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African Americans have always played a vital part in growing the American economy. One of the fastest ways to build wealth is to be a traded company on the American Stock Exchange. George and Joan Johnson figured out this formula years ago and become the first company owned by African Americans to be listed on the American Stock Exchange.

Johnson Products Company was created in 1954. The company became the biggest supplier of hair-care products for the African-American market. It was the original for us, buy us.

At a time when few companies paid much attention to black consumers, the Johnsons made a fortune with hair-care products aimed at black customers, beginning with a hair relaxer for men that Mr. Johnson developed while working for a cosmetics company. By 1971, Johnson Products’ annual sales reached $12.6 million. The following year, the company went public on the American Stock Exchange.

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Mr. Johnson found many of the same challenges that small black businesses still face today, funding. When he tried to borrow $250 to start a company, a banker turned down his loan request as too risky. A few days later, Mr. Johnson went to another branch of the bank, said he needed $250 to take his family on vacation, got the loan and used it for his new business.

Throughout the years, when afros became stable in the African American community, the company created Afro Sheen. That product would become a must for every household.

The Johnsons are the definition of the American dream. Let their story serve as a reminder if you have a dream go for it. If you see a lane available, navigate it immediately.