Black History Month is a time to honor and celebrate the remarkable achievements of Black people who have shaped history. Among them are pioneering Black women entrepreneurs and innovators who have broken barriers and paved the way for today’s generation.

This article highlights 10 extraordinary Black women whose contributions have been instrumental in shaping the landscape for modern women in business and innovation.

Black Women Entrepreneurs and Innovators


10 Black Women Trailblazers in Entrepreneurship and Innovation

As we celebrate Black History Month, let these women’s journeys remind us of the power of vision and determination in overcoming obstacles and effecting change. They have not only carved out a path for themselves but also laid the groundwork for future generations to thrive.

1. Madam C.J. Walker (1867–1919)

  • Legacy: Madam C.J. Walker, born Sarah Breedlove, was an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and the first female self-made millionaire in America. She developed a line of hair care products specifically for Black women and established the Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company.
  • Impact: Her success as a businesswoman broke racial and gender barriers in the early 20th century, providing employment and training for thousands of Black women.

2. Maggie Lena Walker (1864–1934)

  • Legacy: Maggie Lena Walker was the first woman to charter a bank in the United States. She served as the president of the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank in Richmond, Virginia.
  • Impact: Her leadership in finance was groundbreaking, setting a precedent for women, especially Black women, in banking and business leadership.

3. Annie Turnbo Malone (1869–1957)

  • Legacy: Annie Malone was a pioneering chemist and entrepreneur who developed a line of hair care and beauty products for Black women. She is often credited with being one of the first African American women to become a millionaire and was known to be Madam C.J. Walker’s mentor.
  • Impact: Malone’s business acumen was matched by her philanthropy; she was a significant contributor to educational causes and the black YMCA.

4. Ursula Burns (Born 1958)

  • Legacy: Ursula Burns served as the CEO of Xerox and was the first African American woman to head a Fortune 500 company.
  • Impact: Burns is a trailblazer in corporate America, advocating for diversity and mentorship in the business world.

5. Sheila Johnson (Born 1949)

  • Legacy: Sheila Johnson is a co-founder of BET (Black Entertainment Television), the first TV network dedicated to African American audiences. She is also a hotelier and philanthropist.
  • Impact: Her entrepreneurial journey in media and hospitality has been a source of inspiration for many aspiring businesswomen.
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Black Women Entrepreneurs and Innovators

6. Janice Bryant Howroyd (Born 1952)

  • Legacy: Janice Bryant Howroyd is the founder and CEO of ActOne Group, a global employment and consulting firm.
  • Impact: She is a leader in the staffing industry and has been a vocal advocate for minority entrepreneurship.

7. Cathy Hughes (Born 1947)

  • Legacy: Cathy Hughes is the founder and chairperson of Urban One, Inc., the largest African-American-owned and operated broadcast company in the nation.
  • Impact: Her work in radio and media has opened doors for Black voices in the industry.

8. Kimberly Bryant (Born 1967)

  • Legacy: Kimberly Bryant is the founder of Black Girls Code, a non-profit organization that teaches programming and technology education to young African American girls.
  • Impact: She is a champion for diversity in the tech industry, paving the way for the next generation of female innovators and coders.

9. Arlan Hamilton (Born 1980):

  • Legacy: Arlan Hamilton is the founder and managing partner of Backstage Capital, a venture capital firm dedicated to minimizing funding disparities in tech by investing in high-potential founders who are people of color, women, and/or LGBT. Starting from scratch, she built a successful venture capital firm while homeless.
  • Impact: Hamilton’s work challenges the traditional venture capital landscape and paves the way for underrepresented entrepreneurs in the tech industry. Her commitment to diversity and inclusion in startup funding is both groundbreaking and inspiring. Backstage Capital has invested in over 150 businesses. 

10. Jessica O. Matthews (Born 1988):

  • Legacy: Jessica O. Matthews is the founder and CEO of Uncharted Power, a company that develops renewable energy technology. She invented the Soccket, a soccer ball that generates electric power when played with.
  • Impact: Matthews’ innovation in renewable energy technology not only showcases her ingenuity but also her commitment to addressing global energy challenges. Her work, particularly in developing communities, highlights the role of sustainable technology in improving lives.

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For You… Black Women Entrepreneurs

I hope that this article inspired you in some way and I want to encourage you to take some time to dig deeper into the lives and journeys of these women. Their stories and impact are remarkable!

They illustrate resilience, creativity, and the relentless pursuit of excellence. Their legacies aren’t just a testament to their individual brilliance but also serve as a beacon of inspiration for Black professionals everywhere.

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CEO/Founder/Chief Editor of 40 Rise Magazine and women's lifestyle blog, Naturally Stellar.