Black woman entrepreneur looking over blueprints and gazing out her office window.
Quotes from these 18 Black entrepreneurs share helpful advice and show how they cultivated success in their businesses. — Getty Images/Klaus Vedfelt

The number of Black-owned businesses has grown exponentially, even before the pandemic business boom. The Census Bureau's 2022 Annual Business Survey showed there were 161,031 Black-owned businesses in 2021, a nearly 20% increase between 2019 and 2021.

Learn how 18 Black founders and business leaders approach entrepreneurship and how they’ve created and maintained successful businesses through these inspirational quotes.

1. “If you approach 100 people for seed capital, 99 of them may say no. You just need that one.

Dr. William Pickard, Chairman of the Global Automotive Alliance and Co-owner of five Black-owned newspapers

When you’re starting out as an entrepreneur, just one champion of your goal or idea may be the catalyst for your business growth. Instead of putting pressure on the number of people needed to support your business, focus on the quality of individuals.

2. “To have a successful career, you have to approach it as an entrepreneur, even if you are working for someone else.”

Earl Graves, Founder of Black Enterprise

Even if you’re working a 9-to-5 job or have a side hustle you’d like to take public, you can still begin to cultivate your own personal brand and vision leading you to an entrepreneurial path. Consider how you can grow your network by marketing your skill set and experience.

[Read more: Best Entrepreneurial Advice From the Founders Behind America's Hottest Startups]

3. "We can transcend the script of a pre-defined story, and pave the way for the future that we design. We just need to tap that power, that conviction, that determination within us."

Robert F. Smith, Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Vista Equity Partners

Gaining inspiration and support from Black leaders, communities, and networks can inspire and support your business ventures when things get difficult. Create your own path and story, then find helpful mentors.

4. “Women of color are the fastest-growing segment of entrepreneurs, so this is an excellent time for us. Getting the mentorships and training you need to go where you want to go is important.”

Angela Benton, Founder and CEO of NewME Accelerator

There are many identity-centric mentorships, fellowships, and training programs you can utilize to jump-start your entrepreneurial goals.

5. "Dream small dreams. If you make small goals and accomplish them, it gives you the confidence to go on to higher goals."

John H. Johnson, Founder of Johnson Publishing Company

Breaking bigger goals into bite-sized, attainable steps can keep you motivated through your journey as a business owner. Goals that are too unrealistic or lofty may ultimately discourage you from even getting started.

6. “I was going to take my time and not force ideas, I will let the ideas come to me. And this time around, I would make sure that it was something that I was passionate about.”

Tope Awotona, Founder and CEO of Calendly

Individuals with an entrepreneurial spirit may feel the need to pursue every idea that comes to mind. Be sure to pursue ideas you feel passionate about.

7. “I’ve always been insatiably curious about human nature and that has influenced everything I’ve done. Having just one job for all of my adulthood never crossed my mind.

Arlan Hamilton, Founder of Backstage Capital

Being creative and curious is part of being a successful entrepreneur and business owner. As you build and maintain your business, capitalize on creative opportunities and exploration.

[Read more: 15 Black-Owned Small Business Directories]

8. “Success depends on employees. For me, knowing and connecting with my employees is very important.”

Dr. Divine Ndhlukula, Founder of SECURICO

When building your business, the people you employ and bring into your community are an essential part of organizational growth. Consider how to create a strong, honest, and healthy working environment.

9. “You don’t have to compromise who you are. You can very well find investors who are completely aligned with you.”

Kevin Dedner, Founder of Hurdle

As you expand your business, there may be pressure to compromise your values and views for your company. Find individuals who support both your business goals and your personal vision.

Dream small dreams. If you make small goals and accomplish them, it gives you the confidence to go on to higher goals.

John H. Johnson, Founder, Johnson Publishing Company

10. “If companies only build transactional relationships, people may enjoy and love their widget, but they won't have their hearts. And if you don't have their hearts, you can ultimately be replaced.”

Pernell Cezar, CEO and Co-founder of BLK & Bold

Adopt a consumer-focused lens as you build your business. What are the ways your customers can become invested in your products or services?

[Read more: How to Build a Stronger Black-Owned Business Ecosystem in the U.S.]

11. “I want to stop transforming and just start being.

Ursula Burns, Former CEO of Xerox

Being a business owner often requires wearing many different hats. However, there comes a point in your entrepreneurial journey where you should stop trying to change who you are to reach another level or goal and celebrate your strengths and who you truly are as a leader.

12. “You can and should set your own limits and clearly articulate them. This takes courage, but it is also liberating and empowering, and often earns you new respect.”

Rosalind Brewer, Former CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance

Clearly articulate your personal boundaries to your team, which can be uncomfortable or nerve-wracking when you want to build close relationships. But once you gain the courage, you’ll feel relieved (and even empowered) when your employees begin to respect you.

13. “The road back may not be as short as we wish … But there are solid reasons to feel confident about the future.

Richard Parsons, Senior Advisor at Dynasty Equity and Former Chairman and CEO of Time Warner

In times of hardship, it may be difficult to get your business back on track. Reflect on the experience and any lessons you can glean from it, then use that to forge a clear path ahead for the future. Stay positive and push through the discomfort — you and your business will come out the other side, stronger than ever.

14. “When I was younger there was something in me. I had passion. I may not have known what I was going to do with that passion, but there was something — and I still feel it. It’s this little engine that roars inside of me and I just want to keep going and going.”

Sheila Johnson, Co-founder of BET and CEO of Salamander Hotels and Resorts

Entrepreneurs may harbor their own passions from a very young age, which can turn into great empires if you focus that passionate energy on your business. Consider following your passions while running your business by brainstorming new ideas that turn into products or services.

15. “If you have a dream and you have a job, that’s amazing! You can learn how to navigate both. Your employer, or as I like to call it your ‘investor,’ gives you the money to invest in your dream, and pay your bills while you chase your dreams.”

Lisa Nichols, Founder and CEO of Motivating the Masses, Inc.

There can be a great synergy between working a full-time job and pursuing your dream. Don’t skip out on your dreams just because you have a career — you can do both as long as you allow yourself the time and dedication.

16. “Emotional intelligence will make or break your leadership journey with your team and clients.”

Sherrell Dorsey, Founder of TP Insights

It’s a lifelong endeavor to build up emotional intelligence. However, by understanding, using, and managing your emotions in a positive way, you can build stronger relationships with your employees and customers, creating an optimistic workplace culture.

17. “You need to practice self-care to be emotionally prepared to lead others.

Wayne Sutton, Founder and CEO of The Icon Project

How can you show up for others if you don’t show up for yourself first? Make sure you’re taking the time you need to de-stress and establish self-care routines so you can show up as a strong leader for your team.

18. “We must ask big, bold, and expansive questions to ourselves and the people around us. [These insights] will help inform your best next moves.

Felecia Hatcher, Co-founder of the Center for Black Innovation and CEO of Black Ambition

As a business owner, you’ll get asked a multitude of questions by your employees, clients, and more, but also get accustomed to asking your team questions too. You might not have all the answers at first, but inquiring and thinking outside the box can lead to new opportunities.

This article was originally written by Ami Scherson.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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