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This Mogul Became America’s 1st Black Billion-Dollar Businesswoman

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Sheila Johnson.

Where to start?

She’s the first black billion-dollar businesswoman. Before Oprah Winfrey.

She started as a TV executive, founding Black Entertainment Television (BET), the first TV network targeting African Americans. She then became a real estate mogul.

Oh, she also owns a stake in three major sports franchises, the NBA Wizards, NHL Capitals and the WNBA Mystics, the African American, period, to boast that claim.

In honor of Black History Month, let’s dive into her remarkable career.

FAST FACTS:

  • Born Sheila Crump in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, Johnson co-founded BET in 1979 with then-husband Robert Johnson. The couple sold it to Viacom in 2000 for $2.9B
  • Sheila Crump Johnson became the first African American woman on the Forbes’ Billionaire list in 2000—beating Oprah Winfrey to the distinction.
  • Per Forbes, Johnson has an $820M net worth as of 2019

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Foray into real estate…

After closing the sale to Viacom, Robert and Sheila pocketed around $1.5B each. Johnson used that windfall as seed money to build a hospitality real estate empire in 2005.

“There’s a disparity in paychecks between whites and blacks,” she told the Wall Street Journal. “I will never forget that.”

As CEO of Salamander Hotels and Resorts, Sheila controls a spectacular portfolio of six luxury hotels in Florida, Virginia and South Carolina. And she’s built it from the ground up—literally—in her own spirit.

“I’ve been to many hotels, not only in the US, but all over the world,” she told Forbes last year. “And I wanted to find something that was going to really make Salamander stand out beyond all of these hotels.”

So what does that mean?

“You have to understand, there are a lot of people, investment companies, with very deep pockets,” she says. “They can do it, but they don’t have the experiences that we’re able to bring. I am constantly trying to find a way to help Salamander Resort & Spa stand out head over heels above any other hotel — not only in the area, but in the nation.

“I want them to leave that resort wanting to come back and not just say, ‘I’ll be back in six months.’ I want them to come back all the time.”

And so far it’s worked. In fact, on Forbes Travel Guide’s 61st list of Star-Rated hotels, Johnson’s Salamander Resort & Spa outside of Washington, DC earned a Five-Star distinction.

Image Credit: Salamander Resort & Spa

Forbes: “Everything [she] touches turns to gold.”

That’s a real quote. From Forbes. Last year. It’s also true.

BET? Billion-dollar exit. Washington Capitals? Stanley Cup.

And Roma. Won 10 Oscars. Who showed it before a single soul started caring? Johnson’s Middleburg Film Festival. (Which, by the way, has 32 films and counting in Academy Award contention.)

Remember her golf resort at Innisbrook? Oh, yeah. Hosts the Valspar Championship, one of the PGA calendar’s most-anticipated tournaments.

Becoming a billionaire comes with a new level of clout as well. “When you don’t have money, you’re not invited to special events; you really don’t matter,” she told WSJ. “It’s a society thing.”

So instead, she’s turned to giving back. Her Sheila Johnson Fellowship’s paid for more then 40 scholarships at Harvard University for students who otherwise wouldn’t afford to attend.

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Breaking glass ceilings. 

There’s an alarming statistic in business and diversity—especially as it pertains to women. According to research by investor Richard Kerby, 18% of all VCs are women—and only 3% are black. In addition, less than 50 black women ever have raised $1M in funding.

“When I got started,” Johnson says, “I couldn’t get a loan. I had to use my own money to get Salamander Resort and Spa.”

She explained to WSJ last year that men can go to any bank with a bank proposal. And no matter how “wacky” the idea is, she said, “they’re going to get the financing. Women do not have that ability.”

Johnson’s taken it upon herself to do something about that, becoming one of the founding partners of WE Capital, an investment firm that invests in female entrepreneurs.

“I started out in a very unique position where I had my own capital to be able to get started,” she says. “But there have got to be banks and investors that believe in helping women who want to be entrepreneurs in the hospitality business.

“And it’s just really, really important that they really take a look at this.”

Business

Raising Startup Capital: 4 Funding Sources You Can Bank On

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Turning entrepreneur can be an exciting adventure—one that demands an incredible amount of perseverance and hard work. But one of the biggest startup challenges is fundraising. VCs are getting pickier and pickier, so tapping the right fundraising strategy can make or break your business. Here are four ways to tackle that.

