Have you ever tried learning entrepreneurship skills by watching a movie? The other day I watched a show about a character who was trying to make money without finding a job. So I thought, how cool would it be to learn entrepreneurship by watching a bunch of movies! But… the movies that leapt to mind the quickest were all about Caucasian entrepreneur-minded people. After much digging, I found some movies about people of colour (POC) that teach top-notch entrepreneurship skills.
To compile my list, I did a search for movies about entrepreneurs. To my disappointment, these were lists of male entrepreneurs. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, I tend to focus on female entrepreneurs. I decided to refine my search further, and I had no difficulty finding lists of movies about female business minded people. For example:
- Molly’s Game: Based on the true story of Molly Bloom, this movie is about how Molly makes a fortune running an underground poker empire for celebrities, athletes, and business tycoons.
- Working Girl: Tess is a secretary who gets a big career break when her idea for a merger lands her a job as a junior executive.
- Erin Brockovich: Based on the true story of Erin Brockovich who proves that she has the natural skills and talent to earn her a highly paid position at a law firm.
Encouraged by my findings on female entrepreneur-minded people, I wanted to go a step further and find female entrepreneurs of colour. This next search yielded fewer results, so I decided to look for any entrepreneurial movies about people of colour (male or female) and I came up with six titles.
These titles were selected solely on what the movie could teach us about entrepreneurship. Their historical accuracy and quality as a movie (plot and character) were a less of a consideration. I also kept the selection to movies, and not documentaries, to keep the playing field even. Time to bring out the popcorn and grab a good seat!
Related read: Leadership and Race: Are Leadership Skills Affected By Our Identity?
Entrepreneurial Women of Colour
First, let’s begin with my favourite topic, women who are amazing for their business talents and skills. These women show how their first-rate entrepreneurial skills help them to achieve their goals and become successful.
In Lionheart, Adaeze Obiagu wants the opportunity to run a transportation company when her father, Chief Ernest Obiagu, has health issues. She and her father’s brother work together to save the bus company from debt and possible takeover.
Lessons to Learn
- Persistence and a strong mindset. Adaeze faces the difficult challenges of trying to get money to keep a company going. She and her uncle go from bank to bank and to possible partners to apply for a loan.
- Persistence despite conflict. Adaeze faces unwanted sexual advances from men who don’t take her seriously as a business owner asking for a loan.
- Market research. Curious about the success of the competition, Adaeze listens to what bus customers want, then has a meeting with her drivers to get their point of view. Her research gains her a better understanding of marketplace needs.
- The secret to a perfect business pitch. Adaeze’s first business pitch is shot down when her potential merger partner says it sounds too rehearsed. Her second attempt is more genuine, when she shows the deep research she has done to understand the core values of the competition and how the merger will benefit both companies.
Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C. J. Walker (2020)
Okay, so this isn’t exactly a movie – it’s a Netflix mini-series. But the story about how a woman becomes tired of her job, finds a product to sell, and builds her own empire from cosmetic and hair products is worth watching from a business standpoint. Madam C.J. Walker (born Sarah Breedlove) is recorded as the first female self-made millionaire in America in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Lessons to Learn
- Finding opportunities to start a business. Sarah hates her job as a washerwoman. One day, she finds an opportunity to sell another woman’s haircare products.
- Creating own products and own business. Sarah begins to create her own haircare products and builds her own team of female sales associates and group of loyal clients.
- National promotion and company expansion. Over time, she creates her own national empire, with conventions that local sales associates can attend.
- Creating a brand. She decides her husband’s name is much catchier than her own and creates a brand for her business.
- Tenacity and determination. Despite hardships such as threats from her main competitor, and a fire that destroys her home and products, her belief in her dream keeps her going.
- Delegation. One of the biggest challenges for an entrepreneur is letting go of responsibilities and delegating these tasks to others. Over time, Sarah learns to delegate tasks to family and friends.
The Associate (1996)
Laurel Ayres is a talented and smart African American woman trying to climb the Wall Street corporate ladder. When she is passed over for a promotion, it is because she is a woman. Determined to be taken more seriously in the male-dominated Wall Street world, she pretends to be Robert S. Cutty, a white man.
Lessons to Learn
- Strong mindset to overcome discrimination. Laureldeals with racial and sexual discrimination in her line of work but it makes her twice as determined to succeed.
