Between advocating for HIV research in the LGBTQ community early in her career and starting her own technology consulting firm, Kimberly Cook has always had an undeniable passion for helping others.
“I come from the scientific-research field, and decided to join the business field later,” says Cook, who identifies as lesbian. “Technology touches every bit of our lives, and if used properly, it can greatly impact our experience as human beings on this Earth. I have always enjoyed being able to operate in that space and help people.”
“Business is about people. I love being able to interact with clients and empower them. I love making sure all the technology in their business is working.”
Cook is the founder of Integris LLC, a technology consulting firm that delivers custom software solutions and training for administrative-services automation. Cook specializes in clarifying client issues and business goals, and then designing technology solutions to help meet those goals.
“We provide greater technology services to small-business clients in Houston,” she said. “It is the best thing I have ever done in my career.”
Cook’s early career path had her focusing on scientific research—something that helped prepare her for the business world, since both fields revolve heavily around people, Cook says. “Business is about people. I love being able to interact with clients and empower them. I love making sure all the technology in their business is working.”
It is a challenging process to create your own company, and Cook notes that it’s crucial to find the right people to work with.
“It is all about the people who interact with you,” she says. “Along this journey, I have had the extreme good fortune to meet, work with, provide services for, and receive mentorship from some really incredible people.”
The journey to build her own firm has not been easy. Cook had to learn to use the right tools to become a smart, effective business owner in order to thrive in Houston’s competitive market.
“As a business owner, you create the structure and it is all up to you,” she says. “It is a completely different ball game, in terms of what you are responsible for. There is just a major learning curve if you have never been involved in business before.”
“There is no point in trying to do it all on your own,” she says. “What I have really learned in the process is being able to ask for help.” Cook has been especially grateful for the overwhelming support she has gotten from her Houston colleagues and friends.
“People really care about each other in Houston,” she says. “Everyone is so interested in helping each other.”
While Cook was not born in Houston, it has become the place she calls home, and Space City now holds a special place in her heart.
“I came out in Houston,” she says. “I have family in Dallas, but I have gained friends who are family here. No matter what background you have or where you come from or who you love, Houston is the most diverse city in the country.”
That diversity not only makes for a rich living experience, but also translates into a diverse clientele, Cook notes. “I love that. There are so many different kinds of communities in Houston.”
The future of her business looks bright, and Cook is staying focused on helping local businesses and continuing to tap into Houston’s diversified economy.
In particular, Cook plans to expand her consulting services. “My heart is with small business,” she says. “It is just a fun space, and I love being able to provide consulting.”
Anyone who is looking to start their own business must remember that being supportive is key, and asking for guidance is okay, Cook says. “I think it is better for businesses to help each other grow, rather than being divisive and competitive. There is so much available for people. Helping each other makes us a better city. We are only as strong as [our ability to] stand united.”
For more information on Integris, visit integrisprojects.com.
This article appears in the March 2020 edition of OutSmart magazine.