50 Inspirational Quotes of Black Entrepreneurs & Leaders

As we watch the world react to the murder of George Floyd and the systemic racism that has pervaded America since its founding, I can’t help but be in awe of the courage and resilience that the Black community has shown against impossible odds. Odds that were stacked against them from the beginning. I stand with them in their declaration that Black Lives Matter, and that any sort of suggestion that racism and oppression are over is blindly and dangerously out of touch.

In solidarity with their cause and admiration of their determination, I share 50 inspirational quotes by Black entrepreneurs and leaders throughout the years. 

Let their words and advice instruct you, uplift you, and inspire you. And if you wish to donate to the cause, I suggest checking out the following resources:

  1. “I believe in destiny. But I also believe that you can’t just sit back and let destiny happen. A lot of times, an opportunity might fall into your lap, but you have to be ready for that opportunity. You can’t sit there waiting on it. A lot of times you are going to have to get out there and make it happen.” — Spike Lee 
  2. “I had to make my own living and my own opportunity. But I made it! Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them.” — Madam C.J. Walker
  3. “If you wake up deciding what you want to give versus what you’re going to get, you become a more successful person. In other words, if you want to make money, you have to help someone else make money.” — Russell Simmons
  4. “I want to stop transforming and just start being.” — Ursula Burns
  5. “I built a conglomerate and emerged the richest black man in the world in 2008 but it didn’t happen overnight. It took me 30 years to get to where I am today. Youths of today aspire to be like me but they want to achieve it overnight. It’s not going to work. To build a successful business, you must start small and dream big. In the journey of entrepreneurship, tenacity of purpose is supreme.” — Aliko Dangote
  6. “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
  7. “You are where you are today because you stand on somebody’s shoulders. And wherever you are heading, you cannot get there by yourself. If you stand on the shoulders of others, you have a reciprocal responsibility to live your life so that others may stand on your shoulders. It’s the quid pro quo of life. We exist temporarily through what we take, but we live forever through what we give.” — Vernon Jordan
  8. “The road back may not be as short as we wish,… But there are solid reasons to feel confident about the future.” — Richard Parsons
  9. “There is nothing a woman can’t do. Men might think they do things all by themselves but a woman is always there guiding them or helping them.” — Marjorie Joyner
  10. “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
  11. “Self-love has very little to do with how you feel about your outer self. It’s about accepting all of yourself.” — Tyra Banks
  12. “All business is personal… Make your friends before you need them.” — Robert L. Johnson
  13. “It’s up to you to bring yourself to the attention of powerful people around you. They’re not going to find you on their own.” — Richard Parsons
  14. “Success depends on employees. For me knowing and connecting with my employees is very important.” – Divine Ndhlukula
  15. “The battles that count aren’t the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself—the invisible, inevitable battles inside all of us—that’s where it’s at.” — Jesse Owens
  16. “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” — Frederick Douglass
  17. “It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.” — Lena Horne
  18. “Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.” — Booker T. Washington
  19. “Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday.” — Wilma Rudolph
  20. “If you’re a competitive person, that stays with you. You don’t stop. You always look over your shoulder.” — Magic Johnson
  21. “Just don’t give up what you’re trying to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.” — Ella Fitzgerald
  22. “No action is too small when it comes to changing the world… I’m inspired every time I meet an entrepreneur who is succeeding against all odds.” — Cyril Ramaphosa
  23. “If we are going to be part of the solution, we have to engage the problems.” — Majora Carter
  24. “The impatient idealist says: ‘Give me a place to stand and I shall move the earth.’ But such a place does not exist. We all have to stand on the earth itself and go with her at her pace.” — Chinua Achebe
  25. “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” — Barack Obama
  26. “[Don’t] let anyone convince you that your dream, your vision to be an entrepreneur, is something that you shouldn’t do. What often happens is that people who are well-meaning, who really care for us, are afraid for us and talk us out of it.” — Cathy Hughes
  27. “Every great dream begins with a dreamer.” — Harriet Tubman
  28. “Have a vision. Be demanding.” — Colin Powell
  29. “Five days a week, I read my goals before I go to sleep and when I wake up. There are 10 goals around health, family, and business with expiration dates, and I update them every six months.” — Daymond John
  30. “The harder you work, the luckier you get’’ — Mike Adenuga
  31. “I always wanted to be somebody. If I made it, it’s half because I was game enough to take a lot of punishment along the way and half because there were a lot of people who cared enough to help me.” — Althea Gibson
  32. “Dedicate yourself to a core set of values. Without them, you will never be able to find personal fulfillment, and you will never be able to lead effectively.” — Kenneth Chenault
  33. “Trust yourself. Think for yourself. Act for yourself. Speak for yourself. Be yourself. Imitation is suicide.” — Marva Collins
  34. “Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.” — Mae Jemison
  35. “I’m hungry for knowledge. The whole thing is to learn every day, to get brighter and brighter. That’s what this world is about. You look at someone like Gandhi, and he glowed. Martin Luther King glowed. Muhammad Ali glows. I think that’s from being bright all the time, and trying to be brighter.” — Jay-Z
  36. “Aspiring entrepreneurs have to actually do something that they feel strongly passionate about, and in most cases, they should seek inspiration from their own experience… If you had a terrible experience, you should despise the experience to the extent that you are continuously seeking a solution for it.” — Best Ayiorwoth
  37. “Never ever chase money. You should chase success, because with success money follows.” — Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones
  38. “Success isn’t about how much money you make; it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.” — Michelle Obama
  39. “Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” — Oprah Winfrey
  40. “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
  41. “If you approach 100 people for seed capital, 99 of them may say no, you just need that one.” — Dr. William Pickard
  42. “Many of us stay up until 2 a.m. watching stuff on Netflix, but you get off of work at 6 o’clock. So, what could you do from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. that can prove this company is worth it.” — Candice Matthews Brackeen
  43. “You can’t be a hero and a victim at the same time.” — Derek T. Dingle
  44. “To have a successful career, you have to approach it as an entrepreneur, even if you are working for someone else. Your career is your own private business. You have to market yourself and your abilities and knowledge just as you would a product or service.” — Earl G. Graves Sr.
  45. “It’s a fact of life that progress is almost exclusively generated through people. If you’re not sensitive to the needs of people within your organization, or with whom you have to deal, you’re not going to be effective.” — Reginald F. Lewis
  46. “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” — Maya Angelou
  47. “Challenges make you discover things about yourself that you never really knew.” — Cicely Tyson
  48. “Accept and acknowledge your own brilliance. Stop waiting for others to tell you how great you are! Believe it for yourself and about yourself.” — Iyanla Vanzant
  49. “Whenever I feel bad, I use that feeling to motivate me to work harder. I only allow myself one day to feel sorry for myself. When I’m not feeling my best I ask myself, ‘What are you gonna do about it?’ I use the negativity to fuel the transformation into a better me.” — Beyoncé
  50. “Discipline is not a dirty word. There is far more freedom and opportunity for creativity and success in enjoying discipline. Years ago someone I very much respect told me the reason they were successful is that they embraced doing what other people resent or are reluctant to do.” — Janice Bryant Howroyd 

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