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Howroyd, Janice Bryant 1953(?)–

Janice Bryant Howroyd 1953(?)


At a Glance


In 1978 Janice Bryant Howroyd founded ACT* 1 Personnel Services, a temporary employment agency, in the Los Angeles area. Twenty-five years later, Howroyds company was the largest of its kind owned by a woman of color in the United States. Howroyd started small, with just herself and a phone as the firms only assets, but by 2003 had a company that took in revenues of $483 million from clients that included Ford Motor Co., Cingular Wireless, and the Gap. Its success, noted Denise Hamilton in a 1997 Los Angeles Times profile, has been fueled in large part by the force of Howroyds personality, which infuses every aspect of the business, motivating her staff with a zeal more common to the pulpit than the boardroom.

Howroyd was born in the early 1950s and grew up in Tarboro, North Carolina, as the fourth of eleven children in her family. The entrepreneurial streak in her family stretched back to her grandparents, who ran a makeshift barbeque restaurant out of their home. She later said that she learned much about running a business from her parents, who ran the 13-member household with efficiency and discipline. Her father was of Irish and Cherokee ancestry, and worked as a factory foreman; her mother was African American. As a teen, Howroyd was the first black student at her towns previously segregated high school. On the first day of class, I listened to my teacher explain why Africans were so well suited to slavery and how wed be much poorer as a society if we went any further with this affirmative action, she recalled in an interview with Black Enterprise writer Tamara E. Holmes. At home that night, she wept and begged her parents to not force her to return the next day. Her father, she told Holmes, informed her that she had three choices: he would go to the school and confront the teacher himself, she could enter the all-black high school across the street, or she could go back. Howroyd decided to return.

Howroyd landed a scholarship to North Carolina State Agricultural and Technical College in Greensboro, and earned an English degree from it. Her first jobs were with the American Red Cross and the National Academy of Sciences, and in 1976 she traveled cross country to visit her sister, Sandy, in California. She liked it there and decided to stay, and her brother-in-law gave her a job in his office at Billboard magazine. I started out as a temporary worker and they never wanted me to go, Howroyd told a writer for Ebony. They were fascinated that I knew what needed to happen in an office. Someone suggested that she might turn this talent into a career, and Howroyd decided to start her own employment agency. While at Billboard, she realized most of the support staff were entertainment-industry hopefuls, and had taken the job simply to do some networking. Howroyd decided to start an employment agency that placed permanent workers who were not aspiring actors or screenwriters.

With $987 of her own savings, and $533 borrowed from her mother and brother, Howroyd rented a small office space with a Beverly Hills address for her ACT*1 Personnel Services and set up a telephone line. Her first client was Billboard, but she soon found others by calling businesses and offering to send them the right

At a Glance

Born Janice Bryant ca. 1953, in Tarboro, NC; married Bernard Howroyd (a business owner), 1983; children: Katharyn, Brett Education: Earned degree from North Carolina A&T University.

Career: Worked for the American Red Cross and the National Academy of Sciences, c. 1975-76; Billboard magazine, temporary secretary, 1976-77; ACT*1 Personnel Services, Beverly Hills, CA, founder and president, 1978-; founded other companies since 1978 including: firm that provided background checks and drug screening for employers; a travel agency; an electronic records maintenance company; two continuing education schools.

Member: National Association of Women Business Owners; Urban League of Los Angeles, board of directors; Greater L.A. African American Chamber of Commerce, board of directors.

Awards: Minority Enterprise Development Week Achievement Award, U.S. Department of Commerce, 1992; AT & T Entrepreneur of the Year, 1994.

Addresses: Office Act*1 Personnel Services, 5334 Torrance Blvd, Torrance, CA, 90503-4012.

employees, and even promised to refund their money if her choice didnt work out. She also deployed what she called the WOMB strategy, as she told Ebony: I call it WOMB because its Word Of Mouth, Brother! Her small company grew quickly, and in 1981 she opened her first branch office. In 1984 she began taking on non-show business clients, and when widespread layoffs hit the entertainment industry, she moved into the temporary-employment field, which provided workers under contract on an as-needed basis. Ultimately, ACT*1 expanded into four divisions that provided temporary workersengineering, entertainment, technical, and clerical.

