“In order to be outstanding, sometimes you have to stand out.”

This pearl of wisdom was given to Janice Bryant Howroyd by her mother. And if you haven’t heard of Howroyd, here’s something for your daily dose of inspiration: she was the first African-American woman to own a billion-dollar business; Howroyd persevered in the face of poverty, sexism, and racism to grow the $900 she had when she left her North Carolina home in 1976 into Act1 Group, a multi-billion-dollar staffing firm. She is truly an outstanding woman.

In an interview with TODAY, Howroyd shared her four personal principles of success:

  1. Make sure you’re prepared.
  2. Understand what the goal is.
  3. Understand that all those around you—particularly your family—are a part of that success.
  4. Always, always find a moment for gratitude.

Howroyd grew up in the segregated South, and, when asked about that period of her life, said simply, “It was harsh, it was ugly, and it should never have been that way.” She credits her parents and her community for much of her success, saying that her mother and father were both her greatest mentors and taught her and her 11 siblings to work, “more towards the potential and the possibility than we did the threat or the denial of opportunities.” This way of thinking would be crucial for Howroyd when she entered the business world as an African American woman.

Today there are over 9 million women-owned business, but that wasn’t the case when Howroyd first came onto the scene. “The climate has changed,” she said, “but it’s not sunny weather. Women still have a need for change.” Indeed, out of those 9 million firms, only 2.9 million are majority-owned by women of color, and only 1 in 5 firms with a revenue of over 1 million is woman-owned. Progress is slow but on its way, and women like Howroyd are making it happen.

Howroyd says her life motto is, “Never compromise who you are personally to become who you wish to be professionally.” And when asked about her own work motto, she laughed.

“Discipline ain’t a dirty word.”

(Image via Today)