By Jasmine Ashton – Business First Correspondent Apr 26, 2018, 2:00pm Community service is part of Alice Houston’s DNA. “My family was always in their own way giving,” said Houston, chairman and CEO of HJI Supply Chain Solutions. From an early age, Houston recalls always being surrounded by people and participating in activities through church and school. Growing up as a coach’s daughter taught her the importance of teamwork, which undoubtedly helped shape her personal and business philosophy. “Community responsibility is about giving back — not just financially, but showing up,” said Houston. “It means participating and volunteering.” When she was 23 — while working as assistant director of financial aid at the University of Louisville — Houston’s supervisor placed her with the local Urban League chapter, beginning her development as a community leader. Today, Houston carries on this tradition by serving on the board of directors for multiple organizations and ensuring that the HJI leadership team follows her legacy of community service. “As our leadership team evolves, that’s part of our commitment,” said Houston. “They participate in Louisville’s various committees, whether it’s IGNITE Louisville or Leadership Louisville, because they will become the next leaders of the community. Community service is part of who we are.” Houston says she didn’t grow up intending to go into business, but her background in counseling, student personnel services and finance prepared her to run one. Her husband, Wade — a former basketball coach and minority owner of HJI — was interested in owning a business but coaching was his passion. So Houston’s role became “steering the ship.” 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.” At the time, Houston was unaware of any other women in a similar position who she could seek advice from. Over the years, however, she has witnessed an influx of women into all fields, many of them willing to help each other. Houston attributes this increase to greater funding availability and the emergence of organizations designing outreach programs and seminars offering women the tools to succeed in the business arena. Houston believes women have realized there is, “quality and quantity in numbers and sharing.” But business remains a “closed-knit society” that can be reinforced by activities, such as golf, that women may not have the time or desire to participate in. She would like to see more women in boardrooms and running companies of all sizes. Houston helps female entrepreneurs by participating in mentorship opportunities and speaking engagements revealing the path that led to her business’s success. “The story is just not one that suddenly some seeds were planted and we just sprung up,” said Houston. “The story is the challenges that we go through when there’s a decline in an economy …. How do you weather those storms? So by telling your story you encourage others.” “I don’t think I was arrogant,” said Houston. “But I do think there was excessive confidence that it could be done again, not appreciating all the parts that had gone together to be able to do that the first time.” 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.