Black History Month means much more than just familiarizing ourselves with African American heritage. It’s about celebrating the accomplishments African Americans have achieved in a society that has been historically hindering to people of color. In a time of division, it’s important to remember how far we’ve come as a country, but not ignoring the fact that there are still miles to go before we’re all on the same plateau. These five entrepreneurs inspire us to go after what we want, help others along the way, and to remember that no matter our circumstance, nothing’s impossible.

Moses Mbai

CEO/ Founder of 5th Generation Coffee
5th Generation Coffee CEO Moses Mbai wearing GREY Messy Logo tee

“Often times when I think about giving up, I look back at how hard my grandmother, great aunts and uncles worked and had it 5x times harder than I could ever imagine.” — Moses Mbai

Texas Southern University alumnus Moses Mbai is a salesman, barista, digital influencer, marketer, and HR professional. As the CEO of 5th Generation Coffee, he wears many hats in his mission to deliver “scientifically better coffee”. 5th Generation Coffee is the first black online coffee company based out of Grand Prairie, Texas.

How are you or your company making a difference in your industry?

My company has made a huge difference by being the first black-owned coffee company online launched in Texas. Not many coffee companies have their own farm and I’m proud to say that we do. We’re touching a demographic that has never picked up a cup of coffee until now. We’re also game-changers in a sense of how coffee is now being distributed exclusively online. Our business model truly sets us apart from a lot of companies.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History Month means everything to us at 5G. History has been made by so many of our ancestors. They are truly the reason why we can open up our own businesses, follow our dreams, and do whatever makes us happy. Because of their blood, sacrifice, and reliance, we stand here today. Often times when I think about giving up, I look back at how hard my grandmother, great aunts and uncles worked and had it 5x times harder than I could ever imagine. My ancestors are truly my inspiration.

What are you looking forward to most this year?

We’re looking to expand and are excited to announce that we will be launching 5th Generation Tea. We look forward to expanding and building our brand from the ground up while establishing ourselves in a competitive market.

JaBre’ Jennings and Juwan Nicholson

Co-founders of Caption Any Photo
Caption Any Photo cofounder JaBre Jennings wearing GREY Messy Logo tee

“This month is about acknowledging our ancestors’ achievements and using that as motivation to make a change in this world.” — JaBre’ Jennings

JaBre’ Jennings and Juwan Nicholson are two HBCU alumni dedicated to helping entrepreneurs increase their followers. After studying Instagram’s algorithm for 5 years, they created an eBook entitled Guide to Beating Instagram’s Algorithm, which teaches anyone how to build their social media influence.

How are you or your company making a difference in your industry?

JaBre’: At Cluster 4/CAP we are developing tools that help entrepreneurs and casual users enjoy social media, making it less stressful. Social media shouldn’t be stressful all the time. Sometimes people just want to share their best moments with the world.

Juwan: We are making a difference by being one of the first black tech startup companies in Baltimore. By doing this, we are hoping to break barriers and help others with aspirations of success in the tech world to follow suit.

Caption Any Photo cofounder Juwan Nicholson wearing GREY Messy Logo tee

“It is motivating to think that hopefully those after us will hold us in the same regards as past legends.” — Juwan Nicholson

What does Black History Month mean to you?

JaBre’: Black History Month means a lot to us as business owners. Thinking about how far we’ve come as a race and how little has changed. We have and will always be the pioneers of the world’s culture and the things that matter most. This month is about acknowledging our ancestors’ achievements and using that as motivation to make a change in this world.

Juwan: I hold Black History Month near and dear to my heart. To celebrate the power, creativity, and success of our culture is a beautiful thing. It’s very inspiring to see those before me overcome adversity and make something out of nothing. It is motivating to think that hopefully those after us will hold us in the same regards as past legends.

What are you looking forward to most this year?

JaBre’: In 2020, we are looking to expand our network and connections within the tech community. Whether that is traveling to multiple conferences in different cities or connecting with other professionals via social media like LinkedIn, Instagram, or Facebook.

