16 Top Black Female Entrepreneurs and CEOsby Oudraa S
Becoming a successful entrepreneur or CEO is an accomplishment that deserves all the glory. It takes hard work, persistence, and a distinct set of skills (check out our blog on the “21 characteristics every successful entrepreneur should have").
We love to see women make it to the top in today’s world, but we especially love seeing black women become CEOs of companies – whether founded by themselves or not. This blog will highlight and pay respect to 16 of the top black female CEOs. We are happy to say that this list is not exhaustive and hope that it keeps growing!
16 Top Black Female Entrepreneurs and CEOs
Thasunda Brown Duckett – The Teacher’s Insurance and Annuity Association of America
Thasunda Brown Duckett is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Teacher’s Insurance and Annuity Association of America (“TIAA”). She is now the second Black woman to currently lead a Fortune 500 firm! Referencing her new role, Thasunda stated that she had “so much gratitude for all the shoulders I stand on”. TIAA is a Fortune 100 provider that provides individuals with options for secure retirements and investment solutions.
As their name suggests, they specifically cater to individuals that work in higher education, healthcare, and other mission-driven organizations. Thasunda joined TIAA after serving as CEO for Chase Consumer Banking, and before that she was the CEO of Chase Auto Finance. Earlier in her career, she was also the Director of Emerging Markets at Fannie Mae. Here, she led the initiative to create strategies that aimed to increase Black and Hispanic home ownership.
She has been passionate about financial literacy and personal savings since coming from a humble beginning, growing up in poverty and financial scarcity. Thasunda has come a long way and plans to continue forging the way for other individuals, specifically racialized groups, to become financially literate and secure a hefty retirement fund for their future.
Way to go Mrs. Duckett! She holds a bachelor’s degree in Finance and Marketing from the University of Houston and an MBA from Baylor University. She currently lives in Connecticut with her husband and four children.
Rosalind Brewer – Walgreens Boots Alliance
As of 2021, Rosalind “Roz” Brewer was one of only two Black women CEOs leading a Fortune 500 firm – Walgreens Boots Alliance. Walgreens Boots Alliance owns the retail pharmacy chains, Walgreens and Boots, and also owns several pharmaceutical manufacturing and distribution companies. Rosalind was the group president and COO of Starbucks from 2017-2021 and CEO of Sam’s Club from 2012-2017. As the CEO of Sam’s club, she assisted in introducing services like the advance online ordering of groceries.
She also devoted a lot of her time to increasing health and wellness products – doubling the number of organic products offered at various Sam’s Clubs. In 2019, she also became the only Black woman to sit on Amazon’s board of directors. Rosalind says an integral part of her success has been in putting herself in learning positions before taking a leadership position.
She further explained by pointing out that she has worked the drive-thru at Starbucks and also in trucking logistics at Walmart. Mrs. Brewer is currently married with two children.
Cathy Hughes – TV One / Urban One Inc.
Cathy Hughes is the founder and chairperson of Urban One Inc., formerly known as Radio One. Urban One Inc. is the largest African American owned and operated broadcast company in the nation. Cathy has been in the media world for decades and this has helped her solidify her position and expertise in the realm. In 1999, she became the first Black woman to chair a publicly held corporation, stemming from the sale of more than seven million shares of a common stock to the public.
She started her career in radio and eventually moved to Washington, DC to be a professor at Howard University. As the General Sales Manager at WHUR, Howard University Radio, she increased the stations revenue from two hundred and fifty thousand to three million in her first year! As the years progressed, she grew Radio One into a multi-media company, becoming a radio market leader with more than 60 stations across America playing hip-hop, gospel, R&B, and talk show formats.
It Is estimated that Radio One reaches approximately 82% of African Americans each week via radio, web, and television. In 2004, Radio One launched the television network, TV One. Cathy has received many accolades and recognitions, including Howard’s School of Communications being renamed the Cathy Hughes School of Communications. Amazingly, Cathy did all of this as a single mother raising her son.
