Every Black History Month we celebrate our Black athletes, civil rights leaders and artists. But too often we overlook our legacy as Black entrepreneurs, business owners and executives, despite having just as deep a legacy in those areas.
Today, Alfred Edmond Jr. returns to Trailblazers.FM for his third feature and second of what we hope to be an annual episode of Alfred sharing stories of our Black business legends.
Alfred is the Senior Vice President and Executive Editor-at-Large of Black Enterprise.
Some time ago, Alfred brought it to my attention that there's often very little conversation about black legacy in business. That fueled my invitation to him to join me on episode 107 for our first Black business legends episode. That episode has gone on to become one of our most downloaded episodes ever on this podcast.
Here are a few of the people who’ve had an impact on the Black community and Black business, and in many cases changed American business in many ways:
- Berry Gordy
- Tom Burrell
- Comer Cottrell
- Cathy Hughes
My ask today is that you’d share this episode with your family, friends and others in the Black community. If you're posting to social, please use the hashtags #blackbusinesslegend and #missionfuel Let’s be reminded of those who paved a path for us. It’s on us to keep these business legends top of mind and ensure they are never forgotten.
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KEY POINTS FROM ALFRED:
Every Black History month we celebrate athletes, civil rights leaders and artists, and they all should be celebrated. But too often we overlook our legacy as entrepreneurs, business owners and executives. We have just as deep a legacy in those areas.
Berry Gordy is an icon, not just of Black history but American business and American industry — from fashion to music to film. He founded Motown in 1959. He was the prototype for the likes of Russell Simmons, P. Diddy and other industry recording artists who also expanded in film, fashion and other areas. He’s a living iconic legend.
In the world of advertising, we don’t always recognize the force that Black-owned ad agencies were in terms of driving Black media, Black business creation and Black imagery and messaging. Tom Burrell founded his advertising agency in 1971, and built it into one of the most influential ad agencies in general, and one of the number one Black ad agencies. He’s in the advertising hall of fame and authored the book, “Brainwashed” — a deep study in how advertising messages have shaped the perception of Black Americans for good and for bad.
Comer Cottrell founded Proline Corp in 1970 and made his first million in sales 3 years later. He was one of the first companies to take the jerry curl out of salons and create a kit that people could use at home by themselves.
My success doesn’t mean much if I’m not using it to leverage broader success in the community as a whole. #BlackExcellence #BlackBizLegend
Cathy Hughes was the founder of RadioOne. She pioneered “The Quiet Storm” format on Howard University’s radio station that we now accept as a mainstream element of urban radio. She built her business from the ground up. In her own words, “I just kept going until I heard yes!”
Black History Month is not just for Black people! These icons are Black history figures because of their impact as representatives of the Black community but also far beyond to other cultures.
These trailblazers not only changed how business is done by Black people but how business is done by America.
The idea of targeted marketing by segments was pioneered by John Johnson and subsequently Earl Graves, Ed Lewis, Tom Burrell and the Black ad agencies that said, “Black people are not just brown-skinned white people.”
I’m not starting from scratch. I’m building something from a blueprint, a pattern, that I can adapt to innovate to make my contribution.
THIS EPISODE WAS SPONSORED BY:
The Campaign for Black Male Achievement. Join, support and invest in this movement to help improve the life outcomes of our black men and boys.
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