When you think of William G. Mays, oftentimes the first word that comes to mind is businessman. Over his lifetime, he had many professional ventures, but Mays Chemical Company is one that this influential entrepreneur grew from the ground up.
“As an entrepreneur, you take the bitter with the sweet and keep going,” Mays said in a previous interview with the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper. “I started Mays Chemical in 1980 with $10,000, and it is now a leader in the chemical distribution industry.”
Today, Mays Chemical, a fully integrated chemical distributor, ranks 64th in the world, and 20th in the United States.
Those enviable rankings may be due to the company’s reputation for its ability to quickly and efficiently provide chemicals, related raw materials, acute care products, laboratory products, cleaning and sanitation systems, blending and repackaging and a host of other services.
What distinguishes Mays Chemical from others is not simply its status as a successful minority-owned enterprise, but its worldwide reputation for excellence.
As Mays himself once stated, “We don’t lead with the minority aspect, but with the fact that we are one of the very best across America in figuring out solutions to chemical distribution problems, storing products and getting products delivered on time at a competitive price.”
Mays was also famed as a business pioneer outside of Indiana.
“The intrepid entrepreneur has also been a leading Black angel investor, providing capital to a slew of minority businesses,” said Black Enterprise, in an article about Mays’ success.
In addition to that dedication to business, Mays Chemical Company is enhanced by a team environment where employees are motivated and united. This team is spearheaded by his daughter, Kristin Mays Corbitt who was named president in 2012.
Before moving into the president’s office, she served as vice president of operations and the assistant to the chairman. Mays Corbitt has held numerous other positions at Mays, starting as an intern, and progressing through a series of roles, including customer service representative, business analyst, director of customer service and marketing, and director of operations.
Committed to the community
Bill Mays’ business savvy has lead the company to expand to places such as Chicago, Pittsburgh and Puerto Rico. That wealth goes beyond financial and generously spills into the community.
The business has had a significant presence in the Indianapolis-area community outside of the business arena, and over $100,000 of its profits is donated to charitable causes each year.
Mays devoted much of his personal time to civic and professional organizations including being the first African-American chairman of the board for the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce as well as the first and only Black chairman of the annual campaign for the United Way of Central Indiana.
“We’ve always been of the mindset that we want to give back to the community and back up our commitment with real dollars,” Mays said.
Included among Mays’ most visible and lasting community initiatives was his purchase and revitalization of the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper in 1990.
Many credit Mays with ensuring the survival of the 119-year old publication, which remains a highly sought after African-American newspaper despite the harsh economic climate for print media.
“I wanted to see the Recorder survive to its 100th year,” Mays stated in a 2010 interview about his purchase of the historic Black newspaper. “The paper is still serving the community and doing quite well and we are very proud of that.”
A man of humility
Though Mays was the most successful African-American businessman in Indiana, when he discussed his success, it was with a matter-of-fact manner, laced with humility. He expressed gratitude that his investments of hard work, patience and financial capital paid off.
Besides, he said, anyone can succeed in business if they have education, experience, enough capital, and competent personnel as growth occurs.
“It’s just that simple. It has nothing to do with color, race or gender,” Mays said. “Those are the things you have to have.”
Throughout his lifetime, Mays proved the aforementioned time and time again as his professional success was comparable to or far exceeded many other entrepreneurs.