The two eventually teamed up as business partners which added to the company’s overall success. She takes pride in her business and family by stating, “this all started from being a family, and even as a public corporation, we operate as a family business”.
Oprah Winfrey – OWN Network
Self-made billionaire, Oprah Winfrey, changed the syndicated talk show game in more ways than one. She is best known for her talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, which was the highest-rated television program in history, running from 1986-2011. Oprah is also a notable actress, starring in critically acclaimed films like The Color Purple, Beloved, The Butler, Selma, The Princess and the Frog, and others.
She also owns the production company, Harpo Studios, as well as part of the cable channel network, OWN. She also owns, O, The Oprah Magazine. Oprah never shies away from her difficult upbringing in Mississippi before being sent to live with her father in Nashville, Tennessee. In Tennessee, she acquired a part-time position as a news anchor on a local black radio station and eventually attended Tennessee State University to study communications.
Oprah worked at various news stations in Nashville and Baltimore before moving to Chicago in 1984 to host the morning talk show, AM Chicago. Within months, Oprah was able to take the show’s ratings from incredibly low to the highest-rated in Chicago. Eventually, the show was renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show. Throughout the years, Oprah has regularly been named one of the world’s most powerful and influential women.
She has also spearheaded her own charity, Oprah’s Angel Network, which aims to provide grants to nonprofit organizations around the world. Oprah’s story is inspirational to many because of her difficult upbringing and ability to overcome the obstacles stacked against her.
Dr. Dara Richardson-Heron, M.D. – The Young Women’s Christian Association (“YWCA”)
Before joining Pfizer as the Chief Patient Officer, Dr. Richardson-Heron was the Chief Executive Officer at YWCA USA. The YWCA aims to serve and provide individuals that identify as women with assistance in shelter, housing, employment, and training. They operate from an intersectional-feminist perspective, aiming to provide service through a collaborative lens. As CEO, Dr. Richardson-Heron worked to implement solutions that would support the nonprofit’s emphasis on offering community-based services and innovations.
She also worked closely with the YWCA USA Board of Directors to provide input on strategy, leadership, and overall governance for the organization. She has over 20 years of leadership experience in the healthcare and nonprofit sectors and at the YWCA, she has led a network of over 220 YWCA local associations across the country. At Pfizer, she leads Pfizer’s work in developing and advancing patient-focused programs and platforms.
She also works closely with stakeholders to amplify the voices of patients and help Pfizer better understand the needs of patients and their communities. Dr. Richardson-Heron’s passion for helping communities in need with access to life’s necessities in shelter and healthcare has fueled her impressive career in multiple fields. She holds a doctorate in medicine from New York University School of Medicine as well as a bachelor’s degree in biology from Barnard College.
Ursula M. Burns – Xerox
In 2009, Ursula Burns became the first Black female CEO of a fortune 500 company - Xerox! Xerox is an American corporation that sells print and digital document products in more than 160 countries around the world. In 2015, she helped Xerox generate 18 billion dollars in revenue and has been acknowledged as turning the company into a billion-dollar, profitable business. She was the CEO from 2009-2016, until the company split into two corporate entities: Xerox and Conduent.
Burns then remained chairwoman until 2017. In 2009, she was also appointed by former President Barack Obama to lead the White House’s National STEM Program. This program encouraged students to pursue STEM-related careers. Burns noted that throughout her career, she regularly relied on her late husband’s assistance to raise their two children. Early in life, Burns was raised in a low-income household in Manhattan. She lived with her single mother and two other siblings.
She eventually attained her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Polytechnic Institute of New York University in Brooklyn and went on to pursue her master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Columbia University. From here, she joined Xerox as a summer mechanical-engineering intern. Upon completion of her master’s degree, she joined Xerox as a full-time employee and worked her way up from there.
In 2017, she became CEO of VEON, and also sat as chairwoman for Exxon Mobil and Uber. In 2020, she stepped down from all posts and published her memoir, Where You Are Is Not Who You Are, the following year.
