Houston White is a serial entrepreneur with a number of ventures to his credit. He is a hairstylist, a coffee purveyor, a fashion designer and a real estate developer. White operates his businesses in Minnesota, where people of color make up 20% of the working-age population, but only 10% of business owners.
He is the co-founder of Get Down Coffee, a beverage business he started with the owner of Dogwood Coffee Co. Dan Anderson. Initially, White wanted Anderson to open a Dogwood location in his building but Anderson later suggested launching a coffee business together. White’s coffee is now sold on Target as well as his clothing line.
White grew up in Mississippi surrounded by his family and grandmother, who made his clothes. After his parents divorced, he was relocated to north Minneapolis by his mother although he spent summers in Mississippi, working at his family’s drywall business.
He ventured into entrepreneurship as a barber. When he was only 16 years old, he converted his basement into a barbering shop where he cut the hair of kids. He also used the basement to sell his airbrushed T-shirts.
“In Black urban America, a haircut and clothing are the simplest, easiest ways to change your entire social status,” White told Startribune. “I was naturally a hustler. I knew how to make money. I knew how to enterprise, and I was willing to work.”
White enrolled in a barbering school against the urgings of his family and friends to go to college which they viewed as a much safer path to success. He later became a partner at his brother-in-law’s expanding Plymouth Avenue shop.
“Back when I decided to be an entrepreneur, it was definitely not popular,” White recalled. “It was like, ‘You are going to ruin your life! What are you doing?’” Despite the pessimism expressed by his family and friends, his barbering shop thrived and he even had Vikings and Timberwolves players.
Barbering led White to start his next business after one of his clients in the mortgage business urged him to buy a house. Once he flipped his first home, he started flipping and building more homes. However, he went into bankruptcy following the 2008 mortgage crisis.
“He and his wife moved from a large suburban home to an apartment above a little brick building he’d recently bought, on 44th Street in Webber-Camden. The copper-stripped structure didn’t look like much, but it soon became White’s next business hub,” StarTribune noted.
According to Startribune, White now wants to build a ‘Black mecca’ in north Minneapolis. He recently proposed rebranding his Webber-Camden neighborhood as Camdentown to tackle racial equity by building paths to generational wealth for Black people. White aims to bring $50 million worth of investment to create a commercial corridor and new housing.