Janice Bryant Howroyd
How ActOne Group’s Founder and CEO Built a Billion Dollar Business from Scratch – and a Fax Machine
She’s the first African-American woman to build, own, and operate a billion-dollar company. How Janice Bryant Howroyd broke some of the biggest barriers for women of color in business and beyond.
Born in Tarboro, North Carolina, to a family of 11 children, 67-year-old Janice Bryant Howroyd is an acclaimed entrepreneur, educator, bestselling author, philanthropist, ambassador, and bold, badass businesswoman. Most notably, Howroyd is the founder and CEO of the ActOne Group, which is America’s largest, privately-held employment-placing company built, branded, owned, and operated by a minority woman.
Not Your Typical Teen
The bestselling author of The Art of Work: How to Make Work, Work for You, Howroyd proved to be a precocious youngster destined to achieve greatness. Enrolled in a segregated school system during Jim Crow in the South, the progressive teen took on the system and became an integral figure in helping to desegregate schools in North Carolina. Eventually matriculating through an integrated school system, Howroyd experienced bouts of blatant racism and discrimination from teachers who vehemently and outspokenly opposed affirmative action and the growing ascension of blacks in America. However, that didn’t stop the impressionable and passionate purveyor of the civil rights movement, as Howroyd would eventually graduate with grades good enough to award her a full scholarship to North Carolina A&T University where she earned her B.A. in English.
Breaking Barriers, Making History
With a current reported net worth of $500 million, Howroyd once told CNBC, “You don’t become the first African-American woman to own a billion-dollar company overnight.” So, how’d she do it? In 1976, the sassy Southerner picked up and went westward – all the way to the big, bright lights of La La Land where she landed a secretarial gig at the long-standing entertainment publication Billboard Magazine. It was here that Howroyd mingled and schmoozed with Hollywood’s elite power players, including celebrities and big wig business execs, and becoming integral to facilitating travel, diversity, and equality in the workplace. Again, she found herself at the forefront of progression, inclusion, and change. And, with a $900 loan from her mother back east, a single telephone, and the innovation of the humble facsimile machine, she officially launched her employment services company, ACT-1 Group in Beverly Hills in 1978. A modest office with an affluent address, the young burgeoning businesswoman had high hopes for success. And, it more than paid off. Now, ActOne Group is the industry leader that provides employment, workforce management, and procurement solutions to Fortune 500 companies, local and mid-sized corporations, and government agencies. Some of her most famous clients include AppleOne, AT-Tech, ACheck, and others.
Howroyd is the ambassador of the Department of Energy’s Minorities in Energy Initiative and an on-going board member to the United States Department of Labor’s Workforce Initiative Board, the California Science Center in Los Angeles, Women’s Business Enterprising National Council, Harvard Women’s Leadership Board, and so much more. In May 2016, she was awarded a key appointment by then-President Barrack Obama as a distinguished member of the President’s Board of Advisers in Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Howroyd’s latest authorial work, Acting Up: Winning in Business and Life Using Down-Home Wisdom, is a masterful literary representation that pays homage to the family values, hard work ethic, and integrity she obtained from her wholesome, dignified, Southern upbringing during the civil rights era. With unabashed wit and swift eloquence, Howroyd explains how implementing these down-home values and uncompromising personal convictions can help you succeed at innovation, growth, and a thriving community.
In the Business of Benevolence
The busy business guru is also a fierce, proven proponent of giving back. According to the National Association of Women Business Owners, Howroyd is “an individual who has had a significant impact on the well-being of her community and who has had the foresight and generosity to recognize that her success is best savored when she pays it forward.” The self-made millionaire whose ActOne Group fruitfully employs 2,600 and with 17,000 clients in 19 countries resides in Las Vegas, Nevada with her husband Bernard. Her son Brett is president of Apple One and her daughter Kathryn heads ActOne Group’s branding efforts. ActOne Group has steadily generated $1.1 billion in net sales. Her renowned mantra for entrepreneurial success: “I’ve had many opportunities over the growth of my business to make decisions…that wouldn’t have been constant with who I am and how I like to practice business…But, I always had to go back to how I opened my doors, and I opened my doors with a commitment to myself that I would never compromise my personal self for my professional self – so, that continues to be my mantra.”
And, you can take that to the bank, business buffs!