How Janice Bryant Howroyd turned $900 into a $1 billion business, and made history

Abu Mubarik October 14, 2021
Image credit: Larry French | Getty Images

Janice Bryant Howroyd is an entrepreneur, founder and CEO of Act 1 Group, an employment agency and consultancy which includes other brands like Agile 1, A-Check Global and AppleOne. The company has contracts with 17,000 clients in 19 countries, with more than 2,800 employees, according to KTLA.

Howroyd is said to be the first African-American businesswoman to manage and run a company that generates more than $1 billion in annual revenue. Also, her firm is the largest woman-minority-owned workforce management company founded in the U.S.

The entrepreneur grew up at Tarboro, N.C., as one of 11 children. She later moved to Los Angeles with just $900 in her account. She founded Act 1 Group in 1978 and grew the company by word of mouth and introducing a client service needs base.

With a small office in Beverly Hills in 1978, she started operations by making full-time job placements for companies needing workers, then shifting to temporary placements. Pleased clients were her best advertisements, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“It still matters in business more what someone else says about you than what you say about yourself,” Howroyd told LA Times. “You can have the best advertising, but unless someone else certifies what they are saying, you won’t last long. Word of mouth has always been my best referral system.”

Before starting Act 1, her brother-in-law provided her with a temporary job at Billboard and saw how she displayed her entrepreneurial skills with her interaction with clients.

Howroyd said she had an early life lesson on team building. According to her, each of her siblings was assigned to an older one to act as a mentor.

“My sister Sandy was my appointed guardian angel,” Howroyd said, “so it was up to her to see that I’d gotten my homework done, my hair was done, and my thoughts and process were in line with what the family wanted. We were very organized.”

She managed to stand out and compete against giant companies in the industry by adopting a strategy that allows her to hire people that fit into the company’s philosophy. “They walk in better prepared and it’s more likely to be a very good fit for your client,” she said.

Besides running Act 1, she is also one of the most sought-after speakers at big business summits and events. Her incredible journey has earned her several awards and recognition. With a family net worth of $420 million, Forbes Magazine listed Howroyd among the wealthiest self-made women in the U.S.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: October 14, 2021


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