9 Books Black Entrepreneurs Should Read If They Want to Unlock the Secrets to Success


‘Success Never Smelled So Sweet: How I Followed My Nose and Found My Passion’

by Lisa Price

Lisa Price is the founder of Carol’s Daughter, a company that creates hair, skin and bath products for women of color. In the book, she goes into great detail about the story of her life, starting from her time in Brooklyn to how she became the successful entrepreneur she is today. Through her book, Price’s personal philosophy comes to the forefront. She believes that life will guide all of us to our own inner truth regardless of the many obstacles that arise.


‘Black Business Secrets: 500 Tips, Strategies and Resources for the African American Entrepreneur’

by Dante Lee

Dante Lee is the CEO of Diversity City Media, a marketing and public-relations firm based in Columbus, Ohio. This book is a very thorough advice book that discusses the entrepreneurial skills that African-American business owners must master in order to compete in a world where most new companies fail within three years. The book covers an array of topics that start from personal branding to strategies designed to ensure business survival.

7 Top Tier US Cities For Young Black Entrepreneurs

In a February report, NerdWallet released data on the 111 best cities that support the greatest prosperity for minority business owners. The list contained cities — big and small — that produced either large numbers of businesses or had high revenue streams. The list below shows major cities with mostly African-American populations and their impressive business gains.



Georgia has the third-largest consumer market, valued at more than $73 billion. The city of Atlanta also has decent and affordable housing that contributes to the migration to the city. According to NerdWallet, the average yearly revenue of many businesses is about $52,000-plus. Also, the thriving entertainment industry adds to the prosperity.



According to the NerdWallet data, Miami is 16th out of 111 cities, but the city has some impressive numbers nonetheless. Per 100 people, there are 14 Black/minority-owned businesses. The unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the country at 5.5 percent.

Meet Hello Tractor: Integrating Agriculture With Technology

When you think of tech, do you think of agriculture? Yeah, me neither. But technology is everywhere. The only problem is it’s not being used in all possible ways — yet, until a visionary sees a powerful method of adaptation in a struggling market.

Meet Hello Tractor!

Hello Tractor is a social enterprise focused on improving food and income security throughout sub-Saharan Africa. That’s quite a summarizing sentence of all that this tiny startup is doing and setting out to do, at the intersection of agriculture and tech.

Hello Tractor is on its way to revolutionizing agriculture for small farmers in Nigeria. They are engineering what they call “Smart Tractors,” which are two-wheeled GPS-enabled tractors that allow usage tracking, data gathering — on geo-location, market trends, uptake and tractor demand. Coupled with the Hello Tractor service that allows farmers to request, schedule and prepay for tractor services via SMS messaging and mobile money, it’s a win win for small farmers.

Labor constraints lead to late planting and under cultivation, which equals loss of time and money. Long-term struggles such as these could potentially lead to farmers selling their land for pennies on the dollar. That would be a detriment to rural families and Nigeria as a whole. With the introduction of Hello Tractor, small farmers are able to fully cultivate their land and free up time that could be spent with family or on other work-related duties. This puts more money into the hands of small farmers, more food into the local markets and boosts the security of Nigeria’s agriculture.

It can take 40 days for a single farmer to manually cultivate 1.1 hectare (2.7 acres) of land and it would cost $200 to hire someone to do it for them. But with Hello Tractor (machine + service), cost drops down to $75 to fully cultivate that same piece of land in a matter of hours. Time is wealth!

A majority of the farmers in sub-Saharan Africa are women. Women tend to be the caretakers, and since Hello Tractor is looking to disrupt that industry, it’s quite evident why they put women at the forefront of their customer base. Due to this, Hello Tractor is also looking to have the company driven by women. If you are a hardware and/or software engineer living in or willing to move to Nigeria, reach out to Hello Tractor for an exciting opportunity to work with an awesome startup with a heaping lot of growth potential.

So who’s behind this excellent idea? Co-founders Jehiel Oliver and Van Jones have been leading this company for roughly a year and a half. They’re definitely two to watch and fellow Blerds. They’ve won almost (if not every) pitch competition for which they’ve been involved — now that speaks for itself. I had the opportunity to chat with Jehiel a few weeks ago, who is extremely knowledgeable in his domain, socially conscious, understanding of the issues and solutions with regards to agriculture in Nigeria; but most importantly respectful of the culture. That, I believe will lend a hand in making their company very receptive and successful.

