A.G. Gaston: Find a need and fill it

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(NNPA)—One of the greatest entrepreneurs in this nation, Arthur George Gaston, offered these wise words of advice to prospective business owners: “Find a need and fill it.” If there is anyone we can look to for an example of how business is done it is certainly A.G. Gaston. Starting out by lending his money to fellow miners, A.G. parlayed his earnings into personal profit with the interest he made.

That reminds me of my days in the U.S. Navy when I used to do the same thing. In addition to being paid for pressing their uniforms and shining their shoes, every payday I would lend money to my shipmates, and require the principal and interest be repaid the following payday. I guess I had a little A.G. Gaston in me back then.

What it all amounts to is heeding those famous words. Businesses are primarily built on the needs of consumers, and as I have said before, sometimes an entrepreneur can turn a want into a need with slick marketing and advertising campaigns. Gaston used his fill a need statement to his advantage; it is said that when he died in 1996, at 103 years of age, his net worth was in the tens of millions of dollars—one estimate had it as high as $130 million. He filled needs by starting a burial insurance service, complete with cemetery plots, a construction firm, a motel, a radio station, a business college, and other ventures.

This phenomenal businessman is just another in a long line of Black entrepreneurs who understood what it took to start and grow a business, and they did it quite well, despite the hurdles, discrimination, setbacks, rejections, and failures. From Anthony Johnson in the 1600s to John and George Johnson in the 1950s and 1960s, to Bob Johnson in the 1980s until the present, Black entrepreneurs have made their mark in this nation, and not only should we appreciate their accomplishments, we should also learn from them.

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