DURHAM – NC IDEA recently announced the formation of the North Carolina Black Entrepreneurship Council, which will  lead NC IDEA in its programmatic and grant making ambitions to address the challenges of Black entrepreneurship in North Carolina, according to the organization’s website.  And the agenda received a lot of attention during the NC IDEA forum this week.

In conducting this work, the Council will work closely with the Foundation to identify, recommend and support partners, grant recipients, and programs to serve the entrepreneurial aspirations and economic potential of North Carolina’s Black community.

In a discussion with three members of the North Carolina Black Entrepreneurship Council, panelists Dee McDougal, Senior Vice President, Diversity & Inclusion, Pacific Western Bank, Katrece Boyd, General Business Counselor, SBTDC at NC State University, and Desmond Wiggan, CEO & Founder, BatteryXchange, shared the types of awareness, support, and resources that will create lasting, positive change for black entrepreneurs.

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“The first thing is that we really have to raise awareness,” said Boyd.  “There has to be a level of awareness where people know that they have support and services available to them.”

“We know that not only access to capital is a challenge, but access to networks, access to connections that can change the trajectory of these businesses, that’s where we can really make some change,” she added.  “The support organizations alone are not the only part of the ecosystem, there are other elements of the ecosystem that are important and that will support entrepreneurs, so we can address not just how we can get money invested in these entrepreneurs, but support their endeavors too so we can get them to scale.”

“Ecosystem building is not top-down, it is horizontal, it is building relationships,” said McDougal, describing the work of the North Carolina Black Entrepreneurship Council.  “We’re not just dropping a program and expecting people to respond, we’re leveraging the talents of the Council to create lasting change.”

The opportunity is now, said McDougal.  “It’s up to us to hold organizations and individuals accountable, and this work is important now, because there is a focus on it, and we need more focus on it, to be more impactful.”

“I’ve spent a lot of time up and down and all through North Carolina, and the conversations that I’ve had, and what I’m seeing on the ground, is that we’re heading in the right direction, and that’s why I’m hopeful,” said Wiggan.  “The data is there, let’s just change the narrative.”

The time is now, said Boyd. “With the onset of the pandemic, and the impact the pandemic has had in our community, and the way it has highlighted the disparities in our community, it is forcing people to be aware of the challenges in our communities, and because the awareness is high, it is our job to capitalize on that awareness.”

And the impact to local economies and to the American economy could be vast, said Boyd.  “By the year 2028, the racial wealth gap is going to cost the U.S. economy $1–1.5 trillion,” said Boyd, recounting research from a 2019 study by McKinsey.  “We can’t hold off on raising up black entrepreneurs, because when we raise up our community, every community rises.”

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