In all the talk of Durham’s emergence as a hub of entrepreneurship, it’s easy to forget that one of its richest legacies is in fact, entrepreneurship. 

At one of American Underground’s most packed HelpFest events yet, the startup campus celebrated the city’s Black Wall Street and its heritage as a place where black entrepreneurs and business people flourished. Three entrepreneurs also shared how they’ve been inspired by that heritage. 

In the video below, you’ll hear from those men. First up is Justin Laidlaw, a Durham native and North Carolina Central University student who works for several Durham startups. One of those is RUNAWAY, an urban apparel company inspired by Durham and with a new Black Wall Street line (pictured above, photo credit: Runaway Inc.) that nods to the city’s past. 

Wendell McCain, the son of a North Carolina civil rights leader and member of the Greensboro Four, is a UNC graduate and venture capitalist who started and sold a private equity firm and now runs an asset management firm called Onset Capital Partners in Chapel Hill. He’s dedicated to building wealth and economic liberation in impoverished and underrepresented communities—it’s capital that gives people influence, he believes.

Talib Graves-Mann, American Underground’s new Entrepreneur-In-Residence, comes from a family of Durham entrepreneurs and today is helping to build RainbowMe, an entertainment platform to introduce kids to diverse populations and cultures around the world. For more on Graves-Mann, read this recent ExitEvent profile of the man and American Underground’s new EIR program.
Watch each of their talks below: