Browse Tag

north carolina

2 mins read

Oldest Black-Owned Insurance Company Shutting Down

After more than 120 years, the oldest Black-owned insurance company in the United States has all but come to an end, and will soon be liquidated.

North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Co., which began in 1898 and whose iconic headquarters building helps define the Durham skyline, stopped writing new business in 2016. With a heavy debt load, it was placed into rehabilitation two years later, according to local news reports and state regulators.

black-owned insurance company
North Carolina Mutual Life (NCML) is the oldest and largest African American life insurance company in the nation. Image courtesy of the North Carolina Office of Archives and History, Raleigh, North Carolina.

The rehab and recovery has not succeeded. This week, a Wake County judge approved a petition from state regulators that the 240,000-policy insurer be liquidated. Premiums and claims will be covered by the North Carolina Insurance Guaranty Association, the state Department of Insurance said.

“The entry of an order of liquidation enjoins all persons from instituting any action at law or in equity or any attachment or execution against NC Mutual,” the insurance department said on its website.

Questions can be directed to the claims department at (800) 626-1899 or (919) 682-9201, and claims correspondence should be sent to NC Mutual, P.O. Box 281709, Nashville, TN, 37228.

NC Mutual was founded by several Carolina businessmen who initially sold burial insurance. The firm eventually expanded to 48 U.S. states and created other institutions, including Mechanics and Farmers Bank, according to reports in Spectrum News 1 and the Triangle Business Journal.

The company was credited with establishing Durham as a burgeoning business hub known as “the Black Wall Street.” But in later years, reports said that The Mutual, as it was known, lagged in technology, customer service and underwriting.

SOURCE: Insurance Journal


4 mins read

Black Owned Dental Practice Lands Partnership With NBA Team

Smile Savvy Cosmetic Dentistry is a Black owned dental practice based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Founders Joya and Drew Lyons took their first step from small business to big partner this year.

The duo joined the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets as a dental partner alongside big brand names such as Coca-Cola, Lowe’s, and NIKE.

black owned dental practice
Drew and Joya Lyons

The dental practice isn’t the only small business the Hornets signed on with, but it is the only local Black-owned business to make corporate partner with the professional NBA team, and one of only a small few among all NBA partners.

“As one of the few Black owned businesses to partner with the Hornets, we’re just happy to break barriers while continuing to give back,” Dr. Joya Lyons remarked.

Though the monetary details of the partnership are mostly unknown, Josh Rosen, senior director of corporate communication at Hornet S&E, confirmed that it is a multi-year partnership. As part of the deal, Smile Savvy will now be the primary sponsor of the well-loved “Smile Cam” and their branding will be displayed alongside birthday announcements during home games.

Additionally, Smile Savvy will be launching the “Smile Savvy Smile Watch,” in which neither the fans, coaches, staff nor the Hornets players themselves are exempt from being the subject of impromptu photos within this new digital series. Smile Savvy now also retains the rights to use Hornets logos and marks.

black owned dental practice

Furthermore, two lucky fans will get the opportunity to enter sweepstakes for the classy “Date Night” package. Smile Savvy and the Hornets will team up to present the winners with premium tickets, fine dining from the renowned chefs of the Crown Club, and an exclusive behind-the-scenes pregame experience.

The Smile Savvy duo aren’t strangers to giving. After opening their dental practice in 2014, the Lyons lamented the fact that a new smile was a luxury that many couldn’t afford. To remedy that, they launched the Lyons Share in March 2019, a charity organization that aims to give at least 4 people from underserved communities a smile makeover.

The couple rebranded and renewed their interest in cosmetic dentistry during the pandemic, finding the opportunity to present adults with new smiles more important than ever in a time so harrowing and uncertain.

“Smiles are a major part of human connection and interaction,” Dr. Drew Lyons said during a press release. “During the pandemic, people not only missed seeing the smiles of others but also realized how valuable they are when it comes to employment and other opportunities. By partnering with the Charlotte Hornets, we know that we can touch more who desire to have healthy smiles to open more doors through both our office and our charitable arm, the Lyons Share.”

Hornets President and Vice Charmain Whitfield shares the sentiment in his statement. “We look forward to bringing them into our Hornets family and teaming with them to help share healthy smiles.”

As proud dental partners of the Hornets NBA team, there’s no doubt Smile Savvy’s addition will result in healthier smiles and happier hearts team and nationwide.


