Entrepreneurs Making Moves

Entrepreneurs Making Moves
ESSENCE.COM Feb, 28, 2011

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Jay-Z is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in America with several business ventures in music, fashion, sports, and entertainment. He is the creator of Rocawear clothing, co-owner of the 40/40 club, and part-owner of the New Jersey Nets basketball team. With his mega fame and multimillion fortune, he is now at the top of his game, with an estimated worth exceeding $450million.

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Oprah Winfrey is in fact the richest, self-made woman in America. Her world-renowned television show is the highest-rated talk show in history and she is the first and only Black woman to have a television production studio. Today, Forbes puts her worth at over $2.7 billion.

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Sean Combs has translated his love of all things music and entertainment into a whopping entrepreneurial empire. He owns Bad Boy Entertainment Worldwide comprised of Bad Boy Records, Sean Jean clothing, two Justin’s restaurants, and a movie production company. A college dropout, Diddy began his meteoric rise as an intern before branching out to launch Bad Boy.

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It’s only been 6 years since Tyler Perry released his first film, “Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” and in that time, he has become a household name, grossing $125 million annually. In addition to producing big screen films, he also produces plays and two television series. Tyler also owns and operates Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, GA.

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Fashion designer Tracey Reese is a Detroit native who took her dreams of owning her own company and made them a reality. Her first attempt at entrepreneurship did not go well, and Tracey was forced to shut down her company, only to come back stronger and more profitable the second time around. Now her brands include Tracey Reese and plenty by Tracey Reese and she has expanded into footwear, home collections, and nail polish.

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Madam C.J. Walker is best known as America’s first 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. Walker was truly a legend in Black hair-care and paved the way for entrepreneurs for generations to come.

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In 1993 Lisa Price started making hair products in her kitchen and sold them at church flea markets and street fairs. Today, her homemade line has turned Carol’s Daughter products into a multi-million dollar line of must-have beauty treats. Today some of her loyal fans include Mary J. Blige and Jada Pinkett Smith, and her line is carried in Sephora, Macy’s and in her own stores and spa.

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As the co-creator of Def Jam Recordings, Russell Simmons is the third richest figure in hip-hop, having a net-worth estimate of $340 million. Simmons’ corporation, Rush Communications, Inc. includes a management company, Phat Farm, Baby Phat, a movie production house, and television shows.

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Cathy Hughes is the founder of Radio One which includes 53 radio stations in the US and TV One, 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.

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Berry Gordy was the seventh of eight children born to a middle class family in Detroit and was a high school dropout before recognizing his talent as a gifted songwriter. He went on to start Motown Records, which grew into a successful record label and helped launch the careers of musical mega talents such as The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, and The Jackson 5.

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Tina Knowles has always had a passion for entrepreneurship and opened her own hair salon, Headliners, in Houston long before her daughter Beyonce rose to fame.  In the early days of Destiny’s Child, Knowles not only styled the ladies’ hair, but she also designed their one-of-a-kind stage costumes. 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.

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In 1942, John H. Johnson created Johnson Publishing using a $500 loan, becoming the first African American on Forbes list of the 400 Richest Americans. His wife, Eunice Johnson, co-founded Ebony magazine in 1945, and created the Ebony Fashion Fair tour. In 1973, she launched Fashion Fair Cosmetics, one of the first makeup lines for Black women.

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Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith are not only talented entertainers, but they are both successful business owners as well.  Will is the owner of Overbrook Entertainment, which produces music, films, and television shows.  Jada previously owned her own clothing line and is the author of “Girls Hold Up This World,” a children’s book she published in 2004. Together, the couple founded the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation, a charity organization which focuses on urban inner city youth and family support.

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Christopher Gardner is the founder and CEO of Gardner Rich & Co., a successful stock brokerage firm in Chicago. Gardner began his career as an intern at a financial services firm and became homeless as a single father when he could not make ends meet. Gardner The 2006 movie, “The Pursuit of Happyness,” is based upon Chris Gardner’s life story, struggles and successes.

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