For more information on Hello Tractor, check their website and follow them on Twitter @hellotractor.

Quiessence is an Information Security Professional with over seven years of experience within the Financial Industry. She is also the Co-founder of Urban Tech Alliance, creator of the Girltechie Campaign, and a workshop series called SecurEd. Quiessence gravitated to technology at an early age and has been captivated ever since.

22 Of The Most Amazing African American Entrepreneurs Of All Time

clara20brownClara Brown

Colorado was one of the sites for the gold rush in the 1850s. Brown moved to Central City, Colorado, established a successful laundry and bought real estate. Brown was the first woman and first Black person inducted into the Society of Colorado Pioneers.

paul20cuffePaul Cuffe

Cuffe was the son of an Ashanti man from Ghana and a Wampanoag Native American woman from Massachusetts. In the 1700s, he was a prominent sea captain whose ships and all-Black crews worked the Atlantic Coast and sailed to Europe and Africa.


Charles Clinton Spaulding, Aaron McDuffie Moore and John Merrick

In 1898, these men founded the first Black-owned insurance company. In 1934, the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Co. was the nation’s largest Black-owned business, and it is still one of the oldest Black-owned businesses in the U.S.

isaac_myersIsaac Myers

Myers organized fired ship workers, raised funds from Black churches and bought a shipyard that won a government contract. Myers let whites join his union, but his efforts to integrate white unions were stifled.

What Is Your Personal Legend? Two Things I Learned From the Book, ‘The Alchemist’

I recently finished listening to the audio book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I know, I know, I’m a little late to The Alchemist party, as it’s been an incredibly popular book for a long time.

The book introduces the idea of one’s Personal Legend, so I started thinking about my own Personal Legend. And as I got to the end of the book and saw all the sacrifices the main character was willing to make in order to accomplish his own Personal Legend, I began to reflect on my entrepreneurial journey and wondered about the journeys of other entrepreneurs.

What Is Your Personal Legend?

A Personal Legend, as it’s referred to in The Alchemist, is one’s destiny in life. It’s identifying one’s purpose in life and pursuing it. My Personal Legend is to be a successful entrepreneur and inspire others to do the same.

I’ve known what my life’s purpose was since high school, but I wasted a lot of time working for other people instead of being an entrepreneur. Yeah, living a life as you believe it was intended to be can be challenging, but this is the first time in my life I truly believe I am living on purpose. And there has got to be power in that, right?

You Gotta Be Willing to Get Your A** Kicked to Get What You Want

This is lesson No. 1.

I’ve learned that while pursuing your Personal Legend, there will be difficult times. I recognize this is different for everyone, but anyone I know who has chased their dreams has had lots of obstacles to overcome.

I’ve realized sometimes you gotta be willing to get your ass kicked to get what you want in life. This realization was supported in the book, The Alchemist, in which the main character, after making tremendous sacrifices to fulfill his Personal Legend, was beaten to within an inch of his life and then “randomly” got an important piece of information that helped him realize his dream.

This blog is littered with my personal stories of obstacles and sacrifices. So, I wanted to reach out to a few entrepreneurs to get their take on challenges during their entrepreneurial journeys. Below is what they said.

Mario Armstrong, Digital Lifestyle Expert and Today show correspondent, in my video interview with him:

In 2007, my wife and I were working on a huge deal with AOL, which we were certain was going to close. Then we got the call that the deal was not going to happen.

The recession hit in 2008 and everything dried up. We were willing to do anything except lose the house and change my son’s quality of life [to realize our dream].

We cashed out our 401(k)s and all four bank accounts went negative. Credit cards were maxed out. I had to pack up loose change to go to the Coinstar machine to get gas money. This was the roughest, toughest, humbling, most deprecating experience ever.

Not knowing how we were going to make our mortgage payment every month was the most unsettling thing.

Bronson Taylor, parent of twins, and founder of Growth Hacker TV, an educational resource for founders and entrepreneurs who are trying to grow a startup:

Nothing has been easy.

I grew up in a rural Kentucky town with almost no opportunities. My parents divorced when I was 10, and my mother married 5+ times. The Internet was the only thing that made me feel alive, and I knew it was going to change every aspect of my existence.

