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When you think about Black billionaires one name usually comes to mind: Oprah Winfrey. But before the media mogul hit seven figures, Janice Bryant Howroyd had already turned $900 into a multi-billion dollar, award-winning staffing agency.

In 1978 Howroyd founded the ACT•1 Group, the largest staffing firm owned by a woman of color. Today, it boasts billions in annual revenues and has spread to more than 75 cities around the globe. That’s quite an accomplishment for a woman who grew up as one of 11 siblings in the segregated South.

Howroyd, a North Carolina native, credits her parents and her community for spurring her onto success.

“Our parents were so nurturing, and the community was so nurturing, that we worked more toward the potential and the possibility than we did the threat or the denial of opportunities,” she told the Today Show.

Howroyd, graduate of North Carolina A&T State University, has gone on to receive numerous awards and recognitions both for her business acumen and her commitment to women-owned ventures. Black Enterprises named her one of the “75 Most Powerful Women in Business,“ and she’s been hailed as one of  “40 Business Titans Who Shape Our World.” Additionally, BET honored her as Entrepreneur of the Year in 2008.

Howroyd says the keys to her success are simple: preparation, getting clear about her goals, having good people around her, and always taking a moment to be thankful.

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