Black Businesses in Houston Flourish With Help From "Buy Black" Push

Black Businesses in Houston Flourish With Help From “Buy Black” Push

black businesses in Houston
Rep. Jackson Lee (center) at the GHBC ceremony
After working in global investment banking for several years, Richard Robertson took the gamble to become his own boss. He became the owner and president of Iron Horse Freight Line Inc. Robertson was among the 2018 Pinnacle Award winners selected by the Greater Houston Black Chamber (GHBC), at a black-tie gala recently honoring black businesses in Houston. 

The business he started in 2015 provides heavy hauling, airfreight, border crossing, logistics, and other transportation services to Fortune 500 companies and small businesses. Robertson made the change after working as an investment banker for seven years at Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs in New York City, and London.

The transition is paying off. He expects his company to post 2018 revenues of nearly $10 million, up from $7 million in 2017, and $3 million in 2016.

“We’ve been able to grow into a diversified logistics company by providing superior customer services and taking care of all our clients’ needs,” he said.

black businesses in Houston
Richard Robertson, CEO of Iron Horse Freight Line, Inc., (center) receives the coveted Pinnacle Award from the Greater Houston Black Chamber.

The 24th annual GHBC awards celebration was attended by more than 800 guests, including Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, and also honored other individuals for everything from their advocacy work to lifetime achievement.

Courtney Johnson-Rose, the chamber’s board chair, said successful businesses are the backbone of any thriving community.

“That’s why we are happy to recognize some of Houston’s most prosperous companies each year at the Pinnacle Awards ceremony,” she said. “By highlighting the achievements of the men and women behind these businesses, we are giving hope to our community and playing a significant role in the economic empowerment of the black community.

This year’s event occurred as the “Buy Black” initiative had a positive impact for chamber members as well as black businesses throughout Houston.

Black businesses that have shared with the chamber and other groups have seen a definite uptick in the effort of consumers to seek out their businesses to buy goods and services. The chamber’s members maintain that is especially true when it comes to restaurants, event venues, and professional services such as accountants and attorneys.

The GHBC plans to begin in early 2019, the second year of a business readiness program that helps teach black entrepreneurs business fundamentals and how to apply them. Roughly 20 business owners go through an eight-week program before graduation.

At the same time, the chamber recognizes that there has been a number of black-owned businesses in Houston, that have had to close over the past year due to various factors. Some of them were forced to shut down due to massive damage caused by Hurricane Harvey. The GHBC is currently putting together help to support businesses that may be on the verge of closing. The business advocacy group is still working out the details.

Annually, five Pinnacle Awards and one Upstart Award are handed out to some of Houston’s most successful small businesses. This is the first year a Rising Star awardee was named.

The 2018 winners include:

Upstart Award: Bonita Billings, B’s Wine Bar

Rising Star Award: Fern Carty Dawkins, JM Carty Holdings, LLC

Pinnacle Award: Danette K. Davis, Kay Davis and Associates

Richard Robertson, Iron Horse Freight Line Inc.

Brandi Harleux, South Post Oak Recycling Center

Spurgeon Robinson, MPACT Strategic Consulting

Dr. Milton D. Moore, Moore Unique Skin Care and Unique Dermatology

Click here for the listing of other honorees.