (1990-)
Given a camera for his 15th birthday, a young Jamal (or Smokey Barz as he was previously known) set about creating a YouTube channel that gave a platform to showcase the underground rap and grime scenes in London. This was in 2006.
By 2012, SB.TV had shot a video with Boy Better Know in celebration of the media company reaching in excess of 100 million views. Since then, that number has almost quadrupled and the company has been featured in everything from The Guardian and The Observer, to Vanity Fair and GQ magazine. Aside from music, Jamal and his production team have also been invited to film interviews at 10 Downing Street and with HRH Prince Charles, as well as covering award shows and various festivals. SB himself has also ventured out into other fields which include the 2014 release of his e-book, ‘Self Belief: The Vision’ and campaigns with the likes of Burberry, Puma and Topman. Jamal is undoubtedly one of the first real success stories coming out of London in the digital age. Sure enough there are a wide range of social media platforms running to this day that use his work as a blueprint. Edwards was awarded his MBE 3 years ago. Today his net worth is close to £10 million and he is still only 27 years old!
These three businessmen and women are living proof that those that go down in Black History boast mental as well as physical prowess of the highest order! And they should be an inspiration to us all and teach us that, with enough belief and even more application, we can achieve anything that we so desire!
Happy October from myself and all at 14HQ!!