George E. and Joan B. Johnson: Johnson Products. George and Joan Johnson started one of the nation’s largest black-owned companies together in 1954. Johnson Products Co., headquarted in Chicago. The Johnsons reportedly borrowed $250 from a bank and another $250 from a friend to finance the venture. The company’s first product was Ultra Wave, a hair relaxer for men. In 1957, Ultra Sheen, a hair straightener that could be used in the home, was introduced for women. Other popular brand names were Classy Curl and Sta Sof Fro. Johnson Products went public in 1969 and in 1970 became the first black-owned firm to be listed on the American Stock Exchange. The couple preserved the company after their divorce in 1989 with Joan becoming chairman and CEO in 1989.Â In 1993, Ivax Corp purchased Johnson Products for reportedly $60 million and merged Johnson Products with its Flori Roberts subsidiary, maker of skin care and cosmetic products for black women.