Black History Month Entrepreneur Spotlight: George E. Johnson Sr.

Black History Month Entrepreneur Spotlight: George E. Johnson Sr.

Black History Month Entrepreneur Spotlight: George E. Johnson Sr.

We at Kore Capital want to take a moment during Black History Month to celebrate the history of Black entrepreneurship in the United States, highlighting the brilliance of George E. Johnson Sr., founder of Johnson Products Company.

George Ellis Johnson Sr. stands as a prominent figure, leaving a mark through his visionary ventures. Born on June 16, 1927, in Richton, Mississippi, Johnson’s journey is one of resilience, determination, and groundbreaking success. As the founder of Johnson Products Company, a pioneering hair care firm, and Independence Bank in Chicago, Illinois, he not only revolutionized the beauty industry but also achieved a historic milestone by becoming the first African American entrepreneur to have his company listed on the American Stock Exchange (now part of the New York Stock exchange). 


A photo of George E. Johnson Sr. holding two of the Johnson Products ULTRA SHEEN products. Credit: BETTMANN ARCHIVE/GETTY; BENNETT RAGLIN/GETTY

Revolutionizing the Beauty Industry:

Johnson’s entrepreneurial spirit came to the fore with the establishment of Johnson Products Company, a trailblazing venture in the beauty and hair care industry. Fueled by his vision to provide high-quality products catering specifically to the unique needs of African American hair, Johnson Products became a beacon of representation and empowerment. Under his leadership, the company not only thrived but also became a symbol of pride for the African American community.



A classic advertisement of ULTRA SHEEN, featuring a black model. Credit: Johnson Products Company, Inc

In an era when diversity in the beauty industry was scarce, Johnson’s commitment to excellence and innovation propelled his company to new heights. By developing products tailored to the natural texture and styling needs of black hair, he not only met a market demand but also challenged stereotypes and contributed to a more inclusive beauty landscape.

Breaking Barriers in Finance:

George Ellis Johnson Sr. didn’t confine his entrepreneurial prowess to the beauty industry alone; he extended his influence into the financial sector with the establishment of Independence Bank in Chicago. This move was a testament to his belief in economic empowerment and the importance of creating opportunities for the black community.

Independence Bank played a crucial role in providing financial services to underserved communities, fostering economic independence, and breaking down systemic barriers. Johnson’s dedication to uplifting his community through financial empowerment showcases the transformative potential of black entrepreneurship not just in creating wealth but also in building foundations for future generations.


A photo of Johnson Products’ current ULTRA SHEEN product. Credit: Afro Cosmetic Shop

A Historic Milestone on the American Stock Exchange:

One of George Ellis Johnson Sr.’s most notable achievements was becoming the first African American entrepreneur to have his company listed on the American Stock Exchange. This historic milestone not only elevated Johnson Products Company’s profile but also shattered racial barriers in the business world. Johnson’s listing on a major stock exchange marked a pivotal moment, sending a powerful message about the potential and prowess of black entrepreneurship.


George and Joan Johnson: They brought us Soul Train and Ultra Sheen, the little blue jar of hair oil. Credit: Johnsons Products Media Center

Legacy and Inspiration:

The legacy of George Ellis Johnson Sr. extends beyond his business ventures; it serves as an enduring source of inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs, especially within the African American community. His journey reminds us that entrepreneurship is a powerful tool for social change, capable of challenging norms, fostering inclusivity, and creating lasting impact.

George Ellis Johnson Sr.’s contributions to the beauty industry, finance, and the realm of entrepreneurship as a whole showcase the positive impact that black entrepreneurs can have on society. His story is a testament to the transformative power of determination, innovation, and a commitment to uplifting communities through economic empowerment.


Credit: Public Domain – George E. Johnson Sr.


Kore Capital’s 4 Lessons to Take Away from George E. Johnson Sr.’s Legacy in Black Entrepreneurship:

Financial Empowerment through Entrepreneurship:

George Ellis Johnson Sr.’s journey exemplifies the power of entrepreneurship in fostering financial empowerment within marginalized communities. By establishing businesses like Johnson Products Company and Independence Bank, he demonstrated that economic self-reliance is achievable through innovative business ventures.

Building Community-Centric Institutions:

Independence Bank, founded by Johnson, highlights the significance of community-centric institutions. Black entrepreneurs can create lasting impact by establishing businesses that not only serve financial purposes but also contribute to the overall development and empowerment of their communities.

Diversification of Business Ventures:

Diversifying business ventures, as seen in Johnson’s foray into both hair care and banking, can be a strategic move. This approach spreads risk and provides opportunities for growth in different sectors.

Overcoming Systemic Barriers with Perseverance:
Johnson’s success is a testament to the power of perseverance. Despite challenges, he navigated the business landscape, broke barriers, and achieved historic milestones. Perseverance in the face of adversity is a crucial trait for any entrepreneur.

Be sure to explore our financial services at Kore Capital, as well as our LinkedIn.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *