As founder of Soft Sheen in 1964, Edward Gardner took a single product and created the nation’s largest black haircare empire. At one point Soft Sheen was ranked the sixth largest black industrial/service company. With his son, Gary, he acquired a London distributor and set up a worldwide network for its line of 150 products to connect with customers in 66 countries.
In celebration of our 40th anniversary, Black Enterprise is taking a look both forward and backward at the world of black business. Our list of 40 “Titans: The Most Powerful African Americans in Business–and How They Shaped Our World” recognizes and pays homage to the entrepreneurs and business men and women who paved the way for all of us. Follow our countdown of the most important black business leaders of the four decades since Black Enterprise Magazine was founded in August 1970.
These are the men and women who fought the odds, suffered setbacks, regrouped, and eventually emerged victorious. Whether they conducted business from their own offices or the executive suite, their professional excellence, deal-making prowess, and unwavering advocacy converted promise into channels of prosperity and levers of power. These are the pioneers who withstood the elements—institutional racism, resistance from the business establishment, and lack of resources—to plant a flag on their own patch of territory.
These are the titans: bold leaders who shattered conventional modes of commerce. Because of their contributions over the past 40 years, the world of business has been transformed forever.
Be sure to pick up the commemorative 40th anniversary August 2010 issue of Black Enterprise, which contains the entire Titans list.