NC IDEA Newsletter – July 12, 2018

by Thom Ruhe
Among the things I most enjoy about my job, working with a committed and talented team of people tops the list. Since this week is Black Entrepreneurship Week, I asked our summer Communications Intern, Sloan Hampton Taylor, to draft some background language about the rich legacy of black entrepreneurship in the region; the intent being that I would use some of it to fashion this editorial. What Sloan wrote, however, was an exceptional piece that needs no ‘edit’ from me and deserves full credit to the author. Even though we still have several weeks together before Sloan leaves us to study Law at UNC, I can say he will be missed and I look forward to seeing his career evolve.

The Entrepreneurship Behind the Architecture
by Sloan Hampton Taylor

If you were to look out of almost any window at NC IDEA, you would see the NC Mutual Life Insurance building. Its eminence is undeniable; it stands stories over neighboring buildings, making room for the decades-worth of historical significance embedded in its foundation. Headquarters to one of the most influential institutions in the nation, the building’s stature seems to embody the company’s lasting impact on Durham’s legacy.

During the years of Jim Crow, when “separate but equal” policies made it challenging for African-Americans to find adequate and affordable
alternatives to essential goods and services, black entrepreneurs created businesses that provided
their communities with the products and services denied to them by white-owned businesses. This spurred the “golden age of black business,” a movement of black entrepreneurs across the country establishing businesses that catered to black consumers.

Among the many successful black entrepreneurs during the “golden age” was John Merrick. A successful barber and entrepreneur in Raleigh, North Carolina, Merrick made it his mission to create an opportunity for African-Americans to receive insurance. Essential end-of-life costs were a burden for many people, especially for African-Americans who were consistently refused insurance and burial services by fraternal organizations and insurance companies.

So, in 1898, Merrick partnered with Dr. Aaron Moore, Durham’s first black physician, and C.C. Spaulding to establish the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, and it quickly became one of the most successful black-owned businesses in the nation.

 NC Mutual Life Founders“There were businesses that blacks could not   patronize, and these men decided to fill in the   gaps,” says Dr. Ben Speller, senior research   fellow at North Carolina Central University. “If   white-owned insurance agencies and banks   could or would not serve blacks, people like
Merrick, Moore, and Spaulding would provide those services.”
In 1906, the company’s success landed it on Parrish Street, located in downtown Durham. NC Mutual Life also purchased additional office space on Parrish Street to rent out to other black entrepreneurs, creating Durham’s “Black Wall Street.” “Black Wall Street” became the demonstration of how successful businesses can be when they are founded on principles of service and economic empowerment.A century later, we celebrate black entrepreneurship in North Carolina as the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center hosts its second-annual Black Entrepreneurship Week in Raleigh. From July 9-13, black entrepreneurs in the state will have the opportunity to network, participate in developmental workshops, and encourage one another in their efforts to strengthen communities, redefine cultural landscapes, and build a brighter tomorrow.

Jacqueline Moss, founder of Snatcher Inc. and recipient of a 2018 NC IDEA SEED Micro-Grant, says she loves the idea of a black entrepreneurship week. 
“It’s exciting because there are people who look like 
me that I can look to and say, ‘If he or she can do it,
I can do it, too,’” says Moss. “It’s providing that support you just don’t get when you’re out there by yourself.”

When you look through the windows of the NC IDEA office, you don’t just see a tall steel-frame commercial building; you see a monument molded by the entrepreneurial efforts of men and women faced with challenges that threatened to hinder their social and economic advancement. Their ambition and willingness to serve exemplifies the entrepreneurial mindset that makes strong businesses and even stronger communities. In our efforts to support and empower entrepreneurs across the state, we’ll strive to follow the path forged by the brilliant entrepreneurs who laid the foundation.


NC IDEA is seeking partners for its second iteration of NC IDEA ECOSYSTEM.

NC IDEA ECOSYSTEM supports organizations executing innovative and transformational ideas that can strengthen North Carolina’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. We are inviting proposals from organizations within North Carolina that primarily help people start and grow high-potential firms. High-potential firms are companies that have the potential to grow into seven-figure companies and/or employ more than 50 people within 5-7 years. NC IDEA is particularly interested in proposals from organizations who serve under-resourced entrepreneurs building scaleable businesses. Under-resourced is intentionally vague; the lack of resources may be due to factors of geography, gender, race or limited economic means. 

Click here to learn more and apply.

NC IDEA Summer School Series

There are only 4 more sessions of NC IDEA Summer School left!

Bring your lunch and join us on any of the Wednesdays listed below at noon for an hour focused on an important topic to help you grow your business.

Register for any of the sessions at the individual links below: 

Can’t attend the course in person? No worries. Each session will be livestreamed on Facebook and made available on our YouTube channel. Click here to catch up on the courses you’ve missed!
Don’t forget to follow us on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn for NC IDEA Summer School news and updates!

Other News & Events

Innovate Durham Applications
June 18 – July 23, 2018
Applications for the 2018 Innovate Durham cohort are now open!

Innovate Durham is a 12-week partnership program that turns the City of Durham and Durham County into a lab to test your idea, product or service. Through the program, participants will get access to staff, data and facilities to assist with making Durham more efficient and encourage a culture of innovation in Durham.For more information, or to apply, click here.

Code the Dream Volunteer Interest Meeting
July 23 and August 1, 2018
Code the Dream, one of American Underground’s resident nonprofits, is searching for volunteers. They are especially looking for folks to help teach programming classes and/or to serve as development leads on student projects.

Code the Dream offers free coding courses to immigrants, refugees, low-income, and minority students, ages 15+. After students have completed two courses with CtD, they go into the Labs phase, where they get real-world experience working on applications for nonprofits and start-ups.

If you’d like to hear more about Code the Dream and how you can plug in, join CtD for a conversation on either July 23rd or August 1st from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. RSVP here.

PopUp @ American Tobacco
August 2018

 Starting in August, PopUp @ American Tobacco will feature a revolving series of popup concepts in a prime retail spot at 359 Blackwell St. in Diamond View III. Visitors might experience a new coffee brand for a few weeks, then a fresh idea in yoga, then an apparel line. It’s not just a series of popups, it’s an ongoing adventure. For more information on how you can help write the next chapter in Durham’s journey as “the Startup Hub of the South,” visit

For more industry news and events, visit