This month, The Network Journal celebrates its 14th consecutive annual class of “40 Under Forty” high achievers. As in previous years, the men and women under 40 years old who made the 2011 list are being honored for their outstanding careers, entrepreneurial leadership and community service. Towering above the crowd in the public, private and nonprofit sectors, they represent a broad swath of industries, namely academia, aeronautics, architecture, construction, entertainment, education, financial services, health care, information and communication technology, manufacturing, marketing, media, medicine, military, pharmaceuticals, public relations, retail, law, science, utilities. And, typically, they reflect the rich diversity of the country’s Black community. By birth and/or by cultural heritage, our honorees are African, African-American, Caribbean-American and Afro-European.
The presence of nine entrepreneurs in this year’s class is worth noting in that it reflects the growing incidence of entrepreneurship in the Black community. From 2002 to 2007, the number of Black-owned businesses grew by 60.5 percent to 1.9 million, more than triple the national rate of 18 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s most current Survey of Business Owners. This growth is impressive. To those who believe that the American Dream is business, not home, ownership, it certainly is a reason to cheer. When analyzed in the context of the national self-employment picture, however, it gives us pause. The U.S. Small Business Administration reports that only 4.5 percent of Blacks own their own business, compared with 7 percent of Latinos and 11 percent of white and Asian-Americans. But among our “40 Under Forty,” more than 20 percent own their own business. Not only are Blacks starting businesses at a faster rate than other ethnic groups, but they also may be doing so at an earlier age than in previous generations.
We profile all of our 2011 honorees in the pages that follow, but by no means do these profiles cover the breadth of their individual lives.
— The Editors