The Harlem Businessman

by A Collier
harlem businessman

The Harlem Businessman

Harlem is a place of history and power, especially for Black entrepreneurs and entertainers. Here are some well-known Harlem businessmen.

harlem businessman

Harlem is a place of history and power, especially for Black entrepreneurs and entertainers. Here are some well-known Harlem businessmen.

Harlem is a place of history and power, especially for Black entrepreneurs and entertainers. Harlem business is global business. That’s why we thought we’d shine a light on some movers and shakers who hail from the most soulful place on earth. Here are some well-known Harlem businessmen.

Some History

The earliest days of Harlem were dominated by white settlers through the 1920s. Because of this, Black business owners faced racial discrimination that kept them from creating storefronts outside Black neighborhoods. According to Dr. Stephen Robertson, “Barbers, the beauty trade, and undertakers were the engines of the black economy, benefitting from a lack of white competition, and proving more resilient in the face of the Depression than larger businesses.

To fight against the systemic racial issues and industry gatekeeping, we actually see some of the earliest iterations of Black business maps. Simms Blue Book and National Negro Business and Professional Directory showed neighborhood maps including all the Black businesses that were – quite literally – housed there. The legacy of Black businesses started in residential homes, which circumvented the issues Black-owned businesses faced when looking for commercial property.

Percy Sutton

We can’t talk about Harlem businessmen without showcasing Percy Sutton. Originally from Texas, Percy stowed away on a passenger train when he was 12 years old, and found his way to Harlem. His family was active in the civil rights movement, and Percy was determined to continue that activism.

Among his many accolades, Percy was a figurehead of Democratic Harlem and Borough President of Manhattan from 1966 to 1977. 

He also had his hand in the radio and entertainment scene in Harlem. In the 1970s, he co-founded the Inner City Broadcasting Corporation and purchased WLIB-AM, the city’s first African-American-owned radio station.

Dapper Dan – Fashion Designer

This year, Dapper Dan became the first Black designer to receive the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Dapper Dan’s fashions can be found everywhere from the streets of Harlem to adorning Salma Hayek at the 2018 Oscars.

Dapper Dan is a designer and Harlem businessman who is famous around New York City and the globe for his street style and high fashion collabs with Gucci. His designs are more than fashion, they are a testament to hip hop, Black culture, and the birthplace of so much melanin-infused power – our beloved Harlem.

To hear more about Dapper Dan’s journey – from swimming in the Harlem River to a successful empire and recently released memoir – check out this episode of the “What’s Hot! HarlemAmerica with G. Keith Alexander” podcast.

Sean Love Combs

Though he’s gone by many names, Sean Love Combs’s influence and star power is undeniable. Born Sean John Combs and raised in Harlem, he relocated to Mount Vernon as a child and is now a household name. He’s a rapper, record producer, actor, and entrepreneur with a successful clothing line (Sean John), two restaurants, and he helped develop the Cîroc vodka brand, to name a few. Oh, and did we mention his debut album has been certified seven times platinum? Brother Love gives “entrepreneur” a whole new meaning.

Billy Mitchell – Mr. Apollo

You can’t have Harlem without the Apollo, and you can’t have the Apollo without Harlem.

“I started saving the money that James Brown and Marvin Gaye gave me, and I went on to go to business school.”

That sentence is one that could only be heard in Harlem from Mr. Apollo himself, Billy Mitchell. He was just a kid when he started working at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, but this community knows him well, and he knows it well, too. Billy is the official historian for the Apollo and he’s had his hand a little bit of everything: he’s a writer, actor, director, producer, and lecturer. He shares his story in his recent autobiography “They Call Me Mr. Apollo,” which he talks about on this episode of the “What’s Hot! HarlemAmerica with G. Keith Alexander” podcast.

Harlem’s Black-Owned Businesses Today

The Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce has been championing small business initiatives for more than 100 years. Their support of Black-owned businesses is vital to the Harlem community.

They spearhead a number of programs and initiatives and are annually recognized as one of the business Chambers in the U.S. Some of their most recent programs include resources for Black-owned small businesses, the events of Harlem Week, and more.

Their priorities for 2021 included new construction and development projects, virtual member summits, and small business and professional service initiatives – all aimed at educating and uplifting Black-owned small businesses and promoting their brands to more and bigger audiences.

Boost Your Harlem Business with HarlemAmerica

HarlemAmerica wants to show the world what Harlemites already know – that Harlem business is important, impactful, innovative, and international. Are you a lawyer, entrepreneur, entertainer, or businessperson looking to break into the world of professional podcasts?

The HarlemAmerica Digital Network is tailored to provide your business with a production team for your podcast or online TV show, so you can skip the trial-and-error period and dive straight into creating top-tier content for your business.

We are looking for Black small business owners, entrepreneurs, and Harlem businessmen who are looking to establish fame, fortune, and followers. Check out our website to learn more about our small business membership packages.

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