Nourishing Our Entrepreneurship Roots Locally
Burt’s Bees got its start as a backwoods bootstrap venture. Burt Shavitz was a photojournalist-turned-beekeeper, co-founder Roxanne Quimby studied art, and their startup capital was a 200-pound stash of beeswax. They still managed to create a business that helped inspire and grow an entire category of better-for-you products.
We know our origins were unconventional—it’s far more common for entrepreneurs to emerge from business school. So, we’re thrilled to support entrepreneurship locally through a partnership with North Carolina Central University (NCCU), a historically Black university just a few blocks from our downtown headquarters. Our partnership is two-fold:
- Investment in their Eagle Angel Network, to help provide access to resources for NCCU and community-based entrepreneurs in our local community of Durham, North Carolina.
- Development of a mentorship program to connect employee mentors with business school students through case study-led small group projects.
Spotlight on Historically Black Colleges & Universities
Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) were founded starting in 1837 to provide a pathway to higher learning for African Americans, who were refused admittance to many colleges and universities. HBCUs have a strong legacy of defying incredible odds to thrive despite underfunding relative to predominantly white institutions (PWIs).
Much like the wealth gap between Black families and white families, there is an endowment gap between HBCUs and PWIs. The Century Foundation found that the endowments of public and private PWIs were three to seven times higher than those of public and private HBCUs.
Because of both the wealth gap and the endowment gap, Black entrepreneurs are doubly disadvantaged when it comes to accessing startup capital.
Growing NCCU's Eagle Angel Network
We’ve pledged $25,000 per year for five years to the NCCU Eagle Angel Network, to broaden access to angel investment dollars for NCCU entrepreneurs and other historically marginalized entrepreneurs in the broader Durham community.
North Carolina is home to ten 4-year HBCUs, and Durham has a strong history of Black entrepreneurship. Known as Black Wall Street at turn of the century, it was home to the largest Black-owned and operated insurance company, North Carolina Mutual Insurance.
The NCCU Eagle Angel Network (EAN) aims to help restore that legacy. The network is led by Dr. Henry McKoy, former assistant secretary of commerce for North Carolina and director of entrepreneurship at North Carolina Central University's School of Business, where he is lead entrepreneurship faculty.
“Capital plays such a critical role in the founding and growth of businesses in society. It is often the first small investments into an entrepreneur and his or her ideas that builds their spirit and confidence. This investment from Burt’s Bees is significant in helping North Carolina Central University support the work of closing the racial wealth gap through entrepreneurship”
--