Others stayed in Kentucky. I packed up a U-Haul at age 18 and never looked back.

Others worked 9-5. I started multiple companies until something worked.

Others think I’ve reached my potential. I haven’t even begun.
Life is a fight.

You Better Get Yourself a Woman (or Man) of the Desert

This is lesson No. 2.

In The Alchemist, there is a woman of the desert. And she is a woman who accepts life as it comes, and she waits for her man who has gone out into the desert to return (from pursuing his dream).

A woman of the desert knows that her man must complete his destined dream (or Personal Legend) or else he will come to resent her for not allowing him to do so. Once her man completes his sacred purpose, she trusts that he will return to her and she will wait for him no matter how long it takes.

What an incredibly powerful metaphor.

I am super-blessed to absolutely have a woman of the desert in my wife, Ayana. I’ve written about how important her support has been during my entrepreneurial journey the last three years, and she constantly amazes me with her level of belief in me and WeMontage.

If you’re an entrepreneur, or anyone willing to pursue one’s life purpose, you better have a spouse/significant other who will support your efforts. I’ve heard too many stories from friends who were in relationships/marriages in which their significant other/spouse did not believe in their dream, or their ability to accomplish it, which led to resentment, breakups and, in some cases, divorce.

It might be hard to figure out on the front-end if your partner is a woman/man of the desert. But if you are inclined to fulfill your Personal Legend, it’s a good idea to try and somehow get a sense of this up front because you will absolutely need their support along your journey. How do you figure this out? I don’t know. I got lucky. And I only have questions, not answers. Sorry.

What is your Personal Legend and what has it been like working to fulfill it? Has your partner/spouse been supportive in the process? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

James Oliver, Jr. is a husband to an amazing wife, Ayana, and co-founder of the world’s cutest twins, Thaddeus and Zoe. James is a tech entrepreneur who successfully raised private investment capital for his startup, WeMontage, the world’s only website that lets you turn your photos into large collages on removable wallpaper. James graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Morehouse Collage and has an MBA from the Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC-Chapel Hill. Follow @jamesoliverjr on twitter and via treplifedad on Facebook and G+. You can connect with James via his lifestyle blog for parent entrepreneurs: www.treplifedad.com.

How I Managed the Disappointment of Not Getting on ‘Shark Tank’

Disappointment is a part of life. This may be a biased comment, but disappointment feels more acute for people like entrepreneurs, who risk everything to make their dreams a reality.

Entrepreneurs quit their jobs, sacrifice relationships with friends and family, cash out their 401(k)s and run head-first into the unknown — that place in the universe filled with possibilities, tremendous joy and fulfillment. But also with lots of disappointment.

I’d like to share how I overcame the disappointment of not making it to the final round of auditions to get my company, WeMontage, on the incredibly popular TV show Shark Tank.

Why I Wanted to Get on Shark Tank

I recently listened to a great audio book by Ben Horowitz called, The Hard Thing About Hard Things. I had one really great takeaway from the book:

When things get hard in your business and you’re not sure if there is anything you can do to make a difference, you ALWAYS have a move.

Let me repeat that. You ALWAYS have a move.

Things have been extremely challenging at WeMontage since we ran out of funding back in the spring. I have a great product with hundreds of happy customers, but the biggest issue for the business is lack of consistent national exposure.

Shark Tank has 20 million viewers. So, while it was a complete long-shot, getting on the show was my move. And doing so obviously would have addressed what I’ve identified as the major issue for the business.

I made it to the next-to-last round of auditions, but did not get the call to go to LA to pitch to the Sharks. Cause for disappointment? Perhaps…

How I Handled the Disappointment of Not Getting on Shark Tank

I initially thought I didn’t make it to the second round of auditions because people in line around me at the audition got their call back and I hadn’t; I was really upset about this because the producer said my pitch was great. I eventually did get the call a few days later and was super-pumped about it.

After I prepared my nine-minute pitch video for the producers and submitted my lengthy application, a funny thing occurred. I made a conscious decision that it didn’t matter what happened next, as I knew I had put forth my absolute best effort. I think that choice was inspired by something Ariana Huffington said in an interview about her new book, Thrive.

