Kansas City native Christopher Vernon Stewart is a jack of all trades. The “do it all” carpenter/handyman/businessman, etc., is the founder of his own home improvement company, Stew’s Hardwood LLC, which opened in 2011. He is also co-owner of real estate investment firm KCS Culture. Typical of young men in the area, Chris grew up impoverished, with limited resources; yet he was also surrounded by a family culture of “go getters” and entrepreneurs! Watching his father, uncles, and other relatives open small businesses of their own ranging anywhere from construction, engineering, and carpentry, to daycare centers inspired Stewart to carry on the proud tradition of black ownership. His intention is to uplift individuals less fortunate, just as the men who came before him did. Chris’s ultimate goal is to bring affordable housing back to the very Kansas City southside community he came up in..
“Everybody defines success differently, but I feel like I have been pretty successful since taking a chance opening a business 11 years ago,” Chris says. “My family is proud of me. I know my grandfather was. So that’s success right there to me.”
As a result of their community ties, Chris’s family of Jamaican immigrants eventually became known around the city for its influence and heavy business-savvy nature. Stewart used this to his advantage, also becoming a mentor and counselor, coaching youth sports, running fundraisers, and investing in surrounding neighborhoods that have been historically overlooked. Though he admits to going through some financial hurdles at first, the single father of one held close to his vision and kept his eye on the prize even when things looked seemed dismal.
He told KCUR Radio 89.3: “I want to be a good leader and be a positive example for both my daughter and my family. Instilling good traits will help them make good choices,” adding, “I want to leave her something and being a business owner is how I show her that.”
Stewart also hopes his entrepreneurial efforts and successes will help inspire and empower other minorities to do the same. Such was the case with fellow Kansas City business owner of independent film company Chuck Browne Productions, who said recently:
“I know for a fact that Chris does work to the quality that probably surprises people that it’s Black-owned. He basically sets himself apart from the rest of the pack. In the Kansas City community, Chris is a role model. A good positive representative for the youth to copy. In fact, he inspired me to start my company and I will be forever grateful for that.”
To date, Stew’s Hardwood LLC has refinished more than 1,500 floors and completely remodeled nine or ten homes around the inner city. And if things go as planned, Christopher Stewart hopes to do many more.