Desiree Rogers – Johnson Publishing Co. and Black Opal Beauty
Desiree Rogers is the former CEO of Johnson Publishing Company, and the current CEO of Black Opal Beauty. As its name suggests, Johnson Publishing Company was an American publishing company founded by an African American businessman, John H. Johnson. The company was known for overseeing the extremely popular urban magazines, Ebony and Jet.
Rogers was CEO of the company from 2010 until the company began selling its assets in 2011, and eventually its publication in 2016. In April 2019, the company officially filed for liquidation and shut down. Rogers is now the CEO of Black Opal Beauty, a cosmetic brand focused on the needs of black women.
Rogers began her career at AT&T and eventually became a retail investment executive for entrepreneur Larry Levy. She went on to run the Illinois State Lottery and then serve as vice-president of corporate communications for Peoples Energy. She then became Chief Marketing Officer for the company before being elected president of the company’s utility subsidies: Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas. Afterwards, Rogers became the first African American social secretary for the White House under the Obama administration.
This all occurred before she became CEO of Johnson Publishing Company! When speaking about Black Opal Beauty, Rogers stated, “it is extremely important that the Black community preserve the brands that have served us so well over the years…we believe that we will be able to grow the business while exciting our consumers. We often use the words internally – For Us By Us”.
Debra L. Lee – Black Entertainment Television (“BET”)
Debra L. Lee was the Chairwoman and CEO of BET from 2005-2018. BET is the basic cable channel that caters to African American audiences. They were popularly known for their music videos and shows that spoke directly to black culture and experiences.
BET is currently owned by Paramount Global; a subsidiary of Viacom Inc. Lee received her bachelor’s degree in political science with an emphasis in Asian politics at Harvard University while simultaneously earning her master’s degree in public policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government. She then went on to attain her J.D. degree from Harvard Law School. After working as a lawyer at Septoe & Johnson for some time, Lee joined BET and created its legal department.
She played crucial roles as the executive vice-president, corporate secretary, and general counsel of the legal affairs department. During her time with BET, ratings, revenue, and popularity grew exponentially. BET quickly became the go-to for urban music, news, documentaries, tv shows and coverage on public policy. To this day, Lee is regarded as one of the country’s top female executives. In 2020, Lee co-founded The Monarch’s Collective, an initiative aimed to diversify boardrooms and the upper levels of the corporate world.
Angelica Nwandu – The Shade Room
Angelica Nwandu is the founder and CEO of The Shade Room – a black pop-culture gossip and news site that ties opinions into stories with humor and wit. Angelica is a young, black woman who spent a lot of her childhood in foster care. She developed a knack for writing but sought an education in accounting at Loyola Marymount University because she believed it would provide her with a stable career.
Angelica says while at college, she observed a fellow student sell their script for millions of dollars. Although she graduated with her accounting degree, this realization inspired her to pursue writing again and she was eventually afforded the opportunity to write a script for a film with Jordana Spiro. The script was eventually accepted into Sundance Labs, and she took this as a sign to keep going. Shortly after, she was offered another script-writing opportunity and accepted.
While struggling to make ends meet, she came up with the idea to start a celebrity blog. She set up the blog on Instagram because she could not afford a website at the time and within days, she had amassed 10,000 followers. Eventually celebrities also started following the page and The Shade Room grew intensely.
The Shade Room now has close to 20 million followers and individuals are able to read news, advertise their own business and engage with other followers through the account. Angelica says she is now focused on returning to script writing while continuing to grow The Shade Room.
Vivian Kaye – KinkyCurlyYaki
Vivian Kaye is the founder and CEO of KinkyCurlyYaki, a manufacturer of natural hair extensions, clip-ins, and wigs designed to blend effortlessly with all types of black, natural hair. Vivian was born in Ghana and immigrated to Toronto, Canada when she was a toddler. She worked a series of jobs in the finance and medical industries before starting her own décor business - Vivian’s Décor & Designs in 2006.
She devoted herself to it full-time out of necessity and eventually grew the business into a 6-figure wedding décor company. Vivian says one day she grew frustrated with the inability to find hair extensions that matched her natural hair texture to wear at work. In 2012, she started KinkyCurlyYaki and made six figures in the first year.