Ariana, a super-Type A personality, said she realized she can only control 10 percent of what happens in life, so she does her 10 percent at 100 percent of her ability and trusts the Universe to handle the other 90 percent. So, maybe that’s what I did, too. Or maybe I just released the whole thing because I’ve learned that my greatest disappointments in life have been when I expected a certain outcome and it didn’t come to pass. Or maybe it was some subconscious effort to protect my mental health. I actually think it was a combination of all three of these things.

Surprisingly though, I wasn’t disappointed to learn I didn’t make it to Shark Tank.

Disappointment of Others Who Support You

My wife has been incredibly supportive throughout this entrepreneurial journey. When I didn’t hear back about making it to LA, she was still optimistic it was going to happen. Once the trailers for the new season of Shark Tank started airing, the reality set in that I wasn’t going to be on the show and I could tell she was disappointed. And for the first time in the last three years, she began to question the feasibility of me accomplishing my dream of making WeMontage a household name.

She asked me, “Do you think WeMontage is going to happen.” My answer surprised even me. I didn’t hesitate in my response, “Yes, I do. I don’t know exactly how at this point, but I’m OK with that. I have a few tangible things coming up soon, that should make a huge difference.”

I was grateful she accepted that answer without hesitation. I was even more impressed that I still had the resilience in me to respond so affirmatively and so quickly in that way.

Suggestions for Managing Disappointment

I looked around the Internet to see what others recommend for handling disappointment. I found a few practical, platitude-free suggestions in an article over at PsychCentral.com. Here are six recommendations in the article for how to effectively cope with disappointment.

1. Manage emotion
2. Don’t take it personally
3. Review expectations
4. Take a big picture perspective
5. Try again — or try another tack

I think I’ve used all of these tips during the last three years of chasing my dream. The thing I think I’m best at on this list though is number “6”, which is being resilient.

Resilience Matters

In my experience, the one thing that has consistently kept me moving forward, other than the support of my amazing wife, loving family and friends, is resilience.

There have been plenty of times I’ve wanted to quit, but I haven’t.

I still might quit…

But not today.

How have you dealt with disappointment as it relates to being an entrepreneur? Are there things you can share that might help others? Please do so in the comments.

James Oliver, Jr. is a husband to an amazing wife, Ayana, and co-founder of the world’s cutest twins, Thaddeus and Zoe. James is a tech entrepreneur who successfully raised private investment capital for his startup, WeMontage, the world’s only website that lets you turn your photos into large collages on removable wallpaper. James graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Morehouse Collage and has an MBA from the Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC-Chapel Hill. Follow @jamesoliverjr on twitter and via treplifedad on Facebook and G+. You can connect with James via his lifestyle blog for parent entrepreneurs:www.treplifedad.com.

Are You a Wannabe or a Real Entrepreneur? 6 Differences Between Those Who Dream and Those Who Act

Wannabes Obsess About Ideas; Entrepreneurs Obsess About Implementation

Sometimes, we spend an inordinate amount of time talking about our ideas, dreams and aspirations. It is easy to content ourselves with simply having lofty ideas, not realizing their sheer abundance. Anyone who has taken a breath has likely had an idea that could have literally changed the course of his or her life in a revolutionary way. Unfortunately, such ideas rarely get implemented.

Real entrepreneurs overcome their mental barriers, move beyond their comfort zones and spring into action. Wannabes seek a perfect plan. Entrepreneurs execute and adjust the plan later.

Wannabes Want Approval from Family and Friends; Entrepreneurs Embrace Criticism

Some entrepreneurs allow those closest to them — their friends and family — to prevent them from going after their dream of starting their own business.

Meanwhile. others, while they know their loved ones have their best interest at heart,  know uninformed advice and criticism can be more harm than good.

Instead of wasting valuable time and energy being defensive or trying to get approval from those who cannot be persuaded by data, they use criticism to address holes in their business strategy.

Wannabes Focus on Getting ‘Rich’; Entrepreneurs Are in It for the Love

If you perceive starting a business as your golden ticket, think again. Many entrepreneurs who have built massive wealth likely didn’t go into business to get rich. They did so because they had passion for something and kept finding opportunities to expand the way they expressed that passion, and then they realized they could make money doing it.

