By Forbes calculations ($660 million), Folorunsho Alakija, is not wealthier than Oprah Winfrey. But the Forbes calculation has been disputed, with the number $3.3 billion replacing it and topping Oprah’s $2.7 billion.

Now here’s the deal, I honestly don’t care who has a higher net worth. I am just proud to highlight another woman, of color, a Black woman, who has used her God-given gifts, talents, and intelligence to make it to the top and stay there. I’m sure starting out she didn’t have an immediate goal of being a multimillionaire or billionaire, she probably just wanted what most of us do, to carve out her own place and space in life.

Some would argue that since Alakija does not have a rags-to-riches story like Oprah Winfrey, that her story is not newsworthy and one to be celebrated and highlighted. Alakija comes from a wealthy family and received education at quality schools, but let me chime in and say this, she started off as a secretary and then after quitting her job she left Nigeria in the 1980’s to study fashion design in England. She later returned to Nigeria to launch her own fashion label. Her fashion label grew in size and value, and while making money from that industry she then expanded into oil and other industries. Why isn’t that newsworthy and reason enough to celebrate? Daddy didn’t hand her a job, she went out and built a career and developed companies.

Let me also add this point as a wakeup call to anyone who doesn’t get it—anyone with wealth (or who has had wealth) knows that it’s not getting there that counts, it’s the longevity after getting there that matters.

There are numerous inheritors of wealth who have squandered it. Just as there are a great deal of rags-to-riches-back-to-rags stories that will make you cringe.

Alakija is not some young 25-year-old recent billionaire who made her bucks through the funnel of nepotism. This is a hard-working, highly intelligent, skilled business woman who is calling the shots and making moves at the young age of 61. She’s a wife and mother of four children. She’s balancing career, family, and personal needs—-something many women, including myself, find as an enormous challenge. I salute her.

But then there’s other people out there who say that since she’s Nigerian that her wealth is questionable, and argue that with so much personal wealth in a country with so much poverty, that maybe Alakija should not be highlighted, even at $660 million in earnings. To those people I say, she is a business woman, not a government official, politician, or public servant.

Zoom in and slam down those who are so-called public “servants” who are living the high life off the backs of those they claim to serve. Broadcast these so-called “servants” for accepting or demanding compensation for a job that should have meager earnings, yet they are making hundreds of thousands and millions of dollars annually barely living up to their job description or the claims they made to get their jobs, while the people they “serve” are impoverished and holding on by a thin string of hope.

Ethical entrepreneurship should always be celebrated, and now we have another example of a successful woman who has earned her way to the top not in the stereotypical ways and also not in the traditional ways perceived by most.

Alakija is not a singer, dancer, actress, athlete, or other entertainment professional, she’s not even a doctor or lawyer—she’s a business woman with a mission and vision that should be celebrated and used as an example for women and girls worldwide. I’m not demeaning, mocking, or limiting the value of these other professionals—I’m merely highlighting a career where the path is never clear and all of the schools in the world combined cannot truly prepare you for—and that is the creation, development, and economic sustainability of a business—one of the loneliest careers on the planet—entrepreneurship.

Think if Alakija’s family had lowered her standards and forced her to assume a different role in life— now smile and salute a woman, a Black woman, who no matter which financial calculations you accept, is doing huge things, making huge moves, and is helping to raise the bar of excellence while kicking down the barriers that keep women worldwide “in their place”.

We should make it a point of highlighting female entrepreneurs so that the world can see the power of a woman who see no limits.

Copyright 2012. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.

Sources:
http://www.ventures-africa.com/2012/08/finance-fashion-philanthropy-folorunsho-alakija-famfa-oil/

http://www.techyville.com/2012/12/uncategorized/meet-the-richest-black-woman-in-the-world-and-it-isnt-oprah/

http://www.ventures-africa.com/2012/11/the-richest-black-woman-in-the-world-folorunsho-alakija/

http://www.forbes.com/profile/folorunsho-alakija/

By Natasha L. Foreman, MBA

 

I wanted to share my thoughts regarding John Hope Bryant’s brilliant article that was posted on and by Bloomberg BusinessWeek today. I also wanted to have a healthy dialogue with those individuals who showed their lack of critical thinking skills before they reacted, and quickly responded in the negative, to the article.

