There is something in the DNA of people who become champions—the expectation of winning never leaves.
After winning the 1981 college basketball championship as a sophomore for the famed Indiana Hoosiers, Isiah Lord Thomas III got used to the idea of winning.
Thomas declared for the NBA draft right after and was picked second overall by the Detroit Pistons, where he spent his entire storied career. The “Bad Boy” point guard led the team to two championships in 1989 and 1990.
Being inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame cemented his champion pedigree. He also made his way into various executive, coaching, and ownership roles with several NBA teams, including the New York Knicks, the Toronto Raptors, and the Indiana Pacers.
The champion gene definitely goes beyond the court. Look at the entrepreneur and businessman that Thomas has become. He is chairman and CEO of ISIAH International, LLC, and Isiah Imports where he oversees a number of companies.
The still-rising entrepreneur spoke with BLACK ENTERPRISE about a recent achievement with one of his entities, Gre3n, LLC. The NBA legend also discussed the legacy he is building for his businesses, the major contract one of those entities recently inked, and what to anticipate from one of the greatest point guards to ever touch a basketball.
After being one of the greatest basketball players to have stepped on the court and becoming a successful entrepreneur and businessman, why did you choose to start and or connect with the type of companies and industries you currently run?
Basketball has and continues to play a large role in my life but then you realize that being on the court doesn’t last forever, so you must make wise decisions. I wanted to establish a family business so that my nieces and nephews could have somewhere to work after college. The goal has always been to uplift my family out of generational poverty.
You’re currently heading one of the largest Black-owned vegetation management companies, Gre3n, LLC. What does the company do and why did you have an interest in this field?
Gre3n is most proud of its safety record, as safety is our highest priority. The industry is dedicated to preventing unmanaged and poorly maintained vegetation which can cause electricity outages, wildfires, soil erosion, and, at times, water quality issues. In the electric and gas transmission utility space, Gre3n works closely with transmission owners to prevent and, if necessary, repair outages. These are all issues that impact communities, especially following natural disasters.
Gre3n, LLC recently received a major contract award from DEMCO to further expand and continue to uphold its commitment to consumer safety. What does that mean for the company and how important was it for the company to get this?
This award solidifies our safety record. Whenever we talk about Gre3n, as I mentioned before, the motto is safety first. We also hire the best talent, and we provide our crew with the best equipment to get the job done.
Receiving the contract award from DEMCO meant a lot. It means that Gre3n can continue upholding our safety standards. This contract award also highlights our continued commitment to the communities that we serve, while furthering our role as a leading Black-owned vegetation management company. Receiving this award showcases our ability to receive, and maintain, relationships with large and mid-size energy companies and continue to solidify our unique place in vegetation management.
What should we expect from you and the ISIAH INTERNATIONAL family of companies in the near and distant future? What could we see from Isiah Thomas?
Expect continued expansion in every area–that’s the goal. We are in the process of expanding our international footprint. As a Black-American man, I am especially excited about my foray into the champagne space, with our highly successful Cheurlin Champagne, the no. 1-rated low- and zero-sugar champagne in America. I will work to expand our business’s global reach while investing in my family and our community. We are currently operating in Europe, Latin America, Africa, rhe Caribbean, and Canada. We are the only American-owned company operating in the Aube region of Champagne, France. As we have seen from the valuation of even young brands reaching into the hundreds of millions of dollars, Cheurlin is on the cusp of significant revenue-driven metrics.
What advice would you give someone who has a passion to become an entrepreneur?
I would tell them that there are two aspects of business. Either you are selling a product or selling a service. If you have a product, learn your product. Be evangelical about selling it! If you are selling a service, be the best at the service that you are providing.
Your basketball legacy has been set, what would you like your business legacy to be?
I would like my business legacy to be one that highlighted my commitment to communities that need it most. With us operating internationally, we are changing the dynamics and outcomes for generations of families.
We just negotiated what I believe to be, the largest Black-owned land rights deal in the Americas. We have secured approximately 1.2 million acres of land by working with the Afro-Columbian communities. That is historical! What we are about to do in the Americas is phenomenal. When you talk about the impact that we have on communities internationally, that is what I want my legacy to be.