Entrepreneurship is on the rise -- especially among the African-American community. Such business titans are reshaping the fields of the politics, education, arts, and medicine.
Between 2002 and 2007, the number of businesses owned by African-Americans increased by three times the national rate (60.5 percent), according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Notably, African-American women are the fastest-growing demographic in business ownership.
Last week, Ebony magazine unveiled its annual Power 100 list of influential black leaders in America. Honorees were divided into categories such as "the players," which included Drake and Empire creator Lee Daniels, and "politics as (un)usual," with nods to Kamala Harris and Loretta Lynch, the attorneys general of California and the U.S., respectively.
As America grapples with the continued prevalence of racism (as seen in recent news of police brutality, and discrimination on college campuses), the importance of having more African-American leaders is especially apparent. These entrepreneurs are doing more than attaching their names to a pre-existing brand; they're also moving society forward.
Below, in no particular order, are the business titans on this year's Power 100 list.
Emile Cambry Jr.
Cambry, a business professor, filmmaker, and serial entrepreneur, is also the founder of BLUE1647. The Chicago-based startup incubator offers work-force development classes, co-working spaces, and other educational resources for the local community. He also created the 21st Century Youth Project, which provides advanced technology courses to low-income middle and high school students.
Collins is the founder and chief executive of Jesse Collins Entertainment Company, a Los Angeles-based film and television production firm. He was previously the executive producer and executive VP at Cosette Productions.
The American actress and television host is probably best known for her eponymous program, The Wendy Williams Show. Still, in her spare time, Williams has managed to grow both a clothing venture--exclusive to HSN--and a hair accessories line (Hair World Wig Collection), the latter in partnership with Specialty Commerce Direct.
Sabrina Hersi Issa
Issa is something of a technology veteran. She is the CEO of Be Bold Media, a digital agency that leverages technology to assist with humanitarian relief. She's also the co-founder of End Famine, a charity campaign, and the co-director of New/s Disruptors, a media site that aims to bring more diverse voices and perspectives to the fore.
Jada Pinkett Smith
Best known as a Hollywood actress, director, and film producer, Pinkett Smith is also the founder of Maja, a clothing label, and a partner at Overbrook Entertainment, a film production company. She also co-launched the website Don'tSellBodies.org, and helped to produce Rape for Profit, a documentary about sex trafficking.
The former managing director at Credit Suisse, Gadsden-Williams ultimately decided to create her own venture, Ceiling Breakers, in 2015. Her new firm is dedicated to helping women get ahead in corporate America, and eventually land executive roles.
Branch is the co-founder and CEO of Miss Jessie's, a New York City-based hair salon that sells natural products for curly hair. This year, after the death of her sister and business partner, Branch was inspired to publish a memoir, entitled Miss Jessie's: Creating a Successful Business From Scratch -- Naturally.
Gregg is the founder of GabiFresh.com, a fashion blog that she started after graduating from college in 2008. The site later blossomed into an e-commerce platform. She promotes plus-size women and models, and collaborated with Target to re-conceptualize its own premiere plus-size line, called Ava+Viv.
Bayoh escaped the civil war in her native Liberia at the age of 13. Since then, she's gone on to launch Kapwood LLC, a real-estate development firm with more than $200 million in redevelopment projects, and which focuses specifically on lower-income communities. In 2016, Bayoh plans to launch Cornbread, a chain of soul food restaurants in New Jersey that nods to her own multicultural upbringing.
In October, the hip-hop artist, along with with Di-Ann Eisnor, launched Neighborhood Start Fund, a non-profit that aims to promote entrepreneurship in underserved communities. Winners of the Neighborhood Start pitch competition will receive $5,000, as well as mentorship and networking opportunities, to help get their venture off the ground.
Blackwell is the founder and CEO of PMM Agency, a brand-consulting firm that works with high-profile clients including Toyota and Macy's. The company has been recognized by Black Enterprise and the National Association of Women's Business Owners, among other organizations.
Lopez is the principal and founder of Mott Hall Bridges Academy, a public middle school based in Brooklyn, New York. When an eighth grade student told the popular internet blog Humans of New York that he was most inspired by his principle, Lopez decided to launch a fundraising campaign to give her students a trip to Harvard University, and to provide some with scholarships. The campaign raised an impressive $4 million, well exceeding the initial $100,000 goal.