It is my opinion that the moment many of us don’t understand something or it rubs us the wrong the way, the remaining of what we read or hear turns more into an episode of Charlie Brown, just a bunch of whah whah whah blah blah blah…and we don’t hear or interpret anything else. We are then too focused on a counter argument, but never on seeking clarification. Here is the link to John Hope Bryant’s article: http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-04-04/if-bill-gates-were-black-dot-dot-dot

Below is my comment that I submitted to Bloomberg, that they will hopefully post in their comments section below the article. After you read John’s article and the comments made by other readers, please share your thoughts about the article and comments (inclusive of mine). Let’s have some healthy dialogue and if possible, some positive solutions to issues facing the Black community specifically, and all underserved communities in general. Here you go:

Economic empowerment and the eradication of poverty first begins with understanding the history of how this country was built, how we rebuild during economic downfalls, and how the least of God’s children are impacted. It requires us to look at the missing piece between the have’s and have not’s. So yes, possessing a bank account versus being robbed blind at check cashing centers is a bonus. Yes, having a credit score around or higher than 700, instead of 550 and lower, is a huge predictor of a community’s growth and prosperity—as well as an individual’s ability to thrive not just merely survive. Yes, being financially literate is imperative, because if you aren’t then you run the risk of falling prey to predatory lenders who can smell your desperation miles away.

If you don’t have a bank account then how are you depositing or cashing checks? Are you going to check cashing centers and giving them a portion of YOUR money to gain access to YOUR money? That doesn’t sound like the wisest of choices when you have a choice. Show me one millionaire or billionaire who doesn’t have a bank account. Show me one entrepreneur without a bank account. Show me. I’m sure you can’t.

The banking system isn’t corrupt, there are corrupt INDIVIDUALS in the banking system; just like there are corrupt individuals in countless other systems including government, religious organizations, educational institutions, charities, etc. You can’t blame a crisis caused by unethical behavior on an entire system, because just as there were predatory lenders who knew customers were potentially high risk for loan defaults, there are some ‘victims’ of this economic downfall who knew they bought more house than they could afford, who knew that they didn’t have true job ‘security’ but gambled with the odds anyway, who claimed to earn more than they actually had (and eventually they had more month than money). So unethical decisions from individuals caused our country to suffer these past few years.

This is a brilliant post by John Hope Bryant, that clearly expresses the sentiment that if African Americans had a Bill Gates-type-entrepreneurial role model then the vision for the Black community would not be limited to a mindset of ‘only the lucky get out’, and the ‘victory’ would not be narrowed to simply having a ‘Black President”. 

Think about it, if Bill Gates was a Black man, the money he donates and invests would be injected within his community first and then worldwide. Don’t most of us consider taking care of ‘home’ before we take care of the rest of the world? Don’t we start local and then go global? Well if this were the case, then Black communities would be resuscitated through Gates community giving, and the country (and world) would see a different ‘picture’ of these communities. 

John Hope Bryant is NOT saying that Black people don’t have entrepreneurial role models; he is saying that we need MORE business owners who are employing thousands, not merely hundreds (or less). He’s saying we need more innovators, more businesses in technology, etc. that provide a competitive advantage within the U.S. in general, and within Black communities specifically. He’s saying we need MORE Black entrepreneurs going into the community, going into the schools and teaching and sharing the ‘magic’ in their success. 

He is saying that in order to eradicate poverty and gain economic empowerment in the Black community it is going to take the Black community, not government, not charity, not handouts, but hard work and each person reaching back to an open hand and providing a hand up out of the pit. It’s going to require Black people with 700+ credit scores teaching those with 550 and lower credit scores how they did it. It’s going to require Black entrepreneurs to hire within their community, to bring on interns to learn the ropes at their company, and to mentor young Black children.

The majority of our role models that our children regularly see come from entertainment and sports backgrounds, which there is nothing wrong with that, except if you lack talent in either area, then what?

Additionally, and no disrespect, but Oprah Winfrey, Magic Johnson, Bob Johnson, and others have built BRANDS that employ–but none to the extent of a Bill Gates level; and all three brands represent entertainment or sports. In 2007, Microsoft employed a reported 79,000 people. That was in 2007. Name one Black-owned company that employs 79,000 people? 

So John Hope Bryant’s article says, “what if Bill Gates were Black?” What changes would you see in the Black community? What would Black children aspire to become if they saw a Black employer hiring thousands of people within their community? How many Black people could be employed (since unemployment is HIGHEST in the Black community)? How many of our children would be encouraged to excel in STEM courses and pursue careers in those fields so that they too could grow up to ‘be like Bill’?

We need to take the emotion out; we need to stop wanting to attack everything we don’t understand, and start acting like we are intelligent enough to ASK for clarification if needed, and to ASK how we can individually and collectively help solve the problem.

How many of you volunteer in the Black community? How many of you work with the underserved and underrepresented? How many of you are helping to work towards a solution? Or are you merely only focusing on picking at and tearing down the things you don’t understand, and the things you are against? If you aren’t doing anything to help the Black community, and other underserved and underrepresented communities, then what does your opinion really mean, and what are you truly adding to this conversation?

John Hope Bryant you did an awesome job with this piece. We need our children to aspire to be entrepreneurs as much as (or more than) they aspire to be athletes and entertainers. Great, they want to be a football star, but let’s teach them to also start and build a business (now) as an additional revenue stream—so when their football career ends, they still have a career…and wealth, not just temporary riches! 

A broke mindset only gets the same results…an unfinished puzzle!

 

 

Copyright 2012. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.