TheIn the year since the Guardian profiled William Huston, the founder and chief investment officer of Bay Street Capital Holdings, a California-based wealth management firm that invests in the stock market along with a portfolio of small, minority-owned businesses, The US market has experienced great volatility. The S&P 500 index peaked in the first week of 2022, but by mid-October it had fallen 26.7%. Meanwhile, Huston’s firm’s portfolio has maintained its $85m (£70m) valuation, and its staff of 16 has not had to downsize.
Huston steers the health of his company on a specific pivot. His firm has doubled down on an untapped and underserved segment of the American economy: black-owned travel holdings. “Black travelers in America spend $109 billion (£90 billion) on leisure travel each year and only $1 billion (£831 million) goes to black-owned hotels,” he said of the disparity surrounding the travel industry. in the USA. Black-owned hotels make up 0.8% of the 58,000 hotels in the US. Less than 1% of the money that all African Americans spend on leisure travel ends up on black-owned properties.
With the establishment of Resthaven Properties, a members-only portfolio of boutique hotels, Bay Street Capital Holdings is betting big on travelers’ desire to support minority owners and visit properties whose values match their own. According to marketing firm Bluestone PIM, more than half of millennials prefer to shop at stores that reflect their priorities, and a similar study conducted by Survey Monkey showed that 73% of Gen Zers across age groups said it is very important for them to protect brands. with values similar to those they hold. Huston, who grew up in small-town Alabama and now has over 20 stamps in his passport, is betting on modern-minded travelers with a socially conscious bent booking at his Black-owned properties.
Hospitality areas now make up 20% of Bay Street’s portfolio. There’s a luxury rental in Venice Beach, California, popular with entertainment industry influencers and workers, and up-and-coming resorts in the trendy destinations of Portugal and the ski escape of Lake Tahoe. Bay Street Capital Holdings has also developed Unified, an app that connects influencers with travel properties, all in the name of publicizing new destinations to new audiences. “We wanted to add a layer of intentionality to the business,” Huston said from his home office in Fremont, Calif., whose walls are decorated with a colorful assortment of guitars and drawings created by his two-year-old son. “We will never compete with Marriott, but in five years people will know about us. And they’ll know the names of some of the other hotels that we don’t own but support, and that’s just as impactful.”
You founded Bay Street Capital Holdings in 2018. Where did the idea come from?
It all started a decade ago when I was a sophomore in college and started a call center in the Philippines. You see, I grew up in a town called Harvest, Alabama, and I was a classically trained piano player. My parents were teachers and they didn’t make any money. I was a freshman at Georgia Tech when my father became disabled, so our family income was suddenly much less than when he was working as a school principal. I left school to qualify for in-state tuition because if you had residency and worked, you could go to school mostly for free. The business I founded actually came out of a crisis.
And your solution was to open a call center?
It wasn’t like I had this master plan – it was more like I had a problem. However, I had a lot of arrogance and this was my business idea. I would read The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. I figured if I could work four hours a week, then I could still be in school and make money without working. I hired a person in the Philippines and soon I had hired a bunch of her friends. Soon there were 12. I was in Georgia, going to financial advisors, saying, “Hey, you need clients. I have a call center. We will call the customers. They will come to you and use your services.”
Why did you make the switch to open your own fund in 2018?
I started having this crisis of conscience where many of my employees and I were always sick because we were working odd hours. Many people had abortions. I didn’t like this lifestyle that relied on working hours of people who weren’t natural. So I started over, with a smaller call center in El Salvador and registered for an LLC. The team worked for my fund, not for other people’s companies. We’re not calling thousands of people a day like we used to. They are completely focused on the investment group.
And what is the biggest difference between Bay Street and the typical estate-management funds?
Everyone deserves a financial plan and financial guidance, no matter how much money they already have. We have $1,000 (£830) as a minimum billing – – or fee – – but we do not have a minimum investment amount.
What percentage of your investors are different?
Most of our customers are Indian or Chinese or women or LGBTQ. And then some of them are black. And that makes sense because when you look at the pie chart of where the wealth is, black people are not the ones who have discretionary income that they would be able to use to invest.
How are you working to change it from within?
Our move towards luxury properties aligns with our desire to increase black wealth. We’ve launched a platform that allows people to search for properties in an intentional way, so it determines which ones are owned by women or which ones are LGBTQ+ or which ones are owned by a person of color. Airbnb does something similar for 20%, but our rate is 15%.
You are a great traveler. Where do you want to revisit?
I really like the monasteries of Meteora in Greece. It’s one of the most beautiful places – they built these monasteries on top of the rocks. And Singapore is one of my favorite countries. It is a brand new city and has a beautiful layout of buildings. It feels intentional and holistic. You don’t often get that when you’re in the city.
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