When you hear the words ‘small business week,’ you might picture your wholesome corner grocery store. While we love all the mom-and-pop shops of the world, we want to call out some rad independent businesses that are a bit outside the small biz box. In honor of National Small Business Week, here are some of our favorites in Houston right now.

Think we missed one? Nominate an out-of-the-box small business in Houston and they could win $1,000 to reinvest in their business – and you could win $100 just for giving them a shout out!

OKRA Charity Saloon: Eighteen restaurant owners walked into a bar…and started a charity! Seriously, this happened. OKRA Charity Saloon is the genius brain child of independent restaurant/bar owners in Houston, where 100% of the proceeds are donated to charity. OKRA (which stands for Organized Kollaboration on Restaurant Affairs) operates exclusively from charitable contributions from individuals and companies that share similar views. As a guest, for every drink you purchase, you get to cast a vote for one of four monthly charity partners. The charity with the most votes receives the next month’s proceeds. This model does two things: 1) It makes you feel good about drinking more (rock on), and 2) It helps charities (duh). What more can I say?

Neartown Animal Clinic: The only thing that could possibly be better than drinking for charity is helping innocent puppies. Neartown Animal Clinic has been taking care of business (and puppies, kittens, ferrets, you name it) since 1995. Not only do they have a stellar staff and great relationships with pet lovers all over Houston, but they’re also certified by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). Sounds a bit stodgy and brainy, but it’s a serious brand differentiator for them – only 15% of small animal hospitals achieve this accreditation, which says a lot. I give them mad props for stepping up, getting certified and saying, “We’re more than just cute puppies.”

Ashford Pub: This Irish pub was originally known as the Poop Deck. We’re not entirely sure why, but despite the name, this rugged pub has stayed in business for nearly 30 years. My hunch is it’s due to their generous 8-hour-long Happy Hour from 11a.m.- 7 p.m. Who ever said drinking had to be done at night? More importantly, who ever said Happy Hour could only be 1-hour-long? The Ashford Pub thinks differently than the average bar, and perhaps that’s why they’ve built a business that’s well above average.

Backstreet Café: This neighborhood café started out as a mom-and-pop style restaurant serving soups, salads and sandwiches. Today, it is a critically acclaimed top table in the city, led by award-winning Executive Chef Hugo Ortega. What took this café from good to great? Perhaps it had something to do with Ortega’s personal history at Backstreet, where he first worked as a busboy and dishwasher, and later as a line cook before graduating from culinary school and taking over as head chef. He knows a hard day’s work and all the different players that make up the backbone of Backstreet. Nothing better than good food and good people to make a meal great, eh?

Houston Zoo: Did I mention we love businesses that help animals? Smaller than many metropolitan zoos, the Houston Zoo makes a big impact on the community by going beyond the exhibits and following their guiding principles, two of which are ‘Be the leading environmental education resource in Texas’ and ‘Operate sustainably; set an example for others.’ This is apparent in the Zoo’s extensive Education program for all ages, as well as their Texas Conservation and Global Conservation programs. What’s an ecosystem without the animals, right? These folks are on to something – engaging visitors goes beyond just the exhibits. It’s time to get hands on.

Whether you’re in Houston or the Hamptons, join us in giving a nod to mom-and-pop shops that are thinking a little differently, and therefore doing swimmingly, this National Small Business Week. Nominate a small business in Houston that you think is stepping up and out of the box – they could win $1,000 to reinvest in their business, and you could win $100 just for being nice!

References made to companies in this post are not meant to convey endorsement of Rubicon by those companies in any way.
Photo Credit: David Leftwich