When sources of traditional employment dry up, minority women turn to building their own successful businesses

A 1976 trip to Los Angeles to visit her sister changed Janice Bryant Howroyd’s life. Frustrated at her inability to find the job she wanted, she decided to take the bold step of starting her own employment agency, something many minority women are doing today.

Armed with $1,000 in personal savings and a $500 loan from her mother and brother, Howroyd started Act*1 Personal Services in a small office and with only one phone line. Today, now known as Act*1 Group, Howroyd’s company has grown to include 75 offices around the country, and in 2010, posted revenues of $1.4 billion.1

female business owners are finding great success in today's economy

During Black History Month, we salute Janice Bryant Howroyd, the first African-American woman to own a billion-dollar company, and women like her, including several First Financial Security, Inc. female associates, who’ve had the courage and perseverance to start and build successful entrepreneurial businesses.

According to Fortune.com, black women represent “the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the U.S.” African-American women’s success in business since 1997 is nothing short of astounding. The number of businesses owned and run by black women has grown by 322%.2

Women, in general, have had tremendous success starting and successfully running their own businesses. The 2015 State of Women-owned Business Report, commissioned by American Express Open, found that women own 30% of the businesses in the United States, representing around 9.4 million companies. And of that number, African-American women account for 14% or 1.3 million businesses.2  Minority Women, Changing the Face of Insurance

Through First Financial Security’s empowering entrepreneurial opportunity, hundreds of minority women, including African-Americans, Asian-Americans and Latinas, have started their own successful FFS businesses. Many of these entrepreneurs value the importance of providing clients not just with financial products, but also with the financial education to understand how money works and how they can put it to work for themselves.

These women are leveraging LiSA Initiative’s financial literacy curriculum to bring financial education to their communities. LiSA Initiative is a grass-roots organization created and sponsored by First Financial Security that helps all women and their families achieve financial security.

The Center for Women’s Business Research found that Hispanic and African-American women are “the fastest growing entrepreneurial segments of the country growing at rates of 133.3% and 191.4% respectively from 1997 to 2007.”3 While the growth rate for Asian-American female-owned businesses is significantly lower than their counterparts, they still saw a “44% increase in ownership from 2007 to 2012.”4

First Financial Security, Inc. Women in Financial Services, Changing the Face of Insurance, Diversity, Inclusivity, Minority WomenThere are several reasons why minority women are five times more likely to become entrepreneurs than other women and men, and nearly all have to do with finances, or the lack there of. During the Great Recession and the years immediately following (2007-2012), African Americans and Hispanics, especially women, consistently faced high rates of unemployment, and like Janice Bryant Howroyd, many turned to entrepreneurship as a way to get their lives and finances back on track. Those who could find jobs were considered underemployed – workers doing jobs for much less money than they were previously making and in positions for which they were overqualified. Starting an entrepreneurial business was a way to supplement this income, or create new streams of revenue.4

If women are dissuaded from becoming entrepreneurs, it’s usually because they lack “sufficient financial and social capital” to do so.3 The risk presented in business ownership may be too great for many minority women, who find themselves as single parents or sole breadwinners for their families that may include several generations under one roof. Starting a business from the ground up represents a drain on a woman’s resources – both financial and time wise. Only she can determine if the rewards outweigh the risks.

But perhaps an even greater challenge to their success comes from a lack of “societal capital.” Without money and connections, it is difficult for some minority women to get the funding and support they’ll need to start and build a business of their own. But it doesn’t have to be this way.First Financial Security, Inc. sponsors a woman's movement, LiSA Initiative, and has a hispanic outreach coordinator, Maria Luz Riofrio

First Financial Security’s business model is a good fit for women without the means to purchase a franchise or sustain a small business. An FFS entrepreneurial business requires nominal, upfront capital, and there’s no inventory to buy or stock.

First Financial Security, Inc. is Changing the Face of Insurance®, a campaign launched in 2015 to bring diversity and innovation to the financial services industry. Through FFS, minority women can gain the ability to make money in the lucrative financial services industry. The company’s model provides a clear path to becoming insurance licensed and appointed with a carrier company in order to market financial products and services to clients.

Through both First Financial Security and its LiSA Initiative, women have access to mentoring and support from men and women, who understand the challenges inherent in starting a new business. The company also offers a strong training program geared to associates with varying levels of experience.

First Financial Security has found that the best way to get financial education and innovative products to underserved communities is through women and men reaching out and connecting with their families, friends and neighbors – their communities. At the same time they’re helping other families achieve financial security and peace of mind, they’re doing the same for their own families.

The continuing volatility of the global economy, as well as the emergence of the new employment (consultants, part-time or contract workers, etc.), Americans, especially women, will turn to entrepreneurship to take control of their careers and build better financial futures for themselves and their families.


1 Carolyn M. Brown. “Entrepreneurs Conference: How Janice Bryant Howroyd Built a Billion-dollar Business.” Black Enterprise. May 17, 2012. http://www.blackenterprise.com/small-business/entrepreneurs-conference-how-janice-bryant-howroyd-built-a-billion-dollar-business/

2 Amy Haimeri. “The Fastest-Growing Group of Entrepreneurs in America.” Fortune.com > Leadership > Entrepreneurs. June 29, 2015. http://fortune.com/2015/06/29/black-women-entrepreneurs/

3 Meghan Casserly. “Minority Women Entrepreneurs: Go-getters without Resources.” Forbes.com > Entrepreneurs. Aug. 28, 2013. http://www.forbes.com/sites/meghancasserly/2013/08/28/minority-women-entrepreneurs-go-getters-without-resources/#5f77e1d84a22

4 Tanzina Vega. “U.S. Sees Big Spike in Black and Hispanic Women Entrepreneurs.” CNNMoney > American Opportunity. Aug. 29, 2015. http://money.cnn.com/2015/08/19/smallbusiness/minority-women-entrepreneur/