Inspired by Motown: Empowering communities, scaling growth

By Chris Genteel | Head of Business & Community Inclusion, Google | Digital Business

Motown music is a global sensation that spans continents, languages, and generations —Motown icons like Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, and Stevie Wonder have fans of all ages across the world. But behind the chart-topping hits and legendary musicians is an inspiring story of entrepreneurship, technology, and community-oriented business growth. Motown Records represents the inspiring history of how its founder, Berry Gordy, empowered the Black business community in Detroit and scaled growth for Black musicians and Motown itself – a neighborhood turned global Black-owned business. The business learnings from Motown are just as timeless as the music.

In 1959, Gordy borrowed $800 from his family’s “lending club” to start a record label out of his Detroit home. In 1988, he sold the startup, famously known as Motown Records, for $61 million. When Gordy first started Motown Records, he famously stated, “I’m going to start my own record company and we are not just going to make black music, we're going to make music for everybody.” 

I'm honored to share this interview with my friend, Robin Terry, the Chairwoman and CEO of the Motown Museum in Detroit and Berry Gordy’s grand niece. We met on a snowy but gloriously sunny day in Detroit’s legendary Studio A, where countless Motown hits were first recorded. Robin and I discussed how Gordy cultivated the strong talent within his community, used advanced recording technology to reach a global audience, and broke barriers to disrupt and redefine the music industry for future generations.


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