WASHINGTON – During a special visit to her Alma Mater on September 21, Academy Award-winning actress Taraji P. Henson served as the closing keynote speaker at the second annual Bison Boss Summit hosted by the Howard University & PNC National Center for Entrepreneurship. During her fireside chat co-hosted by Walmart and moderated by Denise Malloy, Walmart’s senior vice president and chief belonging officer, Henson shared with students her journey from actress to entrepreneur of haircare and beauty brand TPH by Taraji. Henson’s experience as a Howard University student inspired her return to campus.
The Howard University & PNC National Center for Entrepreneurship is a new initiative that was formed to create an innovative national entrepreneurial network across all HBCUs and to develop a cultural-centered online resource hub for Black-owned businesses across the country. The Bison Boss Summit serves as the Center’s annual kickoff to entrepreneurial activities on Howard University’s campus for the academic year. Students had the opportunity to sell products, engage with community organizations offering entrepreneurial resources, pitch their business ideas for a cash prize, and hear from expert alumni entrepreneurs at various panel discussions.
“My goal is to inspire you like I was inspired. Howard University made me fearless, gave me a tough skin and instilled in me greatness because I saw it. It was tangible and the people who came here and went through these incredible programs went on to do incredible things in life,” Henson said. “People like Phylicia Rashad, Lynn Whitfield and August Wilson would come talk to us and inspire us. When you see it, you can believe it, and you can achieve it.”
Henson highlighted the importance of authenticity and finding compatible partners that believe in you and your business. She touted her relationship with Walmart as a strategic partner and vendor and urged student entrepreneurs not to rush into choosing their business partners. Her key to success was finding a solution to a real problem faced by everyday people and presenting it in a way that was authentic to her and her community.
“Our greatest hope is that our students hear an inspiring story of becoming an entrepreneur like Taraji and feel empowered to make their dreams a reality. Our goal as a center is to support Black entrepreneurs at every stage of their journey -- no matter their age, type of business, or where they’re located. Taraji’s success as an actress, entrepreneur and mental health advocate highlights the incredible talent that continues to emerge from our classrooms and our community, and it reminds our students that real power and change in the world comes from ownership,” Erin Horne McKinney, national executive director of the Howard University & PNC National Center for Entrepreneurship said.
About Howard University
Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private, research university that is comprised of 14 schools and colleges. Students pursue more than 140 programs of study leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. The University operates with a commitment to Excellence in Truth and Service and has produced two Schwarzman Scholars, four Marshall Scholars, four Rhodes Scholars, 12 Truman Scholars, 25 Pickering Fellows and more than 165 Fulbright recipients. Howard also produces more on-campus African American PhD. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University, visit www.howard.edu.