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The Houstons’ first family business was a joint venture that — after a series of acquisitions and transactions — became the largest minority-owned transportation company in North America. While running this business, Houston recalls often being the only African-American woman in the room and feeling the “spotlight.” “I used to say, ‘How does everyone know who I am?’ When you’re one of eight or 10 in a room, they are going to pretty much know who you are,” said Houston. “There was always the desire, the obligation and the self-imposed pressure to be the best at what you were doing.”

In 2001, the Houstons divested from the transportation industry to form a smaller entity in supply-chain management. They downsized to a 50,000-square-foot facility and opened their doors as Houston-Johnson Inc. The company rebranded as HJI Supply Chain Solutions in 2016.

Despite economic setbacks, Houston was able to build another thriving business focused on providing top logistics support services. “The heart and soul of what we do is keeping the lines of production running,” said Houston. “HJI is an organization of motivated and dedicated, caring, capable, qualified people who work diligently to help our customers, in whatever capacity of the supply chain, to be the best that they can be and provide peace of mind.”
In 2017, Houston stepped down as president of HJI, after a planned three-year presidential succession, allowing a new generation of community leaders to emerge. “My role now is making sure that the values and culture and vision [for the company] remain,” said Houston. “Looking at acquisitions and mergers, it’s more strategic and about ensuring that HJI remains in the community.” Along with counseling the HJI team, Houston plans to continue working in the community helping other family businesses and supporting programs and initiatives that increase African-American educational attainment.

Credit: BizJournals Louisville