Howroyd moved her companys headquarters to Torrance in 1990, and a decade later had offices in 75 U.S. cities. Its clients included automakers Ford and Toyota, as well as telecommunications giant Cingular Wireless and Sempra Energy, the largest utility in Southern California. Her company ventured into other service areas in the 1990s, most notably as a provider of e-business solutions. In a deal with computer-maker Silicon Graphics of Mountain View, California, for example, Howroyds company created a time-keeping system that utilized swipe cards for all the temporary employees there, not just ACT*1s, which gave Silicon Graphics executives an accurate snapshot of their current staffing needs and costs. Howroyd also started a firm that provides background checks and drug screening for employers, a travel agency, and an electronic-records maintenance company. ACT*1s success even led to the establishment of two continuing-education schools that provide corporate training and distance-learning. Our revenues come from various areas, she explained to Cassandra Hayes in a Black Enterprise interview in 1998. Many people are determined and have the true grit attitude to run their own businesses, but that is not enough. At a certain point you must design your business and have a long-term plan.

ACT*1 grew steadily throughout the 1990s, at a rate of ten percent each year, but later that decade enjoyed phenomenal growth, as the need for high-tech workers increased with the booming economy. Moreover, temporary workers became an increasingly large part of the American work force, especially after the economy worsened in 2001. Revenues at Howroyds company went from $75 million in 1997 to $483 million in 2002. Her headquarters now employs a staff of 300, and has 65,000 temporary workers under contract. She employs several family members, all of whom came to the company with their own skill sets in the corporate world. Her husband Bernard Howroyd, whom she married in 1983, owns his own staffing agency, and Howroyds detractors sometimes claim that she has benefited from his business. I was doing over $10 million in business when I married my husband in 1982, Howroyd pointed out in an interview with Hayes. Its just hard for people to believe that an African American woman and her family can develop systems and do what we do on our own.

The Howroyds have two children, and the son and daughter own 49 percent of ACT*1; Howroyd holds the other 51 percent. For years, she balanced work and home by sleeping just four hours a night, as she told reporter Denise Hamilton in a 1997 Los Angeles Times profile. I get jet-lagged if I get any more than that, she claimed. Her role models have been her mother and Madam C.J. Walker, the early-twentieth-century hair-care mogul. In Southern California, she is involved in the Los Angeles Urban League and various social charities, including a mentorship program at a school district. On her own, Howroyd has created an endowment fund for college scholarships for high schoolers in her hometown back in North Carolina, and chaired a capital campaign at her alma mater, North Carolina A&T State University.

In a 2003 Black Enterprise article about the growing number of African-American women running companies, Howroyds company was No. 3 on the magazines top black-owned Industrial/Service companies in America. The magazine put the dynamic CEO on its cover, with the caption Shes the Boss, for the August feature story. Her companys credo has always been Keeping the Humanity in Human Resources, and she expanded on this idea further in an interview with San Diego Business Journal writer Eric Forst. Never compromise who you are personally to become who you wish to be professionally, she asserted. That means you only do business with a company youd send a relative to, and you look to work with companies you can get repeat business from. One-night stands dont work in personal lives, and they dont work in business either.



American Visions, August 1999, p. 8.

Black Enterprise, August 1998, p. 58; August 2003, p. 94.

Ebony, March 2002, p. 136.

HR Briefing, January 15, 2003, p. 5.

Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News, July 26, 2002.

Los Angeles Times, June 22, 1997, p. 1.

Los Angeles Times Business Journal, August 15, 1994, p. 1.

San Diego Business Journal, January 29, 2001, p. A12.


Salary vs. Start-Up, E-Magnify, (August 27, 2003).

Carol Brennan

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"Howroyd, Janice Bryant 1953(?)–." Contemporary Black Biography. . 17 Jan. 2018 <>.

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Howroyd, Janice Bryant 1952–

Janice Bryant Howroyd

Chief executive officer, ACT*1 Personnel Services

Nationality: American.

Born: September 1, 1952, in Tarboro, North Carolina.

Education: North Carolina A&T State University, English degree; University of Maryland, master's degree; North Carolina State University, PhD.

Family: Married Bernard Howroyd (CEO of AppleOne Employment Services); children: two.

Career: Billboard, 19761978, personal assistant to the director; ACT*1 Personnel Services, 1978, CEO; Document Scanning Systems, CEO, 1996; A-Check America, CEO, 1998.

Awards: Entrepreneur of the Year, AT&T, 1994; 50 Leading Women Entrepreneurs of the World, Star Group, 1999 and 2000.

Address: ACT*1 Personnel Services, 1999 West 190th Street, Torrance, California 90504;

A determined professional, Janice Bryant Howroyd expanded her small, one-phone-line office into a multimillion dollar business over a period of more than 30 years. She began ACT*1 Personnel Services, a now leading employmentservices agency, with $1,500 and perseverance. Howroyd was one of a handful of African American women entrepreneurs in the employment-service industry.

