Autumn Harmon, a Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship alumna, observes Black History Month as “the time we take to honor those who have paved the way for myself and others to succeed.”

The way was paved by people like Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson, the scholar and historian known as the “father of Black history.” Woodson, the son of formerly enslaved parents, launched a weeklong celebration in 1926 to laud the milestones, contributions, and achievements of African Americans. His work to preserve this history led to marking every February as Black History Month.

This year’s theme is Black Resistance. The Association for the Study of African American Life and History, founded by Woodson, points to education as a way to resist negative perceptions about Black intellect and to provide space for students to learn about their history. It’s a history that continues to inspire and empower the next generation of diverse young entrepreneurs, like Harmon, to blaze a trail of their own.


NFTE Alumni: Profiles of Black Excellence


Darius Davie
Founder, Groom Guy
Autumn Harmon
Founder, Express Yourself Studio 

Rey Grandoit
Founder, Own Your Inspiration 
Brian Sessions
Founder, The ROC Enrichment Program

How do you create Black history as an entrepreneur?

Darius Davie: I’m working to produce trailblazing work and executing a vision that impacts industry where I am identified as a Black business owner.”


Autumn Harmon: I am branching out and overcoming the odds. As a young Black woman in entrepreneurship, it is rare to see one who looks like me. Therefore, every time I succeed in my business, Express Yourself Studio, I am creating Black history as a young Black woman. 


Rey Grandoit: “The possibilities are endless, and my legacy will set an example for the next generation.”


Brian Sessions: “I am creating Black History by infusing my passions with my business endeavors in order to advance my life’s mission and purpose of educating, empowering, and equipping urban communities both spiritually and economically.”

Black History Month to me means …

Darius Davie: It means to never forget about our past and to research those who have yet to be properly introduced to the world—from writers, inventors, business owners. Use this month to do the research.”


Autumn Harmon: Black History Month is the time we take to honor those who have paved the way for myself and others to succeed. However, February should not be the only month we celebrate. Black History Month is every month!”


Rey Grandoit: “Celebrating, honoring, and recognizing the achievements of African Americans in this country.”


Brian Sessions: “Black history is being created and celebrated across the world every day. Black History Month is an opportunity to highlight people of color, on the world stage, who have come before us and accomplished great feats in the face of adversity.”

To inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs …

Darius Davie: “It takes a clear vision and an ability to bring people together because no one can do it alone. If you can unify people under a mission to influence the next generation, then your job will become easier and there’s a greater chance for advancement. 


Autumn Harmon: “To inspire the next generation, we need to think outside the box and be innovative. We also need to guide young entrepreneurs in the right direction to succeed in the industry.


Rey Grandoit: “The key to inspiring the next generation is to let them know they were born to inspire, so own it.”

How did NFTE impact your life?

Darius Davie: “Arnie Abrams (NFTE’s Sr. Manager, National Postsecondary & Alumni Programs) was the biggest impact in my life as an entrepreneur. … He left an impression on me as a young teenager that fueled my appetite for learning and pursuing the quest of entrepreneurship.


Autumn Harmon: “The NFTE community and staff are all here to help their students. I have been very privileged to have had a village of teachers and NFTE staff who worked with me every step of the way while building my business, Express Yourself Studio, and I am truly grateful.”


Brian Sessions: “Ms. Pamela Banks, my high school NFTE teacher, has literally changed the trajectory of my life by introducing me to entrepreneurship. Ms. Pamela Banks, as many other teachers are, is the embodiment of Black history. She attended my wedding.”

Best advice …

Darius Davie: “Practice patience.


Autumn Harmon: “You have to be willing to step outside of your comfort zone. Even though it might be uncomfortable, it will allow you to encounter numerous amounts opportunities.”


Rey Grandoit: “Treat others like you want to be treated.”


Brian Sessions: “True wealth is found with the elders. Befriend and take care of them.”

Favorite quote …

Darius Davie: “The most important things in business are honesty, integrity, hard work and never forgetting where we came from.


Autumn Harmon: “‘God will never give you anything you can’t handle, so don’t stress.’—Kelly Clarkson.


Rey Grandoit: “Give thanks to God for everything. Thankfulness is what is in your heart, not in your hand.”


Brian Sessions: “‘We, as a people, will begin to see change when we realize who we are individually and collectively, as opposed to stereotypically.’Brian Sessions”

Proudest accomplishment …

Darius Davie: “Being able to marry my best friend, afford the wedding, a car and purchasing a home as a full-time entrepreneur.


Autumn Harmon: “My proudest accomplishments would be winning NFTE Midwest Regional Competition, 1st place, as well as being awarded District 205 School Board Medal of Honor for my high academic success as well as involvement in extracurricular activity and community service.”


Rey Grandoit: “My proudest accomplishment is my family. I feel accomplished to keep going and growing despite the adversity I face every day.”


Brian Sessions: “Marrying my wife, Dawn, and having our four beautiful children—Spencer, Jonah, Riley, and Ryan—are my proudest accomplishments.”

Looking for more profiles of excellence? Check out this Forbes article, Black in Business.