Equity for Every Entrepreneur in Durham

February 28, 2022 | By

Deryle Daniels

This story is adapted from the E3 Durham e-newsletter, a monthly newsletter that features updates on the efforts of our community’s incredible entrepreneurs, upcoming events and workshops, and news from around the Durham Community. Stay up to date by subscribing to our monthly E3 Durham e-newsletter.


Equity for Every Entrepreneur in Durham
In 2021, Forward Cities was selected as a grantee of the U.S. Small Business Administration's (SBA) Community Navigator Pilot Program aimed at reducing barriers for entrepreneurs and small business owners. Over a two-year period, we will work in close collaboration with our strategic partners at the City of Durham and Durham County to deploy the nearly $1 million awarded.

Forward Cities serves as a centralized, lead organization or "hub", and incorporates “spokes” to leverage partnerships with deeply trusted community-based organizations to help small businesses navigate government resources and tap into critical resources. Spokes include the following Durham-based organizations: Durham Tech Small Business CenterHelius FoundationInfinity BridgesKnox St. StudiosNorth Carolina Central University School of Business, and Provident 1898.
E3 (Equity for Every Entrepreneur) Durham, as the program will be known, is designed to help entrepreneurs equitably start, grow, and scale businesses in our community. The program is built on a network of service providers as well as a variety of entrepreneurial supports including mentors, business coaches, funders, lenders, B2B professionals, government agencies, local corporations, and other champions. 

As part of E3 Durham, Forward Cities, along with our partner organizations, will host weekly events called E3 Durham Connects aimed at connecting with and supporting entrepreneurs in our community.

About E3 Durham Connects

What is E3 Durham Connects?
E3 Durham Connects is a weekly event designed to connect Durham entrepreneurs with a broad community of support. Sessions will be held virtually until the end of March. Register here for the virtual launch event on February 23 from 5:30-7:30 pm. 

Who is it for?
E3 Durham is open to any entrepreneur in Durham.

Why does it matter?
Every entrepreneur deserves access to equitable opportunities, resources, and support so that they can start, grow, or scale their business. 

Meet E3 Durham Program Director Mike Byrd

Mike Byrd is the Program Director for E3 Durham, Forward Cities’ SBA Community Navigator Pilot Program. His commitment to underserved business owners extends to his earlier work as the former Interim Director of the North Carolina Central University’s MBA program where he also served as the faculty advisor to NCCU’s HBCU MBA Business Plan Competition Team. He has also worked as a commercial loan underwriter for Initiative Capital, a community development financial institution whose mission was to provide financing for minority entrepreneurs, small businesses and nonprofit organizations within low wealth communities. 

Understanding that individuals are able to thrive when their communities are adequately resourced, Mike takes the needs of the communities in Durham into account just as much as he considers the needs of individual business owners. He is currently co-chair of the Bigger Better Business committee of the Durham alumni chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Incorporated. 

Spoke Spotlight:
Knox St. Studios

Knox St. Studios connects and equips current or aspiring entrepreneurs across the Triangle area of North Carolina and beyond with the skills needed to create businesses, jobs, intellectual property, and community wealth for generations to come.
Their mission and grassroots approach reach underrepresented youth and young adults. Through the Inspire to Code After-School Program and the apprenticeships and internships program, they inform them of STEM and computer science opportunities.

Knox St. Studios will be leading the E3 Durham community outreach, assist with entrepreneur intake, and  conduct regular entrepreneur check-ins with entrepreneurs. Forward Cities is excited to have an organization with such strong ties to the community serving as a front-facing representative of this transformational initiative.

News and Announcements

  • The Triangle region has been chose as the site of the Startup Champions Network Spring 2022 Summit. From April 4-6, the area will be buzzing with ecosystem builders from across the nation who are convening to seek tangible solutions to rebuild better in their local communities. From discussions on regional coalition building to racial equity and everything in between, this is poised to be an impactful summit that you don’t want to miss.

Bull City Business Owner of the Month

Tomeka Watson is the owner of Honor Thyself Box (HTB), a gift box service that provides customers with a direct path to support Black-owned businesses that are focused on maintaining balance of the mind, body & spirit. Tomeka founded HTB in 2021 and serves as the principal curator of Black-owned self-care and wellness products ranging from candles to skincare. During the fourth quarter of 2021, she scaled her business to offer customized curated boxes to a limited number of clients who were looking for more of a personalized touch. Tomeka is excited about 2022 and what opportunities will present themselves for her business and, thus, the Black-owned businesses whose products she carefully selects.
Funded in part through a Grant with the U.S. Small Business Administration
All opinions, conclusions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.