Today’s black entrepreneurs occupy a unique place in history as diversity and inclusion have become key issues in many communities.
Learning from the past and looking to the future, many young black entrepreneurs (and those who are young at heart) are pursuing innovative business ventures that may have profound impacts on people worldwide.
Top 13 Young Black Entrepreneurs
From finance and agriculture to sustainable fashion and mobile communications, these young and inspiring black entrepreneurs aren’t just running successful businesses: They are changing the conversation on what it means to be business owners of diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
1. Martin Ijaha
Martin Ijaha’s financial technology startup, Neyber, is inspired by the traditional “sou-sou” savings clubs that are common in Africa. Using modern technologies, the company partners with employers to offer loans to employees at affordable rates. Ijaha’s vision is to provide people with simple and straight–forward solutions so they can improve their financial future.
Since 2014, Neyber has lent out more than £50 million ($55.44 million). The company received a £100 million investment from Goldman Sachs in 2018.
2. Myriam Taylor
Myriam Taylor owns both a biotechnology company (Muxima Bio) and a luxury hair-care business (Muxima) in Lisbon, Portugal. She founded the hair-care business when she couldn’t find hair-care products without harsh chemicals that satisfied her needs while she was pregnant. Muxima sells a range of caviar-based shampoos, conditioners, oils and other products for textured hair.
Daughter of Angolan refugees, Taylor named her brand “Muxima,” which means “heart” in Kimbundu, an Angolan language.
3. Iyinoluwa Aboyeji
Nigerian entrepreneur Iyinoluwa Aboyeji co-founded Andela, a software training company that received a $24 million investment from the Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan foundation. Shortly after, he left Andela to start Flutterwave, which enables digital payment throughout Africa.
Flutterwave’s payment infrastructure aims to connect Africa with the global economy and create a new wave of prosperity across the continent. Since its founding in 2016, the company has processed over 10 million transactions and $1.2 billion in payments.
4. Anne Githuku-Shongwe
Before founding the mobile gaming developer Afroes Transformational Games, Anne Githuku-Shongwe had a career at the United Nations Development Programme.
Githuku-Shongwe’s relatively new venture allows her to leverage her track record in development and recognition from organizations such as the Cartier Women’s Initiative and the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship to create games that position African youth for productive futures through innovations in skills acquisition and connection to opportunities.
5. Freddie Figgers
Florida entrepreneur Freddie Figgers got involved with technology at a young age and has multiple inventions under his name, including a motorcycle helmet, a modem base station for wireless charging, a cellphone that prevents the user from texting while driving and a hologram projector. He founded cellphone company Figgers Communication, which makes and sells proprietary handsets.
The company operates its own mobile network that provides affordable cell phone plans with international coverage. Figgers Communication also is branching out with products such as smart televisions, earbuds, speakers, wireless chargers and wireless glucose meters.
6. Mignon Francois
Before founding The Cupcake Collection, Mignon Francois was “a mother of 6 plus 1” who was in deep in debt and selling cupcakes from her living room in Nashville, Tenn. She combined her desire to launch a business with her college chemistry studies to create homemade cupcake recipes that attracted a large following. The company has added an online-commerce component to its business so it can serve more customers, positioning it for further growth and expansion.
Despite its success, the company is still very much a family affair, with her children working in different aspects of the business — from running the register and working on their business plan to baking the cupcakes. The Cupcake Collection was the recipient of the 2016 Black Enterprise Small Business Award in the category of Family Business of the Year.
7. Rodney Greenup
Rodney Greenup is the founder of Greenup Industries, an oil-and-gas maintenance business. The Gonzales, La., company is one of the few minority-owned businesses in the oil-and-gas industry, specializing in the delivery of maintenance services to refineries and industrial companies in the Gulf South.
The company won the 2019 Emerging Growth Company Award presented by ACG, the 2018 and 2017 Gold Medal Award presented by Shell/Norco, the 2017 Safety Award presented by Shell/Norco, the 2016 Supplier of the Year Award presented by Tier III.
8. Johanan Dujon
While seaweed may be a turnoff for beachgoers, Johanan Dujon recognized that the marine plant can provide tremendous value to farmers. He founded Algas Organics and invented an all-natural product made from seaweed that improves plant nutrient uptake efficiency.
The product has the potential to bolster global food production without chemical additives. The company’s goal is to support sustainable agriculture, which is the key to food security amidst the challenges posed by climate change. It has attracted support from the United Nations Development Programme and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture.
9. Anne-Marie Imafidon
Anne-Marie Imafidon completed her master’s degree in mathematics and computer science at the University of Oxford when she was 20 years old and went on to build a successful career that includes roles at Goldman Sachs, Hewlett-Packard and Deutsche Bank.
She founded a social enterprise called Stemettes in 2013 to inspire the next generation of women to enter science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields through free and fun experiences. Her goal is to help young females make informed decisions about careers in STEM so women can be proportionally represented in the related industries.
10. Ray J
Singer, actor and TV personality Ray J (William Raymond Norwood, Jr.) is expanding his involvement in various business ventures through his company, Raycon Global. Besides earbuds and headphones that the company is known for, Raycon is branching out to electronic transportation, smartwatches, Bluetooth audio and drones.
With the backing of Cowboy Wholesale, a major New York consumer electronics distributor, Raycon is tapping into Ray J’s entrepreneurial experience, celebrity endorsements and the power of an experienced distribution business to expand its product line and footprint.
11. Moziah Bridges
Moziah “Mo” Bridges appeared on the reality TV show “Shark Tank” as a 12-year-old contestant who turned down a $50,000 investment offer in favor of no money but an ongoing mentorship with fashion mogul Daymond John. Three years later, he signed a seven-figure deal to supply bow ties to the NBA.
Bridges started making his own bow ties with the help of his grandmother on a kitchen table in South Memphis. Today, his company Mo’s Bows has expanded into an internationally recognized brand. Mo’s Bows Foundation was formed to support youth and family leadership through entrepreneurship.
12. Maya Penn
Maya Penn started her company, Maya’s Ideas when she was 8 years old to sell environmentally sustainable fashion accessories. She is a 3-time TED Speaker, artist, animator, filmmaker, coder, author and activist. She was recognized by Oprah Winfrey as a “SuperSoul 100 Entrepreneur.”
Penn is involved in various charitable initiatives. She designed and created eco-friendly reusable and washable sanitary pads for girls and health-care facilities in developing countries. Also, 10% of her company’s profits are donated to charities and environmental nonprofit organizations.
13. Lanny Smith
Injury cut his National Basketball Association dreams short, but Lanny Smith had an idea: “Create another Nike, but have it be faith-based.” He launched Active Faith Sports, an activewear brand tied to his Christian faith. The company generates annual revenue of about $13.1 million.
Active Faith Sports donates both money and gear to mission trips, orphanages, homeless shelters and other charitable efforts that help those in need.
Thanks to their diverse backgrounds and experiences, these top young black female and male entrepreneurs are introducing fresh ideas and new perspectives into the business world. Some of the ventures are inspired by their heritage and values while others are shaped by social, economic and environmental forces.
Many of these companies incorporate a “give back” component in their business models. These successful young black business owners bring awareness to social issues by leveraging the relationships these entrepreneurs have built with their community to help people in less-privileged circumstances or developing countries.