Janice Bryant Howroyd was born around 1953 in Tarboro, North Carolina, as one of 11 children in her family. She learned to remain determined in spite of all obstacles during high school; her parents sent her to the town's all-white school, where in one class the teacher taught that people of African descent were only good for slave labor and that affirmative action was wrong for the country. Howroyd was upset and begged her father to allow her to switch schools. He left the decision to her; she eventually chose to return. She would perform well enough to win a full scholarship to North Carolina A&T State University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in English. She later earned a doctorate in humanities from North Carolina A&T State University.

After finishing her schooling, Howroyd visited her sister in Los Angeles and soon decided to stay there. She went to work as her brother-in-law's assistant at Billboard and noticed that most of the magazine's employees worked there in order to either break into the entertainment business or make money while waiting for their big breaks.

Howroyd also noticed that she had an affinity for organization and employee placement. She stated in Black Enterprise, "I realized that I enjoyed helping people get temporary and permanent jobs. When someone told me to hang out my own shingle, I took the chance" (August 2003). She saved money and later borrowed from her family in order to start her own employment-service agency. Howroyd rented a small office in Beverly Hills, and with one phone the life of her company ACT*1 Personnel Services began. One of her first clients was her former employer, Billboard.

Howroyd built her business on two principles: the "WOMB" method and the notion of "keeping the humanity in Human Resources." The letters in "WOMB" stood for "Word of Mouth, Brother!" Howroyd guaranteed companies that she would find qualified employees or return any payment received. Indeed, ACT*1's reputation slowly spread by word of mouth, and within a few years the company had earned $10 million. Howroyd placed workers at companies with which she could build long-term relationships; she always sent only those who were qualified and would be committed to the positions in question. She told the San Diego Business Journal, "Never compromise who you are personally to become who you wish to be professionally. That means you only do business with a company you'd send a relative to, and you look to work with companies you can get repeat business from. That's how I measure success" (January 29, 2001). ACT*1's motto of "pride in performance" helped employees and temporary workers feel valued.

While others businesses grew merely by opening branches in other areas, Howroyd and her executive team, which by this time included several family members, decided to expand ACT*1 through the creation of new technology. Under Umbrella Managed Programs, ACT*1 created an electronic time card that Silicon Graphics, a computer maker, would use to track all of its temporary employees. Madelina Williams, a manager at Silicon Graphics, stated to Cassaundra Hayes of Black Enterprise, "At the end of the week, our managers can push a button and see the status of any temp employee. ACT*1 did in six weeks what their predecessors couldn't. They are truly a business partner" (August 1998).

ACT*1 branched into other areas, including engineering, technical and general office work, and entertainment. Howroyd also started two schools of continuing educationCalifornia National University for Advanced Studies and the Academy of Computer Technologyto help her workers gain new skills. She also started Agile-1, a management-solutions company; A-Check America, a background and drug-screening company; Enterpise Communications, a business-communication solutions company; Document Scanning Systems, a document-management solutions provider; and CTA Travel, a corporate travel agency. Through new technology and the various ACT*1 affiliates, Howroyd hoped to step beyond relationships with customers and create lasting partnerships with the companies that made use of her various services.

Howroyd continued to "keep the humanity in Human Resources" and develop relationships with a number of companies, moving her business from Beverly Hills to Torrance, California. She opened more than 70 office branches across the country and served companies such as Ford Motor Company, Cingular Wireless, and the Gap. In 2003 ACT*1 reported earnings of $487 million. That year the company ranked third on Black Enterprise magazine's Top 100 Industrial/Service Companies list.

Howroyd, who owned 51 percent of her company (her children, Katharyn and Brett, owned the other 49 percent), was also active in her community. She served on the U.S. Department of Labor's Workforce Initiative Board, Loyola Marymount University's board of regents, and the Women's Leadership Board of the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. She was married to Bernard Howroyd, the head of AppleOne Employment Services.

sources for further information

Forst, Eric, "Minority-Woman-Owned Company Succeeds with New Technology," San Diego Business Journal, January 29, 2001.

Hayes, Cassaundra, "Business Dynamos," Black Enterprise, August 1998, pp. 5864.

Holmes, Tamara E., "She's the Boss: The Women of the B.E. 100s Are Setting a New Standard of Excellenceand Changing the Face of Business," Black Enterprise, August 2003, pp. 9395.

"Howroyd, Janice Bryant," Contemporary Black Biography, vol. 42, Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale Group, 2004.

"Sisters in Charge: Innovative Women Entrepreneurs," Ebony, March 2002, pp. 136142.

Ashyia N. Henderson

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