Meet The Entrepreneur With A Plan To Create One Million Black Businesses By 2030

John Hope Bryant, CEO of Operation HOPE, says the nonprofit, partnering with Shopify, is on target with its ambitious goal.

Mere months after George Floyd’s murder in May 2020, John Hope Bryant was in a unique situation. With social uproar raging throughout the country, Shopify cofounder Tobi Lütke asked Bryant how he could help. Bryant suggested Lütke help create one million Black businesses. Fearing that Lütke, whom Forbes calculates is worth $5.4 billion, would forget the conversation, Bryant, the CEO of nonprofit Operation HOPE, sent him a follow-up slide presentation showing how the goal could be accomplished.

“Be bold,” Bryant tells Forbes. “And don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.”

The thing is, Bryant didn’t get what he asked for — at least not right away. His pitch to Lütke was met with weeks of silence. Finally, Bryant sent another message thanking Lütke for considering his proposal. Confused, Lütke responded that he approved the proposal and sent it back to Bryant.

“A $130 million commitment was sitting in my spam folder,” Bryant says. “So, you should always check your spam folder.”

August is National Black Business Month, and ForbesBLK is highlighting the theme with in-depth interviews with Black entrepreneurs, CEOs and other executives. The topics include finding capital in a high-interest-rate environment, expanding social capital and selecting business loan options. In the final interview of the month, Bryant updates Operation HOPE’s commitment with Shopify to establish one million Black businesses, explains why financial literacy is the social issue of this generation and provides perspective on America’s overindulgence on credit cards.

Operation HOPE’s ten-year partnership with Shopify, nicknamed 1MBB, is entering its third year in October. Bryant says it has created over 330,000 Black businesses since 2020 and predicts they’re ahead of schedule in reaching the target. The project offers free business licenses with Shopify, free domain names, payment and delivery support systems and business consulting through Operation HOPE. Also, Shopify is committing $1 million annually to Operation HOPE for operational costs.

“Imagine a world where everyone who had an idea to start a business could do it without barriers,” Lütke tells Forbes. “That’s a world worth building towards and exactly our mission at Shopify. Through the 1MBB initiative we’re thrilled to support Operation HOPE. We’re working to level the playing field by providing Black entrepreneurs the tools they need to start and scale a business. Tens of thousands have already taken up the call and the momentum continues to build.”

What’s an entrepreneur?

Bryant started Operation HOPE in 1992. It’s a nonprofit organization with financial literacy as its core foundation. It has over 300 employees and 250 offices and has assisted more than four million individuals with repairing credit scores, creating business plans and helping with mortgages. Operation HOPE estimates it has injected $3.2 billion in economic activity into disadvantaged communities since its inception, and top executives, including Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian, Lisa Borders, CEO of management consultancy firm LMB Group, and Truist Financial Corp. CEO Bill Rogers, support the nonprofit.

Bryant’s inspiration to start the organization was a government institution called the Freedman’s Bank, established by President Abraham Lincoln in March 1865. It was created to assist formerly enslaved Black people in becoming financially stable. At its height, Freedman’s had branches in 17 states with 75,000 depositors totaling more than $57 million, according to U.S. archives. But the bank collapsed in 1874. Operation HOPE’s mission is similar — allowing “free enterprise and capitalism to work” for underserved communities, according to Bryant.

“There’s unfinished work,” Bryant says.

Raised in Compton, California, a neighborhood outside downtown Los Angeles, Bryant was ten years old when he received his first introduction to corporate America. A banker dressed in an expensive suit visited his school and explained how his job was financing “entrepreneurs.” Bryant said he’d never heard the word before. After Bryant discovered the career was legal and didn’t threaten anyone’s life — unlike other entrepreneurs he’d witnessed growing up in Compton — and that it could lead to financial prosperity, Bryant’s notion of what he calls “silver rights,” as opposed to civil rights, was born.

“This right now is a moment in history,” Bryant says. “It’s just history does not feel historic when you’re sitting in it — it just feels like another day.” Civil rights were about public access, Bryant says. “Financial literacy is the civil rights issue of this generation.”

“Be bold. And don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.” 

John Hope Bryant

In 2015, Bryant joined civil rights activist and former Atlanta Mayor and U.N. representative Andrew Young to initiate discussions with then-Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to rename the Treasury Annex in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Freedman’s Bank. The federal building became known as the Freedman’s Bank Building a year later. In June, Operation HOPE announced its 1865 Project, dedicated to advancing the Freedman’s Bank mission.

“It all started in that classroom,” Bryant says.

View the video to hear more from Operation HOPE CEO John Hope Bryant.


Get Insightful, Cutting-Edge Content Daily - Join "The Neo Jim Crow" Newsletter!

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Get Insightful, Cutting-Edge, Black Content Daily - Join "The Neo Jim Crow" Newsletter!

We don’t spam! Read our [link]privacy policy[/link] for more info.

Get Insightful, Cutting-Edge, Black Content Daily - Join "The Neo Jim Crow" Newsletter!

We don’t spam! Read our [link]privacy policy[/link] for more info.

This post was originally published on this site