Every entrepreneur has their own story of how they’ve built their success, but Billy Vickers’ journey began through a rise up the corporate ladder, which helped him quietly build up one of the largest Black-owned businesses in the U.S.
Vickers is noted as a humble man, but has accomplished quite a lot in his career. As CEO of Dublin-based company Modular Assembly Innovations, Vickers grew his business — ranked in the top five of the Black Enterprise List of 100 in 2019 — to generate $1.2 billion in revenue with Honda as its sole customer, Columbus CEO notes.
To date, Vickers is considered one of the most successful Black businessmen in America, but his dedicated work ethic was planted in the early 60s back on his grandfather’s North Carolina cotton farm in Forest City.
From there, an “old ornery football coach” persuaded him to play football as a high school freshman, where he learned valuable teamwork and athletic skills that got him recruited by North Carolina State University — where he would become the first in his family to attend college.
Vickers had dreams of playing in the NFL, but after sustaining a knee injury that ended his football career, he decided to enter the business world and “get a real job,” he told Columbus CEO.
Following his short-lived professional sports career, Vickers started his business pursuit as a management trainee at Corning Electronics in Raleigh, North Carolina. He then worked at a steel mill in Ironton, Ohio, where he went on to become a plant superintendent in charge of manufacturing operations, quality, and new product launches, Face 2 Face Africa shares.
According to Shoppe Black, eight years later he would land in Detroit as a general manager running the largest minority-owned foundry during that time, making parts for car giants such as Chrysler and General Motors.
“It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. It introduced me to more of the automotive industry and I got the opportunity to run the plant and be the top guy,” he told Columbus CEO.
By this time he had also already established his own business — Quality Engineering — but was still slowly climbing through the ranks.
Then in 2004, Army veteran and Vickers’ mentor, Detroit businessman Joseph Anderson Jr. — who had a acquired a controlling interest in Chivas Products Limited and later started TAG Holdings LLC — tapped Vickers to buy out TAG. From there, he became the majority owner of three plants in January 2011, under the Modular Assembly Innovations name, Columbus CEO reports.
“He was a person who had a business operations background, who had been responsible for employees and who I knew was competitive,” Anderson said to Columbus CEO. “And there was a level of maturity I saw that said he had the motivation and drive to succeed.”
Vickers went on to create his own legacy, expanding his company’s products that the plants produced for Honda and even bought a new company in South Carolina recently.
While he isn’t finished expanding, Vickers says growth has been so rapid that he’s decided to “settle down” for a time to concentrate on strategic planning.
For more information on Vickers and his company, click here.