Black Millionaires Corner: ChemicoMays’ Leon Richardson Nurtures Emerging Entrepreneurs

Lessons from CEO of $85 million black-owned chemical supply company

As CEO of ChemicoMays L.L.C., (No. 45 on the 2015 BE100s Industrial/Service companies list with $85.8 million in revenues), Leon Richardson has worked with more than 20 different minority businesses from a mentoring perspective over the last 10 years.

“I work with 250 minority suppliers as co-chair of the General Motors Minority Supplier Council. I am the Minority Business Enterprise Input Committee chair of the Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council where I work with 1,249 minority owners in the state. They include Level 1 suppliers with less than $1 million in annual revenues to Level 4 suppliers with more than $50 million in annual revenues,” says Richardson.

“I previously was chairman of the National Association of Black Automotive Suppliers, a group now affiliated with the Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce. With those three pools of suppliers, there are a lot of opportunities for me to help mentor, nurture, and develop African American suppliers.”

He believes it is important to build mentor-protégé relationships. “The only way to bridge that gap and improve economic wealth in the African American community is by educating the next generation in entrepreneur-ism.”

Most recently, Richardson, 54, advised black female millennial entrepreneur, Nailah Ellis Brown, the 28-year founder and CEO of Ellis Island Tea.  The Detroit-based bottling operation produces a hibiscus herbal tea that is sold to grocery stores. “She really didn’t have a robust business plan, so we worked together to develop a business plan. It made it a lot clearer for her as to where she was, where she wants to take the business, and what path to go,” explains Richardson. The two will share their experience at the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Summit in Miami (May 4-7, 2016).

Richardson founded his Southfield, Michigan-based firm in 1989 and mastered the process of formulating, producing, and selling chemicals for an automotive supply chain company. Today ChemicoMays is a multi-national company with 300 employees. He recently started a chemical industrial supply division that will sell items such as welding rods, greases, and gases. ChemicoMays’ latest projects include a $2.5 million investment to provide chemical management services to Fiat Chrysler plants in Mexico and offering similar services at Honeywell plants throughout the U.S. and Mexico.

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“To avoid ebbs and flows that come from focusing on any specific industry, we have diversified our operations. We look for industries where paint is applied or the end unit has wheels. Cars, trucks, airplanes and jeeps all have wheels, making them part of the automotive, trucking, aerospace and defense contractor industries. Compressors and refrigerators have paint and are part of the heavy manufacturer and appliance industries. By 2020, we want to be in the $300 million to $400 million revenue range.”

Reporting by Jeffrey McKinney