E3 Durham

Illustration of Durham in North Carolina

Across America, entrepreneurs continue to face deeply layered systemic, structural, cultural, and demographic inequities that prevent them from accessing equitable opportunities.

Discrimination, underfunding, and intentionally uneven playing fields result in challenges faced through the entrepreneurial journeys of entrepreneurs everywhere. The impact of these challenges is multiplied by the current global pandemic and further emphasized by the racial reckoning that America is experiencing after centuries of oppressive policies. Without new ways to look at business growth and sustainability, entrepreneurs run the risk of being left behind in a world that is finding ways to move forward.

To address these challenges in our own community, Forward Cities — together with the City of Durham and Durham County — is partnering with trusted local organizations to launch E3 Durham initiative: a program designed to help entrepreneurs in the region to equitably start, grow, and scale businesses.

We believe that entrepreneurs can be better connected to technical assistance, capital, and business recovery/stimulus resources through a program that focuses on broader outreach, trusted community connectors, access to supportive spaces and 21st century technology.

E3 Durham Hub and Spoke modelUtilizing a “hub and spoke” model, the SBA’s Community Navigator Pilot Program helps level the playing field for America’s entrepreneurs, especially underserved women, people of color, veterans, and rural and low-income communities.

Forward Cities serves as the lead organization or "hub", and incorporates “spokes” to leverage partnerships with deeply trusted community-based organizations to help small businesses connect with resources and opportunities. Spokes include the following Durham-based organizations: Durham Tech Small Business Center, Helius Foundation, Infinity Bridges, Inc., Knox St. Studios, North Carolina Central University School of Business, and Provident1898.

This initiative will be strengthened by ongoing support from leaders within the City of Durham’s Office of Economic & Workforce Development. Building on the success from the City’s Small Business Advisory Committee, entrepreneurs participating in the pilot program will benefit from both the City of Durham and Durham County serving in an advisory capacity and providing institutional expertise, network support, and guidance to align and integrate opportunities and resources. National partners include SourceLink and Legal GPS.

This collaboration is a unique opportunity to create a more diverse, equitable, and innovative entrepreneurial community in Durham by bringing together an array of organizations and institutions that provide key services for entrepreneurs in our community.

View Upcoming Events

E3 Durham is hosting a series of workshops aimed at supporting founders and entrepreneurs in Durham to equitably start, grow, and scale their business.

Join us at Pull-Up at Provident on the first Wednesday of each month. These sessions are free and open to everyone. Check the events calendar for more details!

Follow E3 Durham on Social!

The Spokes

Durham Tech logo

Small Business Center at Durham Tech

Helius Foundation logo

Helius Foundation

Infinity Bridges logo

Infinity Bridges, Inc.

Knox St. Studios logo

Knox St. Studios

NCCU School of Business logo

North Carolina Central University School of Business

Provident1898 logo


Community Navigator Pilot Program

Building on Forward Cities’ ethos of ensuring Equity for Every Entrepreneur (E3), the E3 Durham program will work with Navigators to recruit and support entrepreneurs and small business owners through services focused on Connections, Convenings, Counseling, Capital, Care, Civic Supports, Communications, and Coordination.

Entrepreneurs are guided through the following continuum of care:

Community Navigator Pilot Program

1. Intake, Assessment and Check-Ins


2. Plan of Action


3. Capital Resources


4. Workshops and Mentorship


The Durham Centre

The Durham Centre, courtesy of sestevens

The Community Navigator Pilot Program will support the development of a stronger network of local entrepreneur support organizations, improving trust and collaboration between institutional and grassroots organizations. This effort will build new bridges for entrepreneurs and lean on the legacy and culture of Durham’s Black Wall Street to reimagine it in this day and age.

This program is important because Durham County is growing in population size and diversity. Income and wealth inequalities are key drivers of inequitable access to business ownership locally and nationally.

Participate in E3 Durham

The E3 Durham Community Navigator Pilot Project is designed to assist you on your entrepreneurial journey. Whether you have an idea for a new business, own an existing business and are seeking to grow, or you are facing recovery during these uncertain times, the E3 Durham Community Navigator Pilot Project is here to help.

Business Mentor
Are you an entrepreneur interested in participating?

Join us and:

  • Get connected with people and networks that exist specifically to support entrepreneurs during our convening series
  • Better understand the small business landscape in Durham, including an array of resources and opportunities available to help small businesses thrive through our concierge Navigation program
  • Stay up to date on the efforts of our community’s incredible entrepreneurs by subscribing to our monthly e-newsletter

Register here to be connected to a network of support organizations that have comprehensive support services to meet the needs of current and future business owners.



To be eligible for E3 Durham you must have either a home or business address located in Durham County, NC, and, your business or business idea must be for profit, and, if currently in business you can have no more than 19 full time equivalent employees.

For assistance with the E3 Durham registration form, contact Hassan Bazzi at 919-373-5379. 

Subscribe to the Newsletter

Stay up to date on the efforts of our community’s incredible entrepreneurs and upcoming events and workshops by subscribing to our monthly E3 Durham e-newsletter.


For more information about the Equitable Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Durham, NC, contact Brett Brenton - Forward Cities Senior Director of Learning Networks at bbrenton@forwardcities.org.

Special Thank You

We're grateful for being able to partner with the following organizations to make an impact in Durham:

Durham County logo
NCCU School of Business logo
Provident1898 logo
City of Durham Logo Horizontal
Knox Street Studios logo
Durham Tech logo
Helius Foundation logo
Infinity Bridges logo
Powered by SBA Logo


Funded in part through a Grant with the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Header photo courtesy of SeanPavonePhoto