Now a 7-figure business, Vivian travels the world sharing her story and hoping to inspire other entrepreneurs. She also continues to enjoy the simpler pleasures of life like listening to music, nurturing plants, and having dance parties with her son.
Beatrice Dixon – The Honey Pot Company
Beatrice Dixon is the CEO of The Honey Pot Company, a toxin-free and plant-based feminine care brand. The company prides itself on using natural products that are safe for your vagina and can help cure many vaginal infections. Dixon says she came up with the idea after battling bacterial vaginosis for eight months without relief.
She says an ancestor came to her in a dream and gave her ingredients for the cure. To her delight, she created a feminine wash that worked for her and in 2014, she launched The Honey Pot Company. Dixon has previous knowledge and experience in pharmaceuticals, the retail industry, and natural foods so it was not a difficult leap when she started to market her products.
Her business currently offers feminine washes, wipes, tampons, pads, and mommy-to-be products. The company can be found online and in stores nationwide at Walmart, Urban Outfitters, Target, Walgreens, Whole Foods, and Bed Bath and Beyond! Dixon plans to expand her feminine hygiene line in the near future.
In 2019, Dixon was named one of Entrepreneur’s top 100 groundbreaking women entrepreneurs, and her company also won Essence’s Best in Black Beauty Award in 2020.
Shontay Lundy – Black Girl Sunscreen
Black Girl Sunscreen was founded by Shontay Lundy in 2016. The idea arose when Shontay realized there were no good sunscreens for her skin tone and type. As an avid walker and hiker, Shontay aimed to find a product that was great for her skin and did not leave a white residue on her like the many sunscreen products that only catered to white skin.
As an MBA graduate, Shontay had background business knowledge to help her get started. She started searching for natural ingredients that could boost melanin production and offer UV protection without harming the skin or leaving a white residue. Through research and working with skincare experts, she created Black Girl Sunscreen. When the product initially launched, Lundy used $33,000 from her own pockets to fund her venture.
She continued to reinvest the funds for product inventory and pay for her company’s employees. After four years of research and hard work, Lundy was able to secure $1 million dollars in funding to further grow Black Girl Sunscreen. The mission of Black Girl Sunscreen is to encourage black people to wear sunscreen and educate customers on safe skin practices. There is a misconception amongst black individuals that sunscreen is not needed because our melanin protects us.
However, this dangerous belief can lead to skin damage or even skin cancer. As of 2020, Lundy’s company valuation was marked at $5 million dollars and has inevitably grown since then. She says that she is continuing to create products within the sunscreen line and hopes to inspire young women everywhere.
Lisa Price – Carol’s Daughter
Lisa Price is the founder and CEO of Carol’s Daughter. Carol’s Daughter is one of the first African American owned haircare lines with a flagship store. Lisa says that in 1993, she could remember her mother, Carol, encouraging her to create high-quality products for the hair and skin in their Brooklyn kitchen. She thought this could become a great side hustle venture as she worked in production on shows like The Cosby Show and Here and Now.
As friends and family trying the products provided positive reviews, Lisa continued to expand. Her customers began to multiply and by 1999, she had a website and opportunity for customers to order products via mail-order or walk-in. This success helped her move from her home to a formal store. From there, a multi-million-dollar business was born.
Today, Carol’s Daughter offers more than 300 products for the hair, body, face, and home! Price’s products have received endorsement from celebrities like Oprah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Chaka Khan, and Jay-Z. These were some of the celebrities that actually ended up investing $10 million dollars into Price’s brand to help with nationwide expansion in 2005. The business continued to grow until April 2014, when it was officially sold to L’Oreal USA.
Shonda Rhimes – Shondaland Productions
Shonda Rhimes is most widely known for her talent in television production. She is the founder and CEO of her own production company, Shondaland, and the creator, writer, or executive producer of some of the most popular shows today. Shonda Rhimes is behind shows like Grey’s Anatomy, How to Get Away With Murder, Scandal, Station 19, Private Practice, Bridgerton, and Inventing Anna.
