Janice Bryant Howroyd is the founder and CEO of ActOne Group, the largest privately held, Black-woman-owned Workforce Management Company in the US. She is also the first African-American female to create and own a billion-dollar business, according to Business News.
Howroyd never envisioned herself as an entrepreneur; although, she says she “went into a business frame of mind” during her 11th-grade year in high school, according to Harvard Business Review.
Born into a segregated society in Tarboro, North Carolina, in the late 1950s, Howroyd is the fourth of 11 children. Her background reserved a lot of principles and ideas about how life should work. During her childhood days, integration was suddenly encouraged and she had to go to a school with other white folks. According to her, that was a horrible year for her.
She shared that a history teacher came to the class and taught that “Black Folks” were appropriate to slavery and plantation life, which caused her to bite her cheeks to hold back tears.
She also recounted that when she told her father about what had happened, he taught her the importance of knowing herself and told her she had everything she needed to succeed in life. This experience informed her about how people want to be treated and also that what you say matters.
Howroyd moved to Los Angeles in 1976 after reading humanities and English at North Carolina A&T. She lived with her older sister, whom she calls her “appointed guardian angel,” and her brother-in-law, Tom, who helped her to get a job temporarily at Billboard and recognized her entrepreneurial skills from how she related with the customers.
Howroyd started Act 1 in front of a rug shop. She had $1,500 of her own savings and borrowed $900 from her mother and brother. She officially opened her business in 1978 in a small office in Beverly Hills, California, according to Black Enterprise. Her only appliances were a phone and a fax machine.
She started work, making full-time job posts for companies needing employees, and then shifted to temporary placements. Her business started to grow with the help of satisfied customers who told others about the business.
She said “It still matters in business more what someone else says about you than what you say about yourself. 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 referral system.”
Forbes places the 70-year-old at number 42 on America’s Self-Made Women List. Her agency has more than 17,000 clients and 2,600 employees in 33 countries. Howroyd’s other brands are Agile 1, A-Check Global, and AppleOne.
She is also an ambassador, educator, and the author of ‘Acting Up’ and ‘The Art of Work’. According to Nightingale Conant, the great woman has counseled three U.S. presidents; Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. She was appointed by President Obama as a special advisor on HBCUs.
One lesson Janice Bryant Howroyd continues to stand by is that “In order to be outstanding, sometimes, you’re just going to have to stand out and not hide.”
She said, “My personal business protocol, my life mantra: Never compromise who you are personally to become what you wish to be professionally.”