Nonprofit WEBB Squared aims to support Black-owned businesses in Chatham

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PITTSBORO — A Chatham County-based nonprofit created to offer a “living ecosystem of support” for Black-owned businesses ceremoniously opened its services at a ribbon-cutting event at The Plant in Pittsboro on Saturday.

WEBB Squared has been a project led by Stephanie Terry, the nonprofit’s executive director, to address the racial economic inequities Black business owners face.

“WEBB Squared is a N.C. nonprofit created to support Black entrepreneurs living in rural North Carolina,” Terry told the News + Record. “Our infrastructure helps mitigate the structural obstacles that Black entrepreneurs face by providing support.”

WEBB Squared’s gala marked the start of its official operations in Chatham County. Several local officials were present at the event, including county and Pittsboro commissioners and Pittsboro Mayor Jim Nass.

Nass said he believed WEBB Squared ­­— the acronym stands for “Wealth Through Entrepreneurship for Black Businesses” — would be influential and create positive change within the community.

“This has power and the opportunity to be transformational for Chatham County, transformational for the town of Pittsboro and transformational for the whole state,” he said.

WEBB Squared brought in several guests to talk about its mission and opening. The gala was hosted by comedian Rob Santos and featured the Grammy-nominated John Brown Jazz Quintet.

Santos has a unique connection to North Carolina: his family came to North Carolina and was sold into slavery in the city of Raleigh, the place where his flight into N.C. for the event landed, at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

He said coming to N.C. was an emotional and healing experience for him.

“My family is from here, so for me, this is like coming home,” he said. “I feel at peace now.”

Santos talked more about what he called “his backstory,” which many Black Americans share, and how WEBB Squared goes to address the history.

“We all have a backstory that helps to shape who you are, a backstory that tells us to live life in a certain way, a backstory that at time our lives revolved around may not necessarily be true anymore,” he said. “If we change the way we think, we can change the way we behave. We use that power so that our backstory does not have to be the story.”

According to a 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances data from the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the average Black household in America has $24,100 in wealth, while white households average $189,100 in wealth and assets.

Terry said that fact was a huge motivation for her in starting WEBB Squared. She wants the organization to help Black-owned businesses by working to address economic disparities caused by systemic racially dividing policies.

“Policies and legislation that have historically disadvantaged Black Americans have been passed down through generations and inform the starting points of Black entrepreneurs,” Terry said. “To really get at closing the racial wealth gap, we need to have a structural, systemic impact — one that involves entire business ecosystems. We have inherited, and in many instances are maintaining, race-based arrangements with race-neutral solutions. To really make an impact that addresses disparate outcomes, we must be intentional about race.”

Terry said as Chatham County continues to grow, it becomes even more crucial to address the systemic issues Black entrepreneurs face. By doing so, she hopes WEBB Squared will help to nurture an important part of the local economy.

“As Chatham County grows and becomes more diverse with different people from ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds coming here to live, a thriving diverse business community is essential to the growth and economic well-being of our rural county,” she said. “The time is now for Chatham County to more fully embrace the ingenuity, genius, and business acumen of Black entrepreneurs in tangible, public-facing ways.”

WEBB Squared offers a variety of programs, ranging from individualized coaching sessions to financial advising. The nonprofit also offers something called the “Mindset Program,” which serves as a mentorship opportunity for Black entrepreneurs, according to the WEBB Squared website.

“Our unique trainings are designed to assist the Black entrepreneur realign with powerful universal principles that expand the natural abilities of human beings to attract and create for more desirable results,” according to the website.

Individual coaching is priced at $250. Both the Mindset program and the financial advising program offers two unique sessions. The “History and Context of Black Entrepreneurship in the U.S.” mindset curriculum is three sessions for $375. The “Developing a Power-Mindset” program is four sessions at $500. Both financial advising and literacy programs are three sessions for $375.

WEBB Squared has become Terry’s dream, and she said to see her project come alive has been a life-altering experience. She hopes she can help other Black entrepreneurs have the access to resources to make sure their ventures are successful.

“I am really looking forward to seeing all the people gathered together to celebrate what we hope to build, relationships that express our values of abundance, equity, and interdependence,” she said. “For me, it feels like launching the work that I was born to do. I am finally using all my skill sets and talents to live my purpose.”

Reporter Taylor Heeden can be reached at theeden@chathamnr.com.

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