I am addicted to reading people’s biographies and histories. ADDICTED. I can spend hours on Wikipedia reading bios of all types. One bio I’ve been amazed by for years is that of Janice Bryant Howroyd. If you’ve never heard of her, learn more here and then Google her–her story is amazing.

Mrs. Howroyd serves in many capacities, including as an entrepreneur, educator, ambassador, businesswoman, author, and mentor.

Born in a small, segregated North Carolina town called Tarboro, she rose to become the first African-American woman to build a $1 billion business (yep, she beat Oprah to the punch!). She founded her company, The ACT-1 Group, in 1978 — a few years after graduating from North Carolina A&T State University (shout out to the Aggies!). Today, the ACT-1 Group is the largest privately held, woman owned workforce solutions company founded in the U.S. Mrs. Howroyd’s own personal net worth from 2016 has been estimated at more than $400 million.

That's Tarboro.

That’s Tarboro.

Mrs. Howroyd started the company after working for two years as temp secretary for her brother-in law. With about $1,000, she founded her business, which now has offices in 19 countries and +70 cities and serves as an umbrella for at least 8 subsidiary companies.

As a small town girl myself, I am always fascinated when I hear about people who have created large professional platforms without growing up or being connected to a larger market.

I find it encouraging to read about and consume these kinds of stories. Needless to say, I’ve been a huge fan of Mrs. Howroyd’s work and ascension for as long as I can remember. 

As I was clicking around on the internet earlier this week, I was excited to come across an interview Mrs. Howroyd gave with Jenna Bush Hager on the Today Show in 2015. As part of the “Summer of Success” series, Mrs. Howroyd was interviewed for a segment called Billion Dollar Breakthrough: 1st African American Woman to Own $1B Business.”  It is only 4 minutes long but she provides some amazing advice for entrepreneurs and anyone with business ownership goals.

They were so good that I had to share here. She was (presumably) asked what advice she could provide to people watching on that day.  Here’s an overview of what Mrs. Howroyd offered:

#1. Make sure you’re prepared
#2. Understand what the goal is.
#3. Understand that all of those around you, particularly your family, are part of that success.
#4. Always, ALWAYS, find a moment for gratitude.

I completely agree with her on all of these, though my favorite has to be the fourth point about showing gratitude. I’ve made regular gratitude lists for the past few years, but in 2016 I made a conscious effort to do it every day and it made a huge difference in my life.

Mrs. Howroyd also said that she always dreamed of success, though she had no idea that it would look the way it currently does in her life. She certainly provides an inspirational message for those looking to follow in her footsteps.

Do yourself a favor and watch the full interview. She was so good she had Jenna Bush crying at the end.

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