1. Bank On Microloans:

Many entrepreneurs take to Kickstarter too soon, before even gauging other options. Microfunding—an SBA-backed program that’s been around over 25 years—is a much easier and quicker to get funding vs. a traditional loan. (And it’s a great way to build your credit score, as well.) Here’s a brief and somewhat-informative video that explores how small business loans work:

What’s more, Microlenders also offer flexible payment options, and may mentor entrepreneurs to help them succeed.

2. Get A Partner:

When you’re looking for a little extra capital or technical know-how, seeking a co-founder and establishing a partnership can drive capital and planning. If a co-founder isn’t in the works, building strategic partnership with complementary businesses is a great avenue to fuel growth. 

3. Sponsorships:

You don’t have to vie for a business’ CSR initiative or do charity work to get sponsored. As long as your idea sells and you’re building a great product, you’re on the grind. Sponsorships are largely done through advertising or media appearances. And sometimes by adding their brand to yours for a while.

4. Using Charge Cards:

Charge cards can be a powerful tool to obtain capital for your business. Unlike credit cards, charge cards do not come with a preset spending limit. The perks? It allows you to meet large expenses swiftly. What’s the catch? The lender requires you to pay the balance in full every month. If you’re financially responsible, charge cards are a great way to meet your costs.

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Business

5 Global Fintech Apps To Watch

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The fintech space has witnessed significant growth in recent years – marrying tech and finance to simplify a lot of processes for businesses and people like you and me. Here are five fintech apps that you can bank on.

1. Robinhood

This stock trading app comes with a big perk – no commissions. How does it make money? It has a subscription-based service, Robinhood Gold, which charges users a tiered monthly fee for services like extended-hours trading and margin. Available across both iOS and Android platforms, Robinhood has over 4 million accounts currently.

2. Piggybank.ng

In an effort to tap into Africa’s growing millennial base, Nigerian fintech startup, Piggybank.ng, aims to help people increase savings – through plans that cater to both low and middle-income Nigerians. Savers don’t incur any upfront fees and may deposit as little as a dollar a day, and are discouraged from withdrawing their savings until an agreed date by charging an early withdrawal fee of 5%. What’s the interest you gain? Depending on the duration and type of investment, you can expect to accrue anywhere between 10-12.5%.

3. Square Cash

With over 7 million active users, Square Inc’s cryptocurrency-integrated payments app, Cash, has enjoyed staggering growth recently. The app simplified payment transfers – if you want to transfer money to a friend, all you have to do is send an email to the friend with the amount, and cc cash@square.com. This move just wiped away the need to create an account or look up bank account details. All it requires is your debit card number.

4. BudgetBakers

BudgetBakers’ popular personal finance app, Wallet, helps users track their expenses and allows them to integrate multiple accounts into the app – if you need to add more than three accounts, a small fee is charged. The app provides your expense details across a bunch of useful charts, reports and lending records.

5. Google Wallet

Google jumped the payments space and came out with something packed with great perks – transfer payments with a single tap, coupons to grab bargains, completely paperless and it works across some of the biggest stores like Macy’s, Subway, and outlets that permit MasterCard, Visa, Discover and American Express.

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Business

FLASHBACK: Amazon Is Worth A Trillion Dollars

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This is sick.

One month after Apple cracked the Big T, Amazon just became the second US public company to cross the $1 trillion valuation mark—nearly doubling in value since January.

Amazon came out the 2018 gate at “just” $580B in January. But in Q2, the company’s net income ballooned to $2.5B, compared to—again, “just”—$197M 12 months prior in Q2’17.

Which sent the stock into a frenzy.

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According to S&P senior index analyst Howard Silverblatt, Amazon and Apple now make up more than 8% of the entire value of the S&P 500.

In other words, Amazon and Apple alone are worth almost as much as 1/10 of the entire fucking stock market.

Other blue-chippers—including century old corps like Boeing (worth $207B) and General Motors ($55B)—are worth way less than their tech peers. Mainly because there’s a ceiling on earnings growth.

Apple and Amazon? Not so much. They look like they’re just getting started.

Jeff Bezos, rich AF, for the umpteenth time this year, must be sittin’ pretty somewhere smiling.

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