Young Blacks Want Their Own Businesses

David A. Thomas
David A. Thomas

The writers and editors of must be sure that most of their readers don't read Black Enterprise or know any black entrepreneurs (paging Michael Arrington), a conclusion that is also probably true, to a certain extent, for many Americans regardless of race or ethnicity.


Most Americans also don't pay much attention to census reports. Otherwise, more would know that blacks have been creating their own businesses at a record pace for more than a decade.'s breathless and squirm-inducing headline, "You'll Be Surprised by What the Future Crop of Entrepreneurs Is Going to Look Like," actually leads to a positive, if short, article.

It says, "According to a Gallup poll of a representative sample of 1,721 children in fifth through 12th grade conducted this spring, African-American kids were significantly more likely than white kids to report that they plan to start a business. While 39 percent of white children said they plan to start a business, 52 percent of African-American children reported this intention."

Hooray for all the black children who want to build capital instead of just earning income. To paraphrase my late entrepreneur father, who became an adult during American apartheid: The best way to keep the (white) man off your neck is to make sure he has no control over your wallet.

Georgetown University's New Business School Set His Course

David A. Thomas believes that earning a business degree and finding a job, even in dicey economic times, is realistic. But Thomas, who became the dean of Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business last August, says students who see business school as a placeholder to avoid a weak job market are making an unwise choice. Organizations, he told The Root recently, hire focused individuals who have taken advantage of the value and format of the business schools they attended.

The Yale alumnus, with a Ph.D. in organizational behavior, understands such corporate decision-making. When Georgetown courted him in 2010, Thomas was the H. Naylor Fitzhugh Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, director of its Organizational Behavior Unit and a former HBS senior associate dean. 

H. Naylor Fitzhugh, a Harvard University graduate, was one of the first blacks to receive a Harvard MBA and as a Pepsi-Cola executive developed what is now known as target marketing.


Thomas, a leader in strategic human-resource management, originally wanted to be a lawyer. But then, he said, "I discovered organizational behavior and realized that this profession could make an impact on society."

Georgetown was attractive to him because, he said, as a Jesuit school it emphasizes service, and students are inspired to become leaders in business and society. "We have programs such as Ethics and Leadership, a Business and Public Policy Center, a Center for Financial Markets and Policy and a global social-entrepreneurship program," he said.


When asked about the growing number of black entrepreneurs, Thomas said that trend has been observed at Georgetown's McDonough School of Business, where a larger proportion of black applicants are interested in entrepreneurship than members of other groups.

Entrepreneurial zeal, he said, is encouraged at Georgetown where, 15 years after graduation, more than 50 percent of business graduates have either started their own businesses or work in small or medium-size companies that are more entrepreneurial. "We also focus on connecting our students to small businesses in the Washington, D.C., area, and that attracts African-American students," he said.


Thomas stresses that the link between business and society is important. "There are places where if you spoke about that, it would sound soft or hokey. Not here. It was that emphasis, the potential to do something unique and the chance to make a difference in leadership practices that drew me to Georgetown," he said. Watch Thomas video.

Click here to learn about business school deans at historically black colleges and universities.


Booz Allen Hamilton Appoints Black Engineer of the Year to Its Board

Arthur E. Johnson, a former senior vice president at Lockheed Martin, with experience at IBM and Loral Corp., has joined the board of Booz Allen Hamilton, a global management and technology consulting services firm. Johnson earned his bachelor's degree from Morehouse College. In 1997 he was chosen as the Black Engineer of the Year (pdf, see page 62) by U.S. Black Engineer & Information Technology magazine. 


D.C. City Council Backs Down in Attempt to Restrict Local Gas King

In October I wrote in The Root about how two members of the D.C. City Council were trying to break up the gas station business of a very successful businessman ("So What If Joe Mamo Made $788 Million?"). Mamo's detractors said that he had created a monopoly and it should be broken up.


I noted that no one was forced to buy his gas from any of his Washington, D.C.-area gas stations. Now the Washington Post has reported that "The D.C. Council on Tuesday halted efforts to break up what some members call a near-monopoly of the local gasoline market after the legislation's sponsor conceded that it was not likely to be approved by the 13-member body."

Trio Honored With Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science and Tech Mentoring


Last month President Obama named nine academics as recipients of the annual Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring. Among those honored were three black experts at different universities in the fields of computer science, physics and biology. The winners will receive their awards at a White House ceremony later this year and also receive "a $25,000 grant from the National Science Foundation which can be used to aid their mentoring activities." The three winners:

Juan E. Gilbert is professor and chair of the Human-Centered Computing Division of the College of Engineering and Science at Clemson University in South Carolina. He graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and earned a master's degree and a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Cincinnati.


Winston Anderson is a professor of biology at Howard University. His bachelor's degree in zoology is from Howard University, and he has a Ph.D. in biology from Brown University.

Sheila C. Johnson Revamped a Classic Golf Course Into a Must-Visit Destination

Four years after Sheila C. Johnson, the co-founder of Black Entertainment Television, purchased the Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in Florida, the Toronto Globe and Mail named the site a top winter destination for the world's big-ticket golfers after the $30 million she put into its renovation.


Johnson, who created the Salamander Resort & Spa in Virginia, also developed the 20,000-foot Indaba Spa, adjacent to the golf course, so there is something to do when not on the links. In South Africa, "Indaba" — a word in the Zulu and Xhosa ethnic groups' languages — translates as "an important gathering."

St. Louis Honors MBA-Engineer as Black Entrepreneur of the Year

The St. Louis American reported at its annual Salute to Excellence in Business Networking Luncheon that David Price, founder and CEO of Birdet Price, was the entrepreneur of the year.


Price, who has a degree in civil engineering from the University of Missouri and an MBA from the Harvard Business School, was a senior executive at B.F. Goodrich and Monsanto before he founded Birdet Price in 2001. It is an investment holding and consulting firm.

I hope that you all have a happy, safe and profitable holiday season.

Frank McCoy writes about business for The Root.