Some businesses are 100% Black-owned and operated, like this platform. These brands outright identify as having Black founders and CEOs. Brands I love like Capital City Mambo Sauce, Uncle Ray's Products, and clothes from Black Vibe Tribe or hair care products from Black Naps (Natural and Proud Sistas).
Then some brands are majority-owned. Consider Tristan Walker who sold his multimillion-dollar men's grooming brand Bevel to Procter & Gamble in 2018 yet still remains the company's CEO. Rockstar Rihanna owns 15% of Fenty Beauty, a brand she developed with LVMH-owned incubator Kendo, also home to Fenty Skin. Last year, Mane Choice was sold to MAV Beauty where founder Courtney Adeleye remains the CEO of the hair care brand.
"Black-owned" should be simple to understand but for those who are unsure, a Black-owned business should be an entity where at least a majority of the shareholder equity, partnership interest, member share or other ownership interest in the business or its holding companies are owned by a Black person/people. Why does this matter? Some Black entrepreneurs. activists and industry leaders believe that, without an audit, verification, and disclosure process, white-owned parent companies can manipulate consumers into thinking their dollars are going to a Black-owned business when, in reality, a Black founder or CEO can act as a front for a predominantly white company. It matters when billions of dollars are at stake - funds that can close the racial wealth gap and establish generational wealth.
It's unfortunate when you discover a brand is not Black-owned but marketed to Black people, has a Black spokesperson, or creates a product specifically for Black people. I feel a sense of betrayal having the knowledge that my community is not profiting nearly enough from the money being made while being the target audience for shoes, cars, soda, fast food, and more. Scroll down to see a few examples of businesses you might have thought were Black-Owned but are NOT.
Black Entertainment Television (BET) reaches 85 million homes and has aired over 45 programs including original content, acquired programming, and award shows cast with Black people, featuring Black culture, and marketing to Black Audiences as a 24-hour entertainment network. It was sold to Viacom in 2000 by the original owner Robert Johnson and his investment partners, making him the first African American billionaire. The Redstone family holding company, National Amusements Inc., owns 79.4% of the Class A voting common stock of ViacomCBS — the owner of cable TV networks, Paramount Pictures, Simon & Schuster and the CBS broadcast station. Eighty percent of NAI’s voting interest was controlled by Sumner Redstone.
2. George Foreman Grill
One of the bestselling infomercial products of all time, the George Forman Grill was created by Michael Boehm. The tabletop cast iron grill that also drains grease was created in 1994. After months of the prototype sitting around the house waiting for George to try it, his wife was the one who encouraged him to take the non-paid endorsement opportunity. Since then, So, the company that eventually patented the “Lean, Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machines” paid George a staggering $138 million lump sum in order to buy the rights to use his name on their grill in perpetuity. Between the monthly royalties and the buy-out, George personally pocketed a minimum of $250 million from the grill that will continue to pay him even after death. As much as I like to have seen him own the company and the patent for the product that bears his name, the boxing legend does donate to a number of charities, pastors a church, and operates a youth center for Houston, Texas residents.
3. House of Cheatham
So if number 1 and number 2 were not shockers, number 3 may surprise you. House of Cheatham is home to Africa's Best, Texture My Way, and Aunt Jackies lines of hair care products specifically for Africa Americans. This is one small business with a big footprint around the world selling haircare designed for Black women on every continent. With less than 150 employees, the company has been in operating since 1924. Little information is known about the original owners of the company or it's earliest product - Polly Peachtree Pomade. The company is now under the leadership of Michael Barker, a white man. House of Chetham is not classified as a Minority Business Enterprise, but that the leadership and team members in product development, research and development, and marketing are majority black female including Dwan White, VP of Marketing. It is worth noting, House of Cheatham made a recent $3 million gift to Clark Atlanta University.
4. Rastafri Braid
When I first came across Rastafari, it was Instagram - a video with a woman who I immediately identified with donning big coily hair, roaming through a warehouse of synthetic hair in a variety of tight and loose curl patterns. At first glance, I believed this woman was the CEO of the company she was representing but the truth was I was looking at designer and creative director, Sherrell Jackson. In fact, Rastafri is the brand name for the synthetic hair sold by the parent company, Golden State Imports which appears to be owned by an individual by the name of Ryeu Kee Kim. There are multiple hair extension brands targeting Black women but few have their VP also act as an ambassador. GSI has provided cash giveaways to stylists who use Rastafri braiding hair in their salons.
5. Black Radiance
Black Radiance is probably one of the melanin-friendly drugstore makeup brands on the market. Not only does Black Radiance's online presence highlight Black MUAs, but their product lineup also features highly pigmented vivid colors designed for beauties with darker complexions. It's an interesting market position for a brand that is owned by an immigrant from Taiwan. Founder and chief executive officer of Markwins Beauty Brands, Eric Chen's leadership has led to the growth of the cosmetic lines he has acquired - Lorac, Wet n Wild, Physicians Formula, Bonne Bell, Lip Smacker, and Black Radiance.
Can you name a brand you thought was Black-owned but was surprised to learn it wasn't? Name the brand in the comments below.