BLACK HISTORY MONTH: Entrepreneurship runs in the family

Triad Pest Control owner Bo Gilliam, Ma’ati Spa owner Maya Gilliam and former Liberty Community Development Corp. President Jim Shaw stand in Ma’ati Spa in Winston-Salem. Photo by Todd Luck

BLACK HISTORY MONTH: Entrepreneurship runs in the family
February 01
14:31 2018

Shaw’s Tire Service and Gulf Service Station. Ma’ati Spa. Triad Pest Control.

These local businesses represent three generations of entrepreneurship in one family.

Jim Shaw bought a Shell service station on Liberty Street in 1967 for $5,000, shortly after quitting his job at RJR Tobacco Co. He had to borrow the money and, never having pumped gas before, had to learn the ropes of running a station quickly. He said he was the only black Shell service station owner in the city and the others would laugh at him as they were awarded prizes from the company for their high sales. Shaw pulled out all the stops, extending the station’s hours until it was open around the clock, selling 74,000 gallons a month and earning Shaw his own sales prizes.

“The boys stopped laughing then,” said Shaw.

He hired ladies dressed in hot pants to pump gas and wash windshields, which he credited for helping him become the largest Gulf dealer in the Southeast. Shaw also bought a BFGoodrich franchise in 1970 to open Shaw’s Tire Service. He owned the station for about eight years and Shaw’s Tires until 1984. After that, he opened a convenience store, Jack’s One Stop Shop on Patterson Avenue, which he owned for five years. Shaw has been well-known in more recent years as the president and chairman of the now defunct Liberty Community Development Corp., which brought new businesses to Liberty Street, such as the Medicap Pharmacy and Exxon Mobil Gas Station.

Shaw’s son, Bo Gilliam, opened Triad Pest Control in 1981 after quitting his job at Orkin, where he went door-to-door both selling and performing pest control services. At the time, he had a newborn daughter and a new house, but was determined to start his own pest control company. He started out with run-down vehicles and a loan from his father. He found success, as his client base grew.

Gilliam said his cowboy hat and boots helped customers remember him, but it’s his work ethic that made his business grow. He took his father’s advice to heart when it came to being an active business owner.

“All you got to do is go to work, and that’s what I do now,” said Gilliam.

His company has 12 employees who serve three states, doing work like treating soil on construction sites.

Bo Gilliam passed that advice about working to his daughter, Maya Gilliam, who is the owner of Ma’ati Spa. When working for her father’s business didn’t work out, she was determined to make it on her own. After graduating from a six-month massage program in Charlotte, she used money she made from her web design business, Third Eye Digital, to help fund the spa, along with a small loan from her grandfather. She moved into a brick building on Main Street and did a rent-to-own deal on its top floor before eventually acquiring its bottom one as well. She said she followed the example of her father and grandfather in running her spa.

“We’ve grown tremendously in a short amount of time due to the acumen that these two gentlemen have exhibited through my life,” she said.

The venture was not without its struggles, as she slept on massage tables early on, since she couldn’t afford to rent both an apartment and her business. There was also a fire that gutted the bottom floor, but it’s now beautifully remodeled in a building she fully owns. She now has nine employees.

The family mantra is if you work hard enough, everything will work out. There are many other entrepreneurs in the family as well, like Maya’s sister Fonta Gilliam, who created Sou Sou, a crowd banking software company in Washington, D.C.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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