- Talent and ingenuity will open new doors. Laurel decides that being an employee is not for her if she will not be recognized for her talents. Instead, she uses her innovation and skills to start her own company.
- Find a partner who believes in you. Laurel partners up with a secretary who is just as talented so they can achieve a common goal together.
- Belief in your goal and yourself. Laurel takes baby steps by leaving her job, then starting her own company so that one day she can build her own empire.
Entrepreneurial Boys/ Men of Colour
These next three movies teach excellent lessons about the business of entrepreneurship and the mental toughness it takes to become an entrepreneur. Again, these people demonstrate first-rate entrepreneurial skills.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (2019)
This movie is based on the real-life story of William Kamkwamba, a 13-year-old boy who cannot attend school when his family cannot afford the fees. The village is suffering from extreme poverty from famine and drought. To save his family, William sneaks into the school library and learns how to build a windmill to end the drought.
Lessons to Learn
- Self taught, continuous learning. Entrepreneurs are always learning because they know they don’t know everything. When William can’t get answers from his teacher, he borrows books to teach himself about windmills.
- Selling your idea and getting buy in. William constructs a small, working windmill prototype to convince his friends and father that his idea works. Eventually, he convinces the village that a windmill can use wind to bring water.
- Identify the problem and find the solution. William is always looking for ways to solve his problems. When he cannot see at night to study, he looks for alternative sources of power and lighting.
- Strong drive. Even after being thrown out of school, William was determined to keep learning. When his friends didn’t believe in his windmill idea, he persisted, and when his father argued with him, he did not give up.
The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
This movie is based on the story of Chris Gardner, a failing bone density scanner salesman. His wife works double shifts to support both them and their son. Eventually she leaves them, and he and his son become homeless. To change his life, Chris works as an unpaid intern for six months until he is chosen for the one full-time paid position. Eventually, he forms his own multimillion-dollar brokerage firm.
Lessons to Learn
- Lots of no’s before yeses. You can really feel the main character’s pain as one prospect after another turns down buying a scanner. You can also feel his pain when he is homeless and struggling for food and shelter. Many entrepreneurs and solopreneurs can identify with these struggles at the start of a business.
- Fake it until you make it. Chris dresses in a suit during his internship. The entire time, no one guessed someone working at a corporate office could be homeless. Even when he was asked to lend a $5 bill he couldn’t afford to spend, he pretended he didn’t need the money.
- Short term loss for long term gain. Chris and his family made a lot of sacrifices before he finally had a job with a steady income.
- Mental toughness. Having a support network helps entrepreneurs get through difficult times. In this case, Chris’s network (his wife) left him so he had to stay strong for his son’s sake.
Big Hero 6 (2014)
Yes, this movie is a bit different than the others. It’s a cartoon, but I was determined to find a movie about Asians and entrepreneurship. This story has many inventors. Hiro is a robot specialist who invents tiny robots that link to create things. His brother Tadashi invented a medical robot called Baymax who helps treat medical problems. Hiro partners up with Tadashi’s friends after his brother’s death so they can find his killer. One of these friends is inventor Go Go, an electromagnetics expert.
Lessons to Learn
- Entrepreneurs are inventors. Hiro, Tadashi, and Go Go all use their talents to invent creations that the market has never seen before. Hiro’s robots can change how buildings are constructed. Tadashi’s robot will revolutionize personalized healthcare. With the right investors, an entrepreneur can make a lot of money on their invention.
- Determination and perfectionism. Hiro, Tadashi, and Go Go are all inventors, but they didn’t achieve their results on the first try. It took a lot of brainstorming, trial and error, and several attempts to achieve the desired result.
- Motivation. Entrepreneurs need to be driven by a powerful “Why.” That reason is what will keep them motivated even when times are tough, or when faced with many losses, to keep them going until they get to their goal. Hiro’s “why” is his brother and keeps him motivated through hardships until he achieves his goal.
Movies can be a great source of entertainment, but they can also teach you tips and lessons about what it’s like to be an entrepreneur. These six movies share first-rate entrepreneurial skills, from mental attitude, to how to start a business. The next time you’re looking for a movie to watch, consider selecting one of these titles about successful people of colour who have a winning entrepreneurial mindset.
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