ST. LOUIS, Missouri (CNN) — Michael and Steven Roberts didn’t have two quarters to rub together a couple of decades ago. Now, the two African-American business leaders estimate their holdings — from hotels to TV stations — are worth $1 billion. One St. Louis hotel they own once barred black people.
“Black folks need legacy. We have to have examples of successes in order for us to be able to let the generations to come know that many of the successes that occurred by African-Americans in this country can be seen and pointed out and can be emulated,” says Michael Roberts, the chairman and CEO of The Roberts Companies.
Michael and his brother Steven, who is three years younger, stroll through their office, complete with wood-paneled doors, large leather chairs and a pool table fit for a king. Their office sits along a busy street in St. Louis called Kingshighway.
“They used to call us the Kings of Kingshighway, because we own so much on this street,” Michael Roberts says.
Their office is the culmination of hard work and a can-do American business attitude to strive for greatness. They launched their business from a historically black neighborhood in north St. Louis.
From a one-room office, they created an empire now made up of 76 companies and 1,100 employees, many of them minorities. They own commercial real estate, TV stations, hotels, telecommunication companies and more. The name Roberts adorns all their properties.
“We weren’t rich. We weren’t poor, but we just never had any money,” Michael says of their upbringing.
They like to tell their story, encouraging people with new ideas to chase their dreams. If you don’t have money, they say, don’t let that stop you.