When people think of multibillion-dollar companies, staffing businesses do not typically come to mind. But Janice Bryant Howroyd built her employment agency ActOne Group to be the powerful $2.8 billion company that is today with over 17,000 clients across the globe and presence in 19 countries.
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With a $900 loan from her mother in 1978 that brought her savings up to $1,500, Howroyd started ActOne Group in the front office of a Beverly Hills rug shop with only her fax machine, phone and a list of contacts she grew along the way. Little did Howroyd know that her humble beginnings and relentless work ethic would steer her down the path to becoming one of the richest African American women in the country.
"I didn't have a lot of what people typically have to start a business but I did have a lot of intelligence. Sometimes when you don't have anything, you can be bolder than someone who has something and is afraid to lose it," Howroyd told Forbes.
By 2014, Howroyd was recognized by Black Enterprise Magazine for being the first African American woman to own and operate a billion-dollar company in the U.S.
The ActOne Group does more than staffing, it also offers workforce solutions and business services for Fortune 500 organizations, local and mid-market companies as well as government agencies. The company's subsidiaries include ActOne Personal Services, ActOne Government Solutions, AppleOne, AgileOne, A-Check Global, AT-Tech and All's Well – all of which helped generate $1.1 billion in net sales in 2018, according to Forbes.
Howroyd also owns DSSI, a document management service to complement her portfolio of brands.
"If you visit any of our offices, you'll see that we live by the mantra that 'the applicant is the center of our universe.' It's always been our belief that if you get that applicant in the right job, then they will be the best representation of who we are as a company," Howroyd said about her business, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Aside from being one of the wealthiest self-made women in America – black or white – Howroyd is an educator, ambassador, author and mentor. In 2013, she was appointed a USA Ambassador of Energy at the White House, and by 2016, she received a key Presidential appointment by President Barack Obama as a member of the President's Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
As a community leader, Howroyd lends business guidance at select organizations such as the International Trade Advisory Commission Board, Los Angeles Economic Development Corporate Board and the Women’s Leadership Board of the Harvard Kennedy School.
Before Howroyd was a wealthy founder and CEO, she cultivated her professional relationship skills as a temporary secretary for her brother-in-law Tom Noonan at Billboard Magazine. And previous to that, she was a change maker as one of the first African American students to desegregate her town's high school.
Howroyd is an alumna of North Carolina A&T State University and is the fourth born out of a family of 11 children. With her family, she owns several properties including commercial and residential real estate. She often says her parents taught her that "attitude beats aptitude."