Meet Janice Bryant Howroyd, The First African American Woman To Run A $1-Billion Business

By Ronald D. White
Los Angeles Times

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Entrepreneur Janice Bryant Howroyd didn’t even own a fax machine when she opened “Act 1” in a small office in Beverly Hills in 1978. She started out by making full-time job placements for companies needing workers, then shifting to temporary placements. Pleased clients were her best advertisements.

Los Angeles Times

Janice Bryant Howroyd, 65, is founder and chief executive of Act 1 Group, an employment agency that also provides consulting and business services, including background checks and screening.

She’s the first African American woman to operate a company that generates more than $1 billion in annual revenue, according to Black Enterprise Magazine. Act 1, which includes other brands such as Agile 1, A-Check Global and AppleOne, has contracts with 17,000 clients in 19 countries.

“If you visit any of our offices,” Howroyd said, “you’ll see that we live by the mantra that ‘the applicant is the center of our universe.’ It’s always been our belief that if you get that applicant in the right job, then they will be the best representation of who we are as a company.”
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Early lessons
Growing up in Tarboro, N.C., as one of 11 children, Howroyd had early lessons in team building. Each sibling was assigned 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.”

Big move
After studying humanities and English at North Carolina A&T, Howroyd faced culture shock when she moved to Los Angeles in 1976 with just $900. Her older sister again provided welcome advice to “settle myself into knowing who I was, learning the power of that and understanding it.”

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