Deidre Mathis envisioned herself becoming a journalist, majoring and then earning a master’s degree in the field. But when that career path no longer gave her the happiness she sought, she turned to a particular corner of the hospitality industry.
She is believed to be the first African-American woman to own a hostel in the U.S.
Wanderstay Hotels officially opened in mid-September, offering low-cost shared and private rooms close to downtown. The hostel was booked at 50 percent capacity during the first few days.
Mathis’ efforts in running the hostel, and her time serving as a mentor to young girls, made her a finalist this year for an Upstart award from the Greater Houston Black Chamber of Commerce.
Going on its 24th year, the Pinnacle and Upstart awards recognize African-American entrepreneurs who run successful businesses and give back to their community. Ten established companies are nominated for the Pinnacle award, with five winning each year. Five up-and-coming businesses are finalists for the Upstart award, with one winner. The winners will be announced Saturday.
Greater Houston Black Chamber Pinnacle & Upstart Awards
When: Saturday, Oct. 6 at 6 p.m.
Where: Marriott Marquis Hotel at 1777 Walker St
More info: Tickets are available for purchase at https://ghbcc.com/2018-pinnacle-awards-ticket-purchase/
When Mathis got the call about being an Upstart finalist, she felt an added validation to her work.
There are still moments when it hits her just how unique her story is. At hospitality industry events she’s often a double minority as a black woman. And there are times when plumbers and other visitors to the hostel can’t believe she’s the owner, sometimes asking to speak to her husband.
Yet none of that deterred Mathis, who earlier this year won the city’s annual Liftoff Houston business plan competition.
Wanderstay, a passion project inspired by Mathis’ world travels, offers room rates as low as $40. There is a shared living area and kitchen with first come first served gated parking and rental bikes.
The current address on Chartres Street is more of a proof of concept, Mathis said. In the next three years she hopes to expand into a larger commercial space, though she said she never wants to grow to hundreds of rooms because she wants to be able to interact and get to know all her guests.
Mathis also makes time to speak to students at the Young Women’s College Preparatory Academy across the street and at other motivational events across the city, sharing her success story.
The importance of highlighting black excellence was key to the launch of Pinnacle Award finalist Warren Luckett, founder of Black Restaurant Week.
For years Luckett knew that often non-black chefs took the credit for dishes that came out of the African diaspora.
After eating at a restaurant that labeled shrimp and grits as “New American” cuisine, Luckett decided to take action. In 2015 he created the culinary collective Black Restaurant Week to showcase local chefs and restaurants.
Since its launch, the collective has hosted catering and bartending competitions and opened a nonprofit to help black farmers with workshops and entrepreneurial panels. The collective now runs events in several other cities including Atlanta, Los Angeles, Oakland, New Orleans and Philadelphia.
Black Restaurant Week aims to support the broader African-American business community by promoting black-owned waste-management services, public-relations firms and bartending services for events.
“We’re excited about bringing the national black culinary community together,” Luckett said.
Other finalists for Pinnacle and Upstart awards this year include: Bee Fit Foods; The Cox Pradia Law Firm; D. Samuels & Associates; Iron Horse Freight Line; JM Carty Holdings; Kay Davis Associates; Moore Unique Dermatology; MPact Strategic Consulting; South Post Oak Recycling Center; 4.0 GPA; B’s Wine Bar; Smallcakes Pearland; and Tropical Smoothie Café The Woodlands.