Tyra Banks isn’t just a pretty face. This former Victoria Secret model has taken her good looks to the small screen with several cycles of America’s Next Top Model. In addition, she owns Bankable Productions, an independent TV and production company. In recent months she also launched TypeF, Demand Media fashion and beauty website. On top of all that, she just graduated from Harvard Business school.
After 20 years as a revered fashion model, Iman retired from the runway to start her eponymous cosmetics line in 1994 to cater to women of color who struggled to find shades for darker complexions. As of today the line is worth over $25 million and found in more than 10 countries.
Janice Bryant Howroyd
Bryant Howroyd founded her employment staffing firm, ACT-1, in 1978 with just $1,500, a small office and a telephone. 34 years later, ACT-1 is the largest American company of its kind owned by a woman of color, with over 70 branches nationwide.
Oprah Winfrey may be best known for her work as a daytime talk show host, but she’s making waves as the creator of the Oprah Winfrey Network. She’s the second African-American woman to start her own network (after Cathy Hughes). Not to mention, she founded Harpo Productions in the late 80s. Today, Forbes puts her worth at over $2.7 billion.
Madame C.J. Walker
Madame C.J. Walker is best known as America’s first Black female self-made millionaire. A daughter of former slaves, Walker worked in a barbershop for only $1.50 a day before she created a homemade remedy that helped her hair regrow after suffering a scalp condition.
CEO Tina Wells founded the Buzz Marketing Group in 1996 to help companies capture the youth market’s tastes and attitudes. Her company utilizes social media and trendspotting and other research tools for clients like Nike, Steve Madden and MAC Cosmetics. Wells is also the author of Chasing Youth Culture and Getting It Right.
This Long Island native started her Leanna Inc. haircare line at just 11-years-old. Yes, 11-years-old. Her all-natural organic hair butters and shampoos have helped her earn over $100,000 in revenue. Her small operation thrives with lots of help from her family.
In 1993, Lisa Price started making hair products in her Brooklyn kitchen with just $100. She sold her concoctions at church flea markets and street fairs. Today, her homemade line Carol’s Daughter is a multimillion-dollar line of must-have beauty treats.
From teenage mother to media power player, Hughes is the founder of Radio One, which includes 53 radio stations in the U.S., and TVOne, a cable network. At one point during the early stages of her career, she lost her home and was forced to live with relatives as she rebuilt her company into what is now one of the biggest media companies in the world.
Sure, Queen Latifah is a model, actress, musician and ESSENCE cover girl, but did you know she’s an entrepreneur? She’s part owner of Flavor Unit Entertainment, a production company specializing in television (it’s behind VH1’s Single Ladies), movies and artist management.
ESSENCEBlack Women in Hollywood honoree Rhimes is the first African-American woman to create and executive-produce a top 10 primetime television series with ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy; she’s also the woman behind Private Practice and is currently developing Scandal, starring Kerry Washington. The Dartmouth graduate is arguably the most powerful Black woman in Hollywood and one of the most sought-after writers and producers in entertainment.
Johnson made her fortune when she co-founded the BET cable network with her then husband, Bob Johnson. In 2005 she became the first African-American female owner of a WNBA team when she bought into the Washington Mystics basketball team.
Dubbed the “Oprah of the Web” by her peers, 24-year-old Corvida Raven is a social media entrepreneur and founder of shegeeks.net. She’s also a social media consultant for firms like Chevrolet and Intel and Fast Company .
Johnson made a splash when she became the first African-American woman to grace the cover of American Vogue in 1971. She extended her love for all things beautiful when she launched the Beverly Johnson Hair Collection of wigs, skin-care and bath/body products.
Mara Brock Akil
The brains behind hit TV shows like Girlfriends, The Game and Moesha, Mara Brock Akil is also the co-founder of Akil Productions with husband Salim Akil, who directed the highly anticipated remake of Sparkle starring Whitney Houston.
Internet entrepreneur Angela Benton is making her mark in the tech industry as the brains behind three web-based startups: Cued, BlackWeb 2.0 and NewMe Accelarator, an “incubator” for minority-owned tech startups.
Fashion designer Tracy Reese took her dreams of owning her own company and made them a reality. Her first attempt at entrepreneurship did not go well, and Tracy was forced to shut down her company, only to come back stronger and more profitable after a relaunch in 1996. Now her brands include her Tracy Reese and Plenty fashion lines, and she has expanded into footwear, home collections and nail polish.
Her quest to change the way we use technology led Kimberly Dillon to launch House of Mikko, a website that helps women choose their makeup and hair products based on their features.
Beyonce’s mother Tina Knowles has always had a passion for entrepreneurship and opened her own hair salon, Headliners, in Houston before her daughter rose to fame. Today, she has channeled her love of fashion design into two successful lines, House of Dereon and Miss Tina, which is sold exclusively with Home Shopping Network and Walmart.
Vanessa and Angela Simmons
The Simmons sisters know a thing or two about business. Their uncle Russell is one of the biggest media moguls in the world, and together they run Pastry, a women and kids’ shoe company.
Kimora Lee Simmons
Not content to just be her ex-hubby Russell Simmons’ arm candy, fashion model turned entrepreneur Kimora Lee Simmons was at the helm of influential urban brand Baby Phat for 10 years before walking away to launch the KLS Collection and KLS Design Group in 2011.
Kita and Mo
Kita Williams and Monique Jackson are much more than reality TV personalities — they are the executive producers of the VH1’s The T.O. Show. After three successful seasons, Kita and Mo are expanding their entrepreneurial talents with a beauty brand and empowerment series called “Define Your Pretty.”
Blazing a path in the tech industry, Birame Sock is the CEO and founder of Third Solutions, the marketing company behind MyReceipts.com, which lets users keep track of their receipts online.
Besides acting, this ESSENCE cover girl is the proud owner of Tasha Smith Actors Workshop in Los Angeles. When she’s not working the small screen on Tyler Perry’s sitcom For Better or For Worse, you can catch Smith mentoring up-and-coming actresses.
After six years of marriage to basketball star Shaquille O’Neal, Shaunie O’Neal decided to show the world what it’s like to be married to a pro-athlete by creating the much-loved (and loathed) Basketball Wives reality series, which became an instant hit on VH1. She’s also the founder of Amirah productions and designs shoes.
Brandy is no stranger to entrepreneurship. The songbird owns several weave lines, including Outre Pro. This girl is smart — she knows where she can make a serious buck!
After years in front of the camera starring in classics like Fame, this Renaissance woman opened the doors to her Debbie Allen Dance Academy in 2001 for youth in Los Angeles looking to learn the major dance styles.
This first lady of hip-hop picked up a few business tips from her husband, rapper LL Cool J. She’s the founder of of Simone I. Smith, a high-end jewelry line for women.
Beyonce’s mother Tina Knowles has always had a passion for entrepreneurship and opened her own hair salon, Headliners, in Houston before her daughter rose to fame. Today, she has channeled her love of fashion design into two successful fashion lines, House of Dereon and Miss Tina, which is sold exclusively with Home Shopping Network and Walmart.
Beverly Johnson made a splash in the fashion industry after being the first African American woman to grace the cover of American Vogue in 1971. Since then, Beverly has been on the cover of more than 500 international magazines. Today Beverly Johnson has extended her love for all things beautiful into the world of beauty where she has a self name brand of hair wigs, hair care, skin care and bath body products.
In 1993 Lisa Price started making hair products in her kitchen and sold them at church flea markets and street fairs. Now, her homemade line has turned Carol’s Daughter products into a multi-million dollar line of must-have beauty treats.