Tony O. Lawson

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10 mins read

Durham Aims to Preserve The Black Wall Street Legacy With an Ownership Program

Durham, N.C., was once known nationally for its “Black Wall Street,” a cluster of flourishing Black owned financial institutions and businesses that sprang up around Parrish Street during the Jim Crow era, including some iconic insurance and finance firms such as Mechanics and Farmers Bank and North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company.

With 1960s urban renewal projects and construction of a freeway that divided the area, the district’s energy and stability dissipated.

Despite this, the city of 311,000 people, around 40 percent of them African American, still boasts a large number of small businesses owned by African Americans. That segment has even seen growth in recent years, and a network of entrepreneurs organizes an annual Black Wall Street Homecoming event.

Now, propelled by a national fellowship program, the city of Durham is building a plan and a set of tools to help preserve black-owned businesses in the face of an aging baby boomer generation, a new knowledge economy and 21st-century business model shifts that traditional entrepreneurs ignore at their peril.

“Durham has a rich history of African American businesses. Our project is designed to build on that legacy,” says Andre Pettigrew, director of Durham’s office of economic and workforce development.

Many of the city’s black-owned companies are 30 or more years old, with uncertain futures, according to Pettigrew. “Restaurants, funeral homes, auto repair shops, the gamut,” he says. “The owners are ready to transfer. [But] in their families, many of the kids have gone on to college and middle-class professional lives. They’re not interested in running the businesses. So succession planning is a big part of what we’re talking about.”

Pettigrew is one of three city employees serving as fellows in the Shared Equity in Economic Development (SEED) Fellowship, developed by the National League of Cities and the Democracy at Work Institute (DAWI). The fellowship is a year-long program to equip a cohort of cities with expertise, resources and tools to explore employee ownership as a means of retaining businesses and the jobs and wealth they create. Durham is one of four cities selected for the inaugural SEED cohort, along with Atlanta, Miami and Philadelphia.

Each SEED city has a team comprising three fellows from city departments and a community fellow from an organization that knows local small businesses. Durham’s team comprises Pettigrew; Deborah Giles, director of the city’s equal opportunity/equity assurance department; Chris Dicky, the office of economic and workforce development’s economic development coordinator; and community fellow LaTasha Best-Gaddy, a business counselor with the Small Business and Technology Development Center at Durham’s historically black North Carolina Central University.

DAWI Executive Director Melissa Hoover says the fellowship was designed to promote peer-to-peer learning, with fellows traveling to the other participating cities to share ideas and best practices and learn from an advisory panel made up of community stakeholders and local and outside experts.

While the cities had some flexibility in choosing projects, all four are focusing on educating longtime business owners on preserving their legacy by transferring ownership to employees. Possible strategies include conversion to a worker-owned cooperative, in which the business is collectively owned and managed by the workers, or transition to an employee stock ownership plan, in which the company is owned wholly or partly by employees through a trust, and employees cash out on leaving the company.

In mid-November in Durham, the fellowship group toured small businesses in predominantly African American business corridors. Speaking face-to-face with owners — several of whom are right at the stage of pondering what would happen to their business when they’re gone — opened the group’s eyes to a variety of succession planning opinions and challenges.

One owner of an automotive business who is nearing retirement said he is already in the process of selling the business. Although he has good employees, he does not feel ready to hand down his brand — his most precious asset — to them.

“So here we had a business owner who’d started from ground-up, who didn’t trust his brand identity with anyone else,” says Pettigrew. “So he was helping his employees become employed elsewhere. He recognized that being an owner and an employee are two different things. That transition to ownership requires risk-taking and accountability.”

This testimony helped cement for Pettigrew and his team the importance of including supporting employees as business owners and managers in ownership conversion scenarios.

When employees are prepared and able, collective ownership has advantages. “It’s one way to mitigate the fact that there aren’t a lot of individuals with enough assets to [purchase a business],” Pettigrew says. “For one person, it’s highly risky. You need partners. So in this case, you know the others and you know the business. In some ways, it’s the most-informed choice of starting a business. You already know its strengths.”

Raising awareness of succession planning will be a key activity — and not just for the business owners and employees, Pettigrew notes, but for technical service providers, business planners, lenders and small business advisors.

