By Samara Lynn
Despite many challenges on the political front — not to mention the ongoing quests for justice and equality — 2017 saw many business and entrepreneurial achievements made by African Americans. From the release of Black Enterprise’s iconic BE 100s list of the nation’s largest and most successful black businesses to the untimely loss of a brilliant and beloved black businessman, here are the most significant African American-related business news stories covered by Black Enterprise in 2017:
Ken Chenault To Retire from Amex
Ripples ran through the corporate world after Kenneth I. Chenault announced he is retiring from American Express in February 2018 after serving as the company’s chief executive for the past 16 years. His departure reduces the ranks of black CEOs leading the largest publicly traded corporations, including Kenneth Frazier of Merck & Co.; Roger Ferguson of TIAA; Arnold Donald of Carnival Corp.; and Marvin Ellison of JCPenney.
Debra Lee Steps Down as President of BET
Starting Jan. 1, Debra L. Lee will no longer oversee daily operations at Black Entertainment Television (BET). The network announced that she is stepping down as president and that Scott M. Mills has been tapped to take her place. Lee, however, will continue to serve as chairman and CEO of the network, focusing on cultivating the company’s relationships with external stakeholders and communities.
Steve Bannon Delivers Keynote Address to Black Entrepreneurs
Former White House strategist Steve Bannon delivered remarks before an audience of African American entrepreneurs, where he discussed President Donald Trump’s economic agenda and blamed illegal immigration for the economic stagnation of other minority groups. “Illegal immigration and trade deals are two sides of the same coin. It suppresses the wages of workers,” he said at the Minority Entrepreneurs Conference.
Bozoma Saint John Leaves Apple, To Help Repair Uber’s Image
Named one of Black Enterprise’s “Most Powerful Women in Business” this year, Bozoma “Boz” Saint John is leaving Apple and taking on the arguably Herculean task of repairing Uber’s public images as the ridesharing company’s chief brand officer. “People like me jump right into the deep end, head first…I’m already going. The practical and logistical things will catch up,” she said after the news broke.
Young Robotics Engineer and CEO Lands Deal with Apple
Silas Adekunle, an engineer and startup co-founder and CEO of Reach Robotics, an augmented reality gaming company that creates robots for both fun and STEM education, made an exclusive deal with Apple in November to sell its line of MekaMon real-life gaming robots in Apple’s flagship U.S. and United Kingdom stores. British-Nigerian Adekunle graduated with First Class Honors from the University of the West of England, with a Bachelor of Science in robotics technology, and previously worked at GE Aviation and Infineon.
Business Owner With 13 McDonald’s Franchises in Compton
All sorts of images come to mind when you hear the words “Compton, California”— “legacy” not being one of them. But, for Patricia Williams, Compton and the McDonald’s franchise have enabled her to build an empire of 13 locations across Los Angeles, employing over 700 people in the community. Not to mention, it’s also allowed Williams to work alongside her daughters, Nicole Enearu and Kerri Harper-Howie, who are already in position to carry on her legacy.
Black-Owned Company’s $700M Project Will Redevelop South Central LA
A master plan for Capri Investment Group’s $700 million mixed-use project includes adding 961 condos and apartments, a new 400-room hotel, a 10-story office building, retail stores, and restaurants. Additionally, plans call for more than tripling the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza’s size to over 3 million square feet.
Ray J Closes $31M Deal to Launch Raycon
According to a press release, the $31 million deal, paid in the form of equity and cash, was finalized between the R&B artist/television personality and Cowboy Wholesale, a leading distributor of consumer electronics based in New York City.
After Losing Job, She Launched Profitable Memphis Black Restaurant Week
Cynthia Daniels, a chief event strategist lost her job in 2008, left her home in Atlanta and started a new path in Memphis, walking a road that led to some of her greatest professional victories. She became president of the Memphis Urban League Young Professionals, helping small businesses gain visibility as a social media manager. She then launched Memphis Black Restaurant Week—an initiative that generated over $80,000 of profits for local businesses in one week.
Business Leaders, Politicians Mourn Golden Krust CEO Lowell Hawthorne
The passing of CEO and president of Golden Krust Bakery and Grill Lowell Hawthorne left many of the most prominent business and political leaders paying tribute to an incredibly talented businessman.