Juwan: I’m looking forward to expanding our company further. We have a few projects in the works that we are excited about. I’m also looking forward to aligning with more creatives. I would love to work with more like-minded individuals so that we all can win in 2020.

Jennefer Witter

CEO/ Founder of The Boreland Group
The Boreland Group CEO Jennefer Witter wearing GREY Messy Logo tee

“I stand on the shoulders of so many who never got their due recognition because of their race.” — Jennefer Witter

Jennefer Witter is a South Bronx native, Tedx Speaker, and author of The Little Book of Big PR: 100+ Quick Tips to Get Your Small Business Noticed, published by Harper Collins. She founded The Boreland Group in 2003, which is a public relations company headquartered in New York City. She is also an advocate for both women and people of color and was named one of the nation’s top 10 black CEOs and entrepreneurs in 2013 by Madame Noire.

How are you or your company making a difference in your industry?

We focus on women-led and minority owned companies. Historically, both categories have not received their fair of recognition or support. People of color struggle to get venture capital, it’s harder for us to get business loans, our ideas are often overlooked, and the majority of companies led by women and/or people of color never break the one million dollar mark in revenue. All of this prevents us from achieving parity with our white colleagues. If we could level the playing field, everyone would benefit. There is more than enough to go around.

I seek to make a difference by leveraging my 30+ year career in public relations to build awareness for businesses that are led by women and/or minority owned. PR is a great tool to getting your “unfair share” ® of attention, and by using it strategically and intentionally with a clearly defined goal will assist in growing the organization’s footprint.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

I stand on the shoulders of so many who never got their due recognition because of their race. But they made the road easier because they persevered. I feel that I represent every time I walk into a room. I’ve been called a unicorn which, after a while, gets very tiresome. Many of my previous bosses have said to me “Where can we find more of you?” This is not a unique question if you ask other black professionals. Here’s the thing— people of color in executive positions are not mythical animals. There are plenty of “us” in plain sight, yet we remain all too often invisible in corporate America. By focusing on women-led and minority-owned organizations, I am lending a hand in tearing back the curtain that so often cloaks people.

What are you looking forward to most this year?

I have said this will be a turbulent year because of the coming presidential election—there is more divisiveness in this country than I have ever seen. What I am hoping for is my fellow Americans to recognize our differences and be respectful of them, be able to agree to disagree without rancor or fear of harm, and come together in a peaceful manner. To paraphrase former New York City Mayor David Dinkins, we are a glorious mosaic, and we should be celebrating that now, in the future, and forever.

Michael Loyd

CEO/ Cofounder of Dope Coffee
Dope Coffee CEO Michael Loyd wearing GREY Messy Logo tee

“Our history and existence here in American is a story of great triumph and overcoming.” — Michael Loyd

Michael Loyd was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He is a decorated combat veteran who served in Afghanistan. He also creates music under the moniker Creative Mike the Rapper. Dope Coffee is a storytelling brand that seeks to elevate and uplift Black culture through conversation and dialogue.

How are you or your company making a difference in your industry?

We develop our products based on the experiences and preferences of black culture, which has been very popular with our current customers. We are validating that economic concepts that uplift and recognize the black consumer market can be successful and trailblazing.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History Month represents a time where we can collectively uplift and appreciate the contributions of Black American Culture, not only to society, but to the world. Our history and existence here in American is a story of great triumph and overcoming. In our day today, it can seem as if we aren’t making much progress, but Black History Month gives us the opportunity to publicly reflect in a way that is communally healing.

As an entrepreneur, I get excited because I get to recall my heroes in history such as Reginald F. Lewis.

What are you looking forward to most this year?

In 2020 I am looking forward to seeing my family goals and personal goals align in a way that will allow me to come closer to fulfilling my purpose.

Who are some other African American entrepreneurs we should know in 2020? Let us know down in the comments.

What is everyone’s GREY style?

This article originally published on GREY Journal.