By Robert Stitt
In 1973, Black Enterprise put together a list of the largest Black-owned businesses in America and named it the BE Top 100. All of those companies combined had total sales of just $473 million. Today, the top Black-owned firms are grossing over $24 billion in revenues.
Who was the first to reach the billion dollar mark? According to Black Enterprise, that distinction goes to a food manufacturer and distributor named TLC Beatrice International Holdings Inc. The company, which provides services for Butterball and Good Humor ice cream, was also the first Black-owned company to reach the $2 billion mark.
Once the ceiling was broken, other firms followed suit. Today, Black Enterprise notes that five other BE 100 companies are in the billion dollar club. They are:
- Worldwide Technology
- Act-1 Group
- Bridgewater Interiors
- Modular Assembly Innovations
- RML Automotive
Worldwide Technology was the 2001 BE Company of the Year. Just three years later, they broke the billion dollar barrier. By 2013, they were pulling in nearly six and a half billion dollars a year. In 2016, they sit at the top of the BE 100 with $7.5 billion in sales.
According to Black Enterprise, Act-1 Group is run by “the first woman to operate a company that generates more than $1 billion dollars in revenues,” Janice Bryant Howroyd. The global staffing firm sits at number two on the BE 100 at $2.4 billion. BE notes that “Bryant Howroyd received this year’s A.G. Gaston Lifetime Achievement Award, Black Enterprise’s highest entrepreneurial recognition. With the success of Act-1, 63-year-old Bryant Howroyd has been deemed one the country’s wealthiest self-made women.”
Bridgewater Interiors proves that you don’t have to come from old money or have a fancy business model. The Detroit-based firm simply assembles seats for cars. How much money can car seats bring in? In 2015, Bridgewater Interiors grossed over $2.1 billion.
The United States’ fourth-largest Black-owned industrial/services company, Modular Assembly Innovations, provides manufacturing and supply chain services to Honda and other large automakers. The company made over $1.2 billion in 2015.
RML Automotive comes from a fine pedigree. Robert Johnson is the founder of BET and owns three companies in the BE 100 (RLJ Equity Partners L.L.C., RLJ Credit Management L.L.C., and RML Automotive). It should not be surprising that what he touches turns to gold.