Baltimore businessman Eddie C. Brown grew up studying the men in the white shirts and ties as opposed to those in the field and factories in his home town of Apopka, Fla. With his grandmother instilling in him the belief that studying hard and staying in school would grant him his own white shirt and tie, an aspiring entrepreneur was born.

When Brown walks through the aisles of fellow business moguls on April 14 to receive the 2010 Entrepreneur of the Year Award at the 17th Annual Entrepreneurial Spirit Awards Dinner in New York, he’ll remember those words of encouragement that his grandmother flooded into his memory.

He’ll also remember his self-made uncle, who along with his grandmother, helped to shape Brown’s mindset of breaking the ordinary and electing to manage himself rather than being managed by others.

“I never remember my uncle working for anyone else except himself,” Brown recalls.

“That was kind of ingrained of somehow finding a way to basically work for myself or have my own business.”

The start of Brown’s business success began in 1973, when he moved to Baltimore after being hired as a portfolio manager by headlining investment firm T. Rowe Price.

Brown became the first African-American investment professional to be hired by the firm during a time when employing Blacks in the investment business wasn’t one of the more popular trends.

Brown operated as a portfolio manager for 10 years before deciding to venture out and conquer his own endeavors. He founded Brown Capital Management in July 1983 and currently serves as the president and CEO. His storied success earned him Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award in the financial services category for Maryland in 2003. The following year he was inducted into the Maryland Chamber of Commerce’s Business Hall of Fame.

Brown was also a regular panelist on Louis Rukeyser’s “Wall Street Week” and was inducted into the program’s Hall of Fame in 1996.

After Brown accepts the Entrepreneur of the Year Award later this month, he will become just the third African American to receive the honor in the award’s 17-year history. The award will be presented by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), an international nonprofit organization based in New York that provides entrepreneurship programs to youths from low-income communities. The organization’s Baltimore affiliate was recently established in 2002.

Although Brown will be one of three other Baltimoreans that will be honored on the evening, the opportunity to join Russell Simmons and Frank Savage as the only African Americans to win the award is a feat that sets Brown in unique company.

“When they approached me last year about being one of the three awardees for this year’s dinner, I had to think about it for a long time for many different reasons,” Brown said. “When I looked at their list of prior award recipients I said ‘You know, if I’m being offered this opportunity, I’m going to have to accept it.’ It’s not too often at least based on the history that they have selected African Americans to bestow that honor. I consider it a big deal and I’m honored to be selected.”

Brown’s recent selection continues a remarkable trend of historic accomplishments for the small town Florida native. With a host of other accolades under his belt, Brown continues to establish himself as a pioneer in African-American entrepreneurship, an achievement that continues to gain national recognition.  

“NFTE is honoring Eddie Brown for his exemplary leadership, vision and success as an entrepreneur,” said the Baltimore affiliate’s Executive Director Patricia Granata Eisner in a press release. “There could be no better role model for our students in the city than Eddie Brown. He has shown them firsthand how an education and a passion for entrepreneurship can lead to professional and personal success.”