Inspirational Stories

Barbara Proctor was a trailblazer for us Entrepreneurs #BlackHistoryMonth

I grew up surrounded by many strong women. My grandmother had a wide beautiful smile, caramel colored skin, silver soft hair, and was the best story-teller I’ve ever known. She sang to me and told lots of jokes. My desire to share my experiences through story-telling comes directly from her. Although there were many other women in my family that nurtured me like my mom and my sisters when I think of accomplished women who showed me that I could be anything I want to be. Barbara Proctor comes to mind. She was fearless and wasn’t afraid to be creative and work hard. Two attributes that I hold dear.

Barbara Procter

Photo of Barbara P. from the Chicago Sun-Times

Most likely, Ms. Procter’s name doesn’t stand out to you. No, she’s wasn’t someone from my neighborhood, who personally poured into my life and spent time with me. Instead, Barbara Procter is a woman who paved the way for all female entrepreneurs who are trying to make a name for ourselves today. Born impoverished in North Carolina and raised by her grandmother. Barbara studied to be a teacher, but moved to Chicago and made a life for herself there. After being fired for not wanting to participate in a commercial that trivialized the Civil Rights Movement, she made her own company.

Barbara Proctor was a trailblazer

Thus, she was a courageous woman. I admire her a lot because in the 1960s it was hard for a woman to refuse to work on a project and still keep their job. Back then she knew that she could not settle or lower her personal standards for a “seat at the table,” so instead of going along with the status quo of the time, she took a bold stance and started her own ad company. Procter is also credited with “[working] as a jazz writer with Downbeat magazine and later at Vee-Jay Records, where she was credited with helping bring early recordings of the Beatles to the United States” (“Before We Continue… – The Lily”).

Barbara Procter was a trailblazer
Photo of Barbara from the Chicago Sun-Times

She was ahead of her time

Surprisingly, Barbara’s company, Proctor and Gardner Advertising grew to become the second largest African American Advertising firm in America. Proctor thought outside the box and pushed limits. Of course, when starting the company a loan from the bank appeared impossible. However, she was confident in her own skills and abilities. In the end, the bank fully delivered because she suggested they use her as collateral. This was a new approach. To secure the loan Proctor suggested that the bank call 3 places that were offering her a job and provide the loan based on the salary they would give her. This was a genius move.

Reader Question

Is there an African American Female Trailblazer that stands out to you?

Bibliography

“Before We Continue… – The Lily”. Thelily.Com, 2019, https://www.thelily.com/barbara-proctor-the-first-black-woman-to-own-an-ad-agency-dies-at-86/.

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