Earl G. Graves, Sr. – An Iconic Entrepreneur & “Mentor Grandfather” for Young Professionals

When I was growing up there were a few staple magazines in our household: Ebony, Jet, Black Enterprise, and O – The Oprah Magazine. Each of these publications had their own, unique, individual impact on my life during my most impressionable years. The page that resonated with me the most – the Publisher’s Letter. Beyond their words on the page, I became fascinated with their life story.

Today, I honor the life of Mr. Earl G. Graves, Sr., the founder and publisher of Black Enterprise. On yesterday, April 6th, Grave’s son, Earl “Butch” Graves Jr. confirmed his father’s passing on social media. Mr. Graves was 85 and experienced a long battle with Alzheimer’s.

[Featured Photo: Earl G. Graves, Sr. (Black Enterprise) (left) inspired Brandon Griffin (center) to start FyeBye Magazine which encouraged youth to consider entrepreneurship as a career pathway. During the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference, Griffin and other students were able to interact with top African American entrepreneurs like Don Barden (right).]

One reason this strikes a chord for me is because a few weeks ago my grandfather, Arthur Murphy, transitioned. He was 95 and experienced a long battle with Alzheimer’s. There is nothing like a grandparent’s love. My heart and prayers are with Mr. Graves’ family – especially his eight grandchildren.

As a teenager, each Spring, I attended Black Enterprise’s Kidpreneur/Teenpreneur Conference – a conference for students that was hosted simultaneously with the Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference.  Whether we were 7 years old or 17, the conference instilled that you are never too young to start planning for a successful future and allowed us to meet and interact with top African American entrepreneurs.

One of the conference highlights would be Mr. Graves stepping out of the main conference and coming into the Kidpreneur/Teenpreneur workshops to speak to the youth. Mr. Graves was tall, had iconic sideburns, and a distinguished presence. When he walked into our class, it was extra special. Most of us sat in our seats, eyes wide open, like a deer in the headlights. But there were a few, who ran toward him, arms wide open, yelling “Poppa”. These were his grandchildren. They, too, were students during the conference, and we were in the same class.

For a few minutes, class was paused, and time seemed to stop. Mr. Graves allowed his grandchildren to have that moment. A moment to hug, a moment to kiss, a moment to sit on his lap and share all of what we were learning. Together we developed our leadership skills, learned the basics of building a business, rules to help families build wealth, and all secretly wished Mr. Graves could be our “adopted Poppa”.

 


Photo: Earl G. Graves, Sr. with students attending the 2004 Black Enterprise Teenpreneur Conference.
Mr. Graves & Brandon Griffin (center)

 

Over the years, I attended the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference as a student, entrepreneur, award recipient, and workshop presenter. I eventually had several moments of my own with Mr. Graves. From reading his words on the Publisher’s page of Black Enterprise magazine in my living room to sitting down with him for television interviews … During these moments, he patiently listened to my dreams (no matter how naïve they may have seemed), and positively reinforced my entrepreneurial spirit. (Something grandparents seem to know how to do very well.)

Because of the work Mr. Graves did in his lifetime my journey was made a little easier.

Before the days of social media, it was in the pages of Black Enterprise magazine where I discovered peer-mentors who helped me start and sustain a web site design business while in high school.

Mr. Graves’ success with Black Enterprise magazine, inspired me to turn my website, FyeBye.com, into a magazine. FyeBye Magazine encouraged youth to consider entrepreneurship as a career pathway.

Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference helped me develop partnerships with companies like Comcast and Wendy’s, which allowed FyeBye Magazine to be distributed to high schools across the country.

 

Photo: (Left) The Publisher’s page of Black Enterprise’s Teenpreneur Conference magazine
(Right) Brandon’s “About The Publisher” profile in FyeBye Magazine’s Media Kit

 

Black Enterprise magazine’s BE 100s showcases the nation’s largest black businesses. This list allowed me to identify and develop relationships with local mentors who demonstrated a magnitude of success that could be achieved – even from the inner-city streets of Gary, Indiana.

As social media advanced, with the collection of all these experiences I co-founded a social media marketing firm that became the first of its kind to be recognized as a Certified Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) in the State of Indiana.

Now, because I heeded the wisdom of individuals like Mr. Graves – that it’s never too early to start planning for a successful future, my journey continues …

I’m a young adult with 20 years of entrepreneurial and industry experience with tools to build wealth for my family. My grandfather, Arthur, was proud of me, and I’m sure Mr. Earl G. Graves, Sr. the “mentor grandfather” we all adopted during the Kidpreneur/Teenpreneur conference would be proud, too.

 

To the Graves family, and especially his eight grandchildren (Kristen, Erika Barbara, Gibby, Teddy, Veronica, Carter, Melanie, and Kel) …thank you for sharing your grandfather with me and all the other young entrepreneurs whose life he helped positively influence. I pray the special moments you shared will give you endless comfort and strength.

 

Brandon Griffin,
Gen Z Life Coach & Former Black Enterprise Teenpreneur

 

Also Watch: Tribute: Don H. Barden – Icon of Hope

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