If they can keep those businesses around, there is ample opportunity on the horizon. Durham’s population is in a period of rapid growth, welcoming 20 new residents every day, according to Pettigrew. Many are drawn by the area’s thriving information technology, bio/life sciences and advanced manufacturing sectors. The growth and change bring pressures far beyond the natural cycle of business owner retirement.

“In a generation, North Carolina and Durham have gone through a major transformation, from tobacco, textiles and furniture to a knowledge economy. We are challenged, in that we’re at risk of gentrification — at risk of leaving underemployed and unemployed people behind if we don’t have intentional strategies to support them.”

An influx of professionals with money to spend could be a blessing or a curse for existing businesses, Pettigrew notes. Those with a desired product and modern service delivery could reap additional revenue, while those who are “tired and not ready to adapt” to disruptive technologies might succumb to declining sales and higher rents.

When the year-long fellowship winds down next summer, Pettigrew hopes the city of Durham will have gained deeper connections to its older entrepreneur community and a better understanding of succession planning. “This is not about doing 50 deals by the end of this year. It’s determining if it’s a viable option and [having a plan in place],” he says. “It’s not a panacea, but it’s one oar in the water.”

The SEED fellowship comes at a time of growing interest by cities and advocates in employee ownership as a means of increasing access to business ownership, especially for groups often shut out of the economy, such as immigrants and people of color. There is concern that the wave of aging baby boomers could lead to loss of community anchor businesses.

Growing income and wealth inequality has shined a light on the need to build and retain wealth — businesses owned by baby-boomers at or nearing retirement age are valued at an estimated $10 trillion, according to the Exit Planning Institute. Responding to these forces, the recent bipartisan federal Main Street Employee Ownership Act aims to improve assistance and outreach for employee ownership.

“After the recession, a lot of individual wealth was wiped out, especially in the African American community, where most of the wealth was in our homes,” says Pettigrew. “They say the first path to increasing wealth is home ownership — and right after that is being a business owner. So to put employees on the path to business ownership is an important part of this model.”

But, he notes, “If you don’t have an intentional exit strategy, that wealth doesn’t get passed on.”


Source: Next City

2 mins read

17 Black Owned Businesses in North Carolina

North Carolina is home to many amazing Black owned businesses. here are a few! Let us know which others there are!

Black Owned Businesses in North Carolina

BW Sweets Bakery is a full service bakery offering a complete product line of all things sweet and delicious.

North Carolina

SALTBOX Seafood Joint( Durham) offers seasonal, fresh seafood that is delivered fresh from the Carolina coast.

Pangea Tapas Bar & Grill (Huntersville) offers international inspired appetizers, fruit tray’s and light entertainment.

Mr 3’s Crab Pot (Charlotte- take-out only) is here to bring you outstanding seafood dishes with a uniquely favored taste.

Tropical Goodies (North Charlotte) has served authentic Caribbean food and drinks for more than a decade.

Sweetest Thing Bakery (Charlotte) prepares made to order Desserts with professional detail and the freshest ingredients.

Soul Central (Charlotte) brings an island twist to traditional Southern style cooking.

Red @ 28 (Charlotte) is a chill hangout with vintage chairs & bookshelves, plus mixed drinks & flavored hookah pipes.

Beyú Caffe (Durham) is an upbeat, bohemian hangout offering coffee, all-day American fare, a full bar, live jazz & free WiFi.

Charlie’s Angels Beauty bar (Charlotte)services range from protective styles, precision cuts, treatments, full sew ins, frontal install, makeup and waxing services.

Styles by Lisa of Beverly Hills (Charlotte) is a hair styling salons specializing in natural hair.

Taji Natural Hair Styling (Raleigh) is ready to help you with all of your natural hair needs.

Lucky You ​Salon (Charlotte) Whether you’re hoping to enhance your natural curls or learning to embrace them, they’ve totally got you covered.

Rachel Stewart Jewelry (online) churns out unique and incredibly cool black-centric jewelry and accessories.

Morehead Manor Bed & Breakfast (Durham) offers the comforts of home to both leisure and business travelers.

The Palace International (Durham) is a family-owned eatery offering varied African cuisine, world music, Tusker beers & Nairobian punch.

Ms. Elsie’s Caribbean Bed & Breakfast Inn (Charlotte) offers the blissful solitude of a tropical island in the midst of a major urban city.


Tony O. Lawson (IG: @thebusyafrican)