Shonda is credited with being the first African American woman to create and executive produce a top-10 network series – Grey’s Anatomy. Born in Illinois, Shonda grew up with her parents and 5 other siblings. She went on to get her bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College in English literature and creative writing. After working in advertising for a bit, she enrolled in the writing for screen and television program at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts and earned her master’s in it. After graduate school, she began writing screenplays and in 2005, she wrote Crossroads, the coming-of-age film starring Britney Spears, Zoe Saldana, and Taryn Manning.
Shonda’s career successes took off from there with no sign of stopping any time soon. Shonda’s first show, Grey’s Anatomy, is still running after 17 years on air! Throughout her career, Shonda has received multiple GLAAD Media and NAACP Image awards for her show’s inclusivity regarding race and sexuality. She continues to produce tv show and movie masterpieces to this day.
Tiffany Aliche – The Budgetnista
Tiffany Aliche is the CEO and Founder of The Budgetnista, created in 2008. She is an award-winning teacher in financial education and provides invaluable tips on how individuals can build positive personal finance practices. The Budgetnista is considered a financial movement that aims to specifically help women pay off large debts and save even larger amounts of money.
She grew up in New Jersey and graduated from Montclair State University, earning a Bachelor of Science in Business. She also holds a master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Administration from Seton Hall University. Tiffany is the best-selling author of The One Week Budget and also the children’s book, Happy Birthday Mali More. Tiffany gained popularity through offering insight and advice on how to clear debt and save money while navigating the challenges of everyday life.
She attributes much of her experience to her days as a preschool teacher for 10 years in Newark, New Jersey. Her financial courses are offered both online and in-person, and her “The Live Richer Academy”, which is an online platform that teaches money management, has amassed tens of thousands of students. Tiffany’s online financial movement, where the participants call themselves ‘Dream Catchers’, has helped individuals save more than $250 million dollars and pay off over $200 million dollars in debt! She also co-hosts a top rated and award-winning financial podcast titled, Brown Ambition.
In addition to these amazing achievements, Tiffany also partnered with Assemblywoman Angela V. McKnight in 2019 to write a bill that later became Law A1414 (The Budgetnista Law) This milestone legislation made it mandatory for middle schools in New Jersey to teach financial education to their students. This groundbreaking law was one of many things Tiffany aimed to do with the start of her business initially – equip young individuals with financial literacy so that they would grow into financially-literate adults.
She has been featured on countless TV shows like Good Morning America, The Today Show, and The Real, while also becoming the first (solo) Black Woman to be on the cover of Money Magazine. She was also a NAACP Image Award Nominee for Outstanding Social Media Personality.
Codie Elaine Oliver – Black Love Inc.
Along with her husband, Tommy Oliver, Codie Elaine Oliver is the co-founder and co-CEO of Black Love Inc. They have created the media empire, Black Love Inc. which explores and celebrates all angles of black love. Their most notable creation to date is their docu-series titled, Black Love. This series became the highest rated unscripted show in OWN’s history.
The series showcased notable celebrity couples that had been married for various amounts of time. They addressed the ups and downs of marriages and provided candid insight into how to make it through the difficult times. The show was a hit for young and old people alike because it provided hope for the success of black love, but also exposed the vulnerabilities of a relationship that many could relate to.
Codie and Oliver spearheaded the entire project, holding titles like director, interviewer, producer, editor, and cinematographer. A fifth season of Black Love aired in May of 2021 and although there has been no confirmation of a sixth season, Codie and her husband are definitely working on more creative productions to bring to our screens.
There is no doubt that these women have done an amazing job in creating or maintaining some of the most successful businesses known today. This blog outlined 16 of the top black female entrepreneurs and CEOs that are making or have made positive waves in various industries.
We love to see it and hope that the list will continue to grow. Cheers to black girl magic!
Did we miss anyone? Comment down below!
Check out some of our female CEO mugs and hats for inspiration:
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<a href="https://www.freepik.com/photos/african-business-woman">African business woman photo created by senivpetro - www.freepik.com</a>