Entrepreneurs who become rich do so because they love what they do. It has meaning for them, so much meaning that they are willing to do whatever it takes, at weird hours, often at high personal inconvenience and risk, to do it. Making money doing it becomes inevitable.

Wannabes Want to Get on TV and Get ‘Famous’; Entrepreneurs Build Desirable Products or Services

Since the days of the Dot-Com era, many entrepreneurs were treated like pop stars. This has attracted many wannabe entrepreneurs who are more concerned with the spotlight than actually running a successful business.

Real entrepreneurs recognize their natural desire to be recognized, but they don’t think fame is the only form of recognition that validates them. Rather than focusing on becoming famous, they focus on creating something deserving of attention.

Wannabes Hope, Pray and Wait for Their Lucky Break; Entrepreneurs Engineer Multiple Plans and Execute

Wannabes focus on positive thinking, expecting one day their big break will come and things will get easier.

Entrepreneurs put themselves in a position to get lucky by creating the right situations for success by planning for multiple contingencies, therefore, persevering through both the good and bad times.

They also make the right connections, believe in what they’re doing and then seize the opportunities that align with their goals and avoid those that don’t. 

Wannabes Are Discouraged by Failure; Entrepreneurs See Failure as an Opportunity

Wannabes fear looking stupid in front of their friends. Entrepreneurs willingly risk making fools of themselves, knowing that long-term success is a good tradeoff for a short-term loss of dignity.

Entrepreneurs don’t see failure as something to fear. Instead, they see it as an opportunity to expand their knowledge base and a stepping stone to success. Therefore, real entrepreneurs don’t hide their failures and aren’t afraid to expose their ideas to a cold reality as soon as reasonably possible.




10 Young Black Tech Innovators You Should Know

Kimberly Bryant

Bryant founded San Francisco-based Black Girls Code in 2011 to help close the digital divide for girls of color. So far the nonprofit organization has trained more than 1,500 girls to work in technology fields such as robotics, video game design, mobile phone application development and computer programming.

This past July, Bryant, a biotechnology and engineering professional, was one of 11 people to receive the White House Champions of Change for Tech Inclusion award. The award is given to celebrate people in the U.S. “who are doing extraordinary things to expand technology opportunities for young learners—especially minorities, women and girls, and others from communities historically under-served or under-represented in tech fields,” according to whitehouse.gov.

Dr. Paul Judge

Dr. Paul Q. Judge is a serial entrepreneur and noted scholar with a doctorate in Computer Science from Georgia Tech. The Atlanta-based entrepreneur has founded several companies that expanded and resulted in successful acquisitions. In 2000, Judge joined the founding team of CipherTrust, an anti-spam email software company, which became one of the fastest growing firms in North America with 300 employees and over 3,000 customers, including half of the Fortune 500 companies, in more than 50 countries. CipherTrust was acquired by Secure Computing for $273 million in 2006.

Judge has received many awards and was recognized by the MIT Technology Review Magazine as one of the top 100 young innovators in the world in 2003. He was also featured in Black Enterprise magazine’s list of “50 Most Powerful Players Under 40.”‘

Ory Okolloh

Harvard-educated Ory Okolloh of Kenya has created both the watchdog site Mzalendo and the crime reporting site Ushahidi, and now serves as Google’s policy manager in Africa. Recognized as one of Fast Company’s Most Influential Women in Technology last year, she is set to become the new face of entrepreneurship on the continent.

Shaun Evans

Shaun Evans is the chief executive officer of OMBO Apps, which is becoming one of Atlanta’s hottest tech companies to take on the mobile industry. His startup company develops cutting-edge mobile applications targeting the African-American market. Evans is a game-changer with one hit already under his belt, Urban Gossip FREE, the No. 1 black celebrity news app for iPhone and Android mobile devices.

Anthony Frasier

Anthony Frasier is a native of Newark, N.J., former co-founder of mobile startup Playd, and the award- winning gaming site TheKoalition.com. Anthony was also profiled in the online hit documentary Black in America: The New Promised Land – Silicon Valley, which has received over 1 million viewers.

In 2012 CNN Money profiled an elite group of eight minorities diversifying the tech industry and Frasier made the list. He was also listed in NBC The Grio’s “100: Making History Today” for his acclaimed work. Currently he’s working on building up the Newark tech scene and a new tech startup.

Entrepreneur Tristan Walker on Creating a Brand, Giving Back to Community

blerd tristan 2

Tristan Walker is the founder and CEO of Walker & Company Brands who launched his first product, Bevel, this past February. Bevel is a shaving system designed specifically for men with sensitive skin and coarse and curly hair. Walker honed his entrepreneurial skills as the director of business development at Foursquare, and then as entrepreneur-in-residence at Andressen & Horowitz. Along with creating his own brand and products, he’s also active in getting Black and Latino students involved in start-ups through his organization CODE2040.

Q: Where did the idea for Bevel come from?

Walker: Bevel started out from my own frustration of not being able to shave for 15 years. Every single way that I encountered facial hair removal sucked. I used the multi-blade razor on my face when I was 15. I woke up the following morning completely broken out. You go to a barbershop, a barber will use the same electric clippers he’s using on everyone else’s hair on your face, which when you think about it, is disgusting. He doesn’t clean it person to person. The last one, which is the worst of them all, I put a depilatory cream on my face.  It sits on your face for six minutes and has all these crazy chemicals in it and then you wipe it off. It burned my face. It did all types of damage to my skin. So, I thought there has to be a better way. We created Bevel out of that.

Q: Where do you hope to see Bevel in five years?

Walker: Bevel is the flagship brand under Walker & Company, so hopefully, Bevel is still a very, very large brand that people continue to love. Hopefully, it’s one of a few brands that Walker & Company has. We want hundreds of thousands of people using this product. Quite frankly, the thing that kind of inspires me most.

Q: You were director of business development at Foursquare. What did you learn from working at that company that you apply to your product, Bevel?

Walker: I really learned the importance of brands and authenticity. The reason why I think Foursquare was so successful was that every employee lived the brand, every employee was the brand, and it just made it easier for users and customers to really get it and want to be a part of it. When I think about Bevel and the Walker Company, I think the thing that we do well is we show off that authenticity. We’re not faking it. This is us. I think we’ll continue to do that with every brand we launch.

Q: How did your time as entrepreneur-in-residence at Andressen & Horowitz prepare you to launch Walker & Company Brands?

Walker: One thing that they taught me was to be the one thing that you feel like you’re the best person in the world to do, then you have a really good advantage. What I realized is, as it pertained to Bevel, no one understood the problem the way I did because I had to deal with it everyday of my life. Being able to disrupt health and beauty with technology focused on a demographic group that I’m a part of made me feel like I was one of the best folks in the world to try it.

Q: What other products can we expect from Walker & Company Brands?

Walker: We’re really focused on making things that solve health and beauty problems for people of color. Bevel helps with the razor-bump irritation issue with its design, etc. I think about things like vitamin D deficiency, natural hair transitioning and hyperpigmentation. We want to build brands that solve those problems in a very big way and I think we’ll do it.

Q: Tell us what you’re doing with CODE2040.

Walker: CODE2040 is a not-for-profit organization I helped found 2 ½ years ago. Our flagship program is the Fellows Program and the goal of it is to get the highest-performing Black and Latino engineering undergraduates internships in Silicon Valley, and then we provide them with all the tools they need to be very successful. The reasons behind starting it is, number one, I didn’t want folks to realize that Silicon Valley existed way too late. I realized it existed at 24 and that’s way too late, in my opinion. Secondly, I really have this fascination around how can we make the biggest consumer demographic (Blacks and Latinos) in the world the best producing demographic in the world? I think that’s one of the greatest opportunities of my lifetime.

Q: What advice would you give to someone wanting to enter the worlds of entrepreneurship and technology?

Walker: The first thing I would say is to just get a drive. You’ve just got to do it. Some of the best advice I got on that came from [director-producer] Tyler Perry. I had the good fortune to interview him a couple times with Walkers and Phoners and he said one thing to the group that stuck with me for a long time. He said it wasn’t until he realized that the trials you go through and the blessings you receive are the exact same thing and that freed him up to become a great entrepreneur. That stuck with me because your trials are just blessings and those lessons are blessings. Once you think about that, you start to become fearless in a sense. Think about it from the perspective of entrepreneurship being hard. The hard parts are just trials and your blessings.