Three Successful Black Business Owners

by Tonya Dixon | November 13th, 2013
John Harris

John Harris (Photo by Howard Gaither)

Entrepreneurship is a daunting task; but it is not insurmountable. Opportunities are endless for anyone bold and fearless enough to believe in themselves. Huami Magazine speaks with three African American businessmen to discover the secrets to their success and their stories of triumph. Here are their stories.

Several years ago Richard Lide was primed to enter the NFL. The Raeford North Carolina native graduated from North Carolina A&T State University ready for an exciting future. He had it all planned. He would retire from the game he loved so much. Unfortunately, things didn’t proceed quite the way he thought they would and his football career didn’t materialize. He was disappointed, but consoled himself knowing that he would be able to coach. At least he would still be connected to the sport. Yet again, he discovered coaching was not the plan God had for his life; instead he found himself working at a local staffing agency.

Throughout college Lide worked as an on-site recruiter for a national staffing firm. It was at the agency that he developed a bug for the staffing industry. “I was always intrigued about this industry. I liked the fact that I would be helping people get jobs so they could care for their families without government assistance. I liked helping people get on their feet or even get better jobs.” In 2002, Lide took the next logical step and partnered with two other colleagues to establish a staffing agency. However, the venture didn’t work out and the group disbanded in 2006. The amicable split afforded him the opportunity to start his own agency completely by himself. Later in the same year Lide launched his brain child, Patriot Staffing Employment Agency. The business took off and he hasn’t looked back.

In 2012, Patriot Staffing was recognized as number three in the Triad’s Fast 50. The Triad Fast 50 showcases the 50 fastest growing companies in the Triad. The company was also recognized as the sixth largest minority-owned business in the Triad. The first year of business, the agency made over $1.2 Million dollars. It’s no wonder Patriot Staffing is highly touted by business clients throughout the community. The company provides staffing solutions for many of the area’s largest employers and has other clients as far away as Texas. Lide says staying in tune with the latest in technology is how he has grown his business. “Technology is a big part of staffing. People apply online and even interview online through Skype. As technology grows staffing is moving to a place of virtual offices,” Lide says. Whatever the trend, it is certain Patriot Staffing will advance and expand as well.

In addition to his flagship agency, Lide has already planted other fully functional branches in Asheboro, Charlotte, Hickory, Durham and Roanoke Virginia. He has a great deal on his plate, but his wheels are always turning. He’s always looking for areas to further expand. Days are spent talking to clients, prospective clients and staff, writing bids and overseeing the company’s finances. He is intentionally hands on and intricately involved.

The road has not always been easy for Lide though. He admits he erred along the way. “When I first started I made my share of blunders and mistakes. I had to get credit cards and loans. There was a lot of trial and error, but I did whatever it took,” he says. “I didn’t have many business role models growing up so I prayed to God for guidance and direction. I’m definitely an advocate of prayer.”

Lide says being prepared is vital to success as well. It’s all about gaining experience, at least five years he says, understanding industry procedures, terminology and having a well-developed plan. Not only does Patriot Staffing provide employment solutions, but Lide believes he and the business should be examples and give back to the community as well. He has a passion and desire to work with youth and teach them the necessity of professionalism.

It has been 10 years since Lide established his first business; moreover, it is increasingly apparent he is on track for many more years to come.
All it took was a few weeks working an internship and Greensboro native, Rudolph Artist knew exactly what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. Rudolph “Rudy” Artist is the founder and owner of the highly popular, Influance Hair Care Product line.

In 1991, Artist was an industrial engineer student at North Carolina A&T State University, but following a life-changing internship with Dudley Hair Products, he went back to school, and changed to a double major in business management and marketing. He was preparing himself for a lifelong career in the hair care industry.

Artist graduated college and went back to work with the same company for three years. Following a nine-year stint in Hampton Virginia, he returned to the Triad area and started Influance Hair Care.

Artist spent the better part of 3 ½ years planning and researching. The decisions that had to be made ran the gamut. It would take significant time, thought, dedication and strategy to bring his dream to fruition. “People don’t understand the planning and process. They just see the final product,” Artist says. “You have to decide things like what products you want to come out with, how you will develop them, how you will market, determine the size of products, budget, access risks and determine the amount of time you are willing to invest.”

Artist not only assumed the general risks associated with being a business owner, but he also risked his financial security. He took out a second mortgage on his home, depleted his 401(k) as well as his personal savings. It was a risk he was willing to take. He was motivated by his daughter as well as the leadership platform owning his own hair care business would provide for him to empower other cosmetology professionals.
Ironically, Artist didn’t initially have the desire to develop his own product line, but the more he interacted within the field the more he realized some needs were not being met. He was certain he could provide a means to meet those unfulfilled needs. In addition to all the other requirements for business ownership, Artist had to contend with developing a product from scratch. The chemistry involved in his business is vital. By very nature, if there is no product then there will not be a business. He says he invests in Influance constantly just to stay competitive.
Today Influance Hair Care Products are successfully distributed across the country; from the east coast to the west coast. Nevertheless, Artist isn’t satisfied and content with where the business stands. He is looking to do more, provide better products, empower and educate more professionals and consumers as well as procure more corporate accounts. “The sky is the limit,” he says.

John Hairston graduated from North Carolina A&T State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in industrial arts education. He secured a teaching and coaching position and commenced to living the life he thought he would live forever. He got married to his sweetheart, Cathy, built a house, and had three kids. He even had a small construction business on the side that contributed extra money to the household income. His plan worked perfect…for about 10 years. Hairston needed something more for his family. He soon discovered the pathway to what he needed.

What was supposed to be an avenue for supplementary income quickly morphed into a career change. Hairston approached McDonalds franchise, enrolled in its owner training program and within approximately 1 ½ years he purchased his first McDonalds restaurant in downtown Atlanta Georgia on 209 Peachtree St. Hairston and his wife were all in. They were completely dedicated to making the venture work. The two successfully managed to reinvigorate the previously struggling restaurant and ultimately received an award for the most improved restaurant in the region.

After three years, Hairston and his family moved back to their native Charlotte North Carolina. He began purchasing more McDonalds restaurants and eventually building his own. To date, the Hairstons own 10 restaurants located in and around Charlotte.

Hairston never questioned whether he was capable of succeeding in the business. He only questioned how he should do it. He relied on what he already knew. “Honestly, it was all very simple. My job as a coach was to assemble teams, put people in positions where they could be successful and keep them motivated,” says Hairston. “As a coach I would develop a game plan, so I did the same thing and developed a game plan for my restaurants.” Hairston made sure to give everyone-whether cashiers, cooks or managers-targets and achievement goals. He also strategically sought out opportunities to generate more business. If conventions were in town, he knew it and he says he did everything to prepare.

Hairston admits he nor his wife had direct restaurant experience, but it was less about their lack of experience and more about their belief in God and themselves. “The first thing you have to do is believe,” he says. “I’m a strong believer. I never had a defeated attitude. I believe if I believe in something hard enough I can’t fail. Plus my family was depending on me. Failure wasn’t an option.”

In the meantime, Hairston and his wife are fully invested in their current properties as well as the communities they are in. From the Ronald McDonald House the Hairstons recently built to various civic and sports organizations, the Hairstons are investing in more than just brick and mortar they are investing in people.

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