Each February, at the start of Black History month, I reflect on the many contributions African Americans have made to the country, to the economy and to our communities. Going back decades, we can see the impact civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers, Rosa Parks and many others have had in creating opportunities for people like me today.
As an immigrant to the United States and a recently sworn-in U.S. citizen, I have always understood the importance of “economic opportunity” in this country. This is one of the major reasons I focus so strongly on economic empowerment, which is a powerful way to improve the lives of millions of Americans, and to increase their ability to have an impact – not only in their communities but also in their environment, their country and their business community.
I’m inspired by the stories of successful African Americans entrepreneurs, like Bob Johnson, founder of BET, Cathy Hughes, founder of Radio One, Oprah Winfrey and many others.
These entrepreneurs and countless others like them gave me the idea that the American dream, though difficult to achieve, is possible. I was inspired by the importance of solving problems related to money – problems that can lead to economic empowerment. It doesn't mean you have to start the next Fortune 500, but it does mean if you have an idea and a dream, you can make it a reality.
The U.S. economy rewards hard work. It rewards innovative thinking. It incentivizes people to take their ideas, send them to the marketplace, and exchange those ideas and actions for money and influence. To me, Black History Month serves as a reminder there are Americans who look like me succeeding despite difficult racial and economic setbacks in the past.
As a result, I devoted my life to not only writing a bestselling book about entrepreneurship, Start Me Up! The-No-Business-Plan, Business Plan, but to focus on helping minorities, women, and people of color, by giving them the tools to start and grow their lives through entrepreneurship. Black History Month also reminds me of my journey and how being in this country has given me an opportunity to make my dreams a reality.
I lived and spent time in multiple countries and numerous continents while playing professional basketball 18 years ago. I’ve also visited repressive regimes where freedom of speech is non-existent – let alone the freedom of entrepreneurship. I've seen opportunities in the U.S. that I’d never be exposed to in other parts of the world.
America is not without flaws, nor without faults. The civil rights movement as we currently know it is still young and America still has a long way to go regarding racial inequality and economic empowerment.
If you have an idea and a dream, and you're able to communicate that idea effectively, the United States of America is one of the best places for you to make that dream become a reality. Black History Month reminds me of how Wally Amos wanted to bake and sell cookies, so he created Famous Amos – doing $1 million in revenue in his second year of business. Thomas Jennings was one of the first African Americans to obtain a U.S. patent in 1821 for his innovative way to dry clean clothes. Sarah E. Goode, who ran a furniture business, invented the foldaway bed and was the first African American woman to receive a patent in 1885.
The contributions of Amos, Jennings and Goode not only improved the lives of African Americans but also the lives of all Americans. Black History Month reminds me that my experiences in tax, small business, accounting, sales, pricing and marketing can be used to empower others. The contributions of millions of African Americans to the community and economy will continue because this is a land of opportunity, and my goal is to make it as easy as possible for people like me, and for all Americans, to survive and thrive.
Related Article: Martin Luther King’s 4 Lessons for Entrepreneurs
Learn more about how Bank of America is driving economic and social progress.
Ebong Eka is no stranger to the world of personal finance. As a certified public accountant and former professional basketball player he offers a fresh perspective to small business planning and executing. With over fifteen years of accounting, tax & small business experience with firms like PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte & Touche and CohnReznick, Ebong provides practical money solutions tailored to the everyday person, the aspiring entrepreneur or the small business owner.
Ebong is the founder of EKAnomics, a sales, pricing and leadership firm. He is also the founder of Ericorp Consulting, Inc., a tax and management consulting firm. Ebong is the author of “Start Me Up! The-No-Business-Plan, Business Plan.”
Ebong is also the founder of The $250 Tax Pro, which provides tax preparation and consulting services in the Washington, DC area.
Bank of America, N.A. engages with Ebong Eka to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Ebong Eka is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Ebong Eka. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.
Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation