It’s February and millions across online and public platforms are commemorating the great strides made by African American’s throughout our country in honor of our nation’s coveted, Black History Month.
Initially, Black History Month was established as ‘Negro History Week’ in 1926. Years later, it was expanded to Black History Week and later to Black History month after being proposed by the leaders of the Black United Students at Kent State University in February 1969.
In 1976, Black History Month was recognized by the United States government and then President Gerald Ford. This urged Americans to seize the opportunity to honor the often neglected accomplishments of African Americans throughout history.
Over the last several decades, African Americans have created innovative businesses, ideas and systems that have greatly impacted the quality of life for our nation. Through the lives of these great African American innovators, we can learn several vital business lessons that are still applicable to the society we live in today.
“Turn your wounds into wisdom.”-Oprah
Whether we would like to admit it or not, as business owners and entrepreneurs, we have all experienced wounds. We’ve all dealt with being told “no”, being looked over for projects and just down right being undervalued. Despite the wounds we have faced, Oprah suggests that we turn our wounds into wisdom and she’s speaking from experience.
The now media powerhouse was fired from her first ever television job because she was told she wasn’t good enough. What could have turned into bitterness, turned into wisdom and today, Oprah is one of the richest women in America, thanks to her career in television.
“I’ve always believed that if you put in the work, the results will come.”-Michael Jordan
Believe it or not, Michael Jordan, one of the greatest basketball players of all time, was cut from his high school basketball team because his coach didn’t think he was good enough. He later went on to win more than 5 NBA Championship rings and is, by far, one of the most well known brands in sports.
Much like Michael Jordan, we have to learn how to stop taking a no personally. If a potential client declines your request or if a boss tells you that you’ll never succeed, continue to perfect the craft you believe so wholeheartedly in and in due time your greatness will show.
“All business is personal…Make your friends before you need them.”– Bob Johnson
Robert L. Johnson is an entrepreneur who is most celebrated as the first self made black billionaire. He is the founder of BET. After building several relationships with television giants across the world, in 2000 he sold BET to Viacom.
So often business owners and entrepreneurs tend to build relationships with other business owners based on what they think that individual can do for them. Johnson suggests that you make friends with people with no ulterior motive, that way when you really need them, it’ll be genuine.
“Whatever we believe about ourselves and our ability comes true for us.” – Susan L. Taylor
Susan Taylor is most commonly known for taking the Essence Magazine brand to the next level during the 1980s. At Essence magazine, Taylor not only served as chief editor, but was also the author of the popular magazine column, In The Spirit.
As Editor, Taylor took the publication’s readership to eight million in the U.S., the Caribbean, Canada, the U.K. and English-speaking African nations. She was also responsible for taking the Essence brand into book publishing, broadcasting, eyewear, hosiery and its own fashion catalogue.
When Susan Taylor first began her journey at Essence, she was a struggling single mother who desperately believed that she could be great.
As entrepreneurs, it is important that we all believe in ourselves, our dreams and our ideas before we can expect anyone else to buy into them. Seeing really is believing.
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”-Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King is the forefather of the Civil Rights movement that took place in the United States. He was a firm believer in forward progression by any means necessary.
As business leaders, we can all learn from Martin Luther King and the importance of being willing to take risks. Sometimes we have great ideas and inventions but fail to execute on them because we can’t see the bigger picture. Dr. King encourages us to just push forward even when we can’t see the entire picture unfolding.
What business lessons have you learned from historic African American leaders? Leave your comments below.
Stephanie Caudle is a freelance writer for clients across the globe. She takes pride in creating thought provoking content that increases viability and traffic for her clients. She recently launched The Black Girl Group a micro job site created to connect businesses who struggle with hiring diverse talent to African American freelancers from across the world.