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Henrietta Smith Bowers Duterte (pronounced Dew-tier) was the first Black and the first female mortician in the United States. Duterte was born free in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1817. She was one of 13 children born to John Bowers and Henrietta Smith Bowers. Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, the family relocated to Philadelphia around 1810. Duterte’s father worked as the sexton of the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas.
The family lived in Philadephia’s seventh ward, known as an enclave for many influential black families at that time. One of its most famous residents was W.E.B. DuBois. Duterte worked as a seamstress, making cloaks, capes, and coats for the city’s middle and upper classes. She married Francis Duterte in 1852. He was a coffin maker of Haitian descent. The couple had several children, but all died during infancy.
Arnold Donald (1954 – ) has served as the CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines since 2013. Three times per day, his high school would play a message: “Gentlemen prepare yourselves. You’re going to run the world”. Clearly, Donald is doing just that as he leads the largest leisure cruise line in the world. Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, his mother was a homemaker and his father was a carpenter. His mother and father greatly valued education made sure that Donald and his siblings excelled at academic achievement. In addition to Donald and his 4 siblings, his parents were also foster parents, taking in more than 25 foster children.
African American inventor, Jeffrey Nash was inspired to invent the Juppy Baby Walker at the age of 56. Nash had a long career in sales of various products. A gifted salesman, he made millions for his employers and in doing so, always thought about how he could also achieve greater independence and financial freedom for himself.
Nash’s opportunity came in 2008. While at his granddaughters soccer game, he saw a woman teaching her child how to walk. In particular, he noticed that the young mother was hunched over and seemed to be uncomfortable. He also noticed that in trying to help the child walk; the mother was pulling on the child’s arms which could have resulted in injury to the child. These observations served as a catalyst for the invention of the Juppy Baby Walker. Upon returning home to Las Vegas after the soccer game, Nash immediately began to work on developing a prototype design of what would become, the Juppy Baby Walker. After 4 attempts, Nash completed the final product design.
At same time, he was launching his new product, the economy was also doing very poorly. Nash was notified by his employer that his pay was being cut, due to the economic downturn. He took this as a sign that it was time for him launch his own business and that’s exactly what he did. He began testing his new invention on the children of customers in the retail store where he was working. Based on their feedback he further refined the product design. He then hired a patent attorney and secured a manufacturing company to begin production. Nash took 3 weeks off from work and began marketing the product in Nevada and California. After 3 weeks, he had sold $12,000 worth of product. Encouraged by the positive response, Nash emptied his 401k, sold his home and car in order to invest in his business. He has since become a successful entrepreneur. Nash received his patent for the Jumpy Baby Walker in 2015. He is still working hard to grow the business. His product is currently available at major retailers such as Walmart, Sears, and Amazon, etc.
Another interesting fact about Jeffrey Nash is that his daughter is married to actor Forrest Whittaker. In launching his company he has not sought endorsement or financial investment in the product from the couple. He feels the product is strong enough to be successful without celebrity endorsement.
Madame CJ Walker, was a pioneering entrepreneur developing hair care products that catered to black women. She was orphaned at the age of 7, widowed with a young child by age 18, and could barely read or write……YET she let none of this stop her. In achieving success, she also wanted to empower other black women to be successful by creating employment opportunities for them. She shared this quote at a National Negro Business League Convention:
“I am not merely satisfied in making money for myself. For I am endeavoring to provide employment for hundreds of the women of my race”
Less than 8% of car dealerships are owned by women. That number is only 1% for the number of dealerships owned by black women. However, women influence over 85% of the auto purchases. Ellenae Fairhurst has made history in Huntsville, AL becoming the first African American woman to own a Lexus dealership. She accomplished this mile stone in the early 1990’s!! A native of Dayton, OH, she started her career in the auto industry as a secretary at Ford Motor Company in 1968 in Detroit, MI. Fairhurst attended Miami University in Ohio. After graduation, she moved to Detroit and began her career with Ford. She had originally been selected to participate in Ford’s management training program but after finding out that she had recently been married, they did not permit her to participate in the management training program. Fairhurst held a number of positions throughout her 17 year tenure with Ford.
In 1988 she opened her first dealership. Fairhurst sought out the opportunity at a time when many corporate professionals were being downsized. Fairhurst became aware of Ford’s dealership training program. She found it very difficult to get information on how she could be considered for participation. However she was supported in her efforts by several African American dealers. Unfortunately, she was unsuccessful in entering the dealership program at Ford, but was able to enter the dealership training program for Chrysler. Her first Chrysler dealership was it in Fayetteville, NC opened in 1988 was very successful. Fairhurst was able to pay off her dealership in 8 years which is nearly half the time (15 years) that it would normally take to do so. To enter the dealing training program, you had to prove that she had $50k of disposable income. The actual cost of her first dealership was $150k. Ford had an employee stock purchase program which had a company match. Fairhurst participated in this program and was able to use these funds to help fund her efforts to purchase the Chrysler dealership. Most of the remaining funds for the dealership purchase came from severance pay she received after being down-sized from Ford.
Fairhurst believes that most women have an innate ability to be excellent entrepreneurs. Fairhust identifies some of her challenges in owning her first dealership as being lack of access to information and opportunity as well as constantly being told what she could not do. While dealers of color did eventually did make inroads in owning main line dealerships, there was not much progress in owning luxury dealerships. Fairhurst left her Chrysler dealership to come to acquire an Infiniti dealership in Huntsville, AL. This was also a milestone for Fairhurst as she was the first African American woman to acquire an Infiniti car dealership in the 1990’s. She is now the owner both the owner of two luxury dealerships in Alabama (Infiniti and Lexus)
Click the link to hear an interview with Ellenae Fairhurst
Edward Davis (1911 – 1999) was born in Shreveport, Louisiana. He came to Detroit at the age of 16 and moved in with his aunt and uncle; seeking a better life. He was the oldest of 10 children. As a child, he became fascinated with his father’s Model T Ford. This sparked his interest in cars. He would make history by becoming Detroit’s first African American to open a “Big Three” auto franchise as well as the first African American to open a used car dealership. He would also make history in the public sector when he was appointed by Detroit Mayor, Roman Gribbs to be the general manager of the City of Detroit’s Department of Street Railways (DSR) . Continue reading “Edward Davis: 1st African American To Own A “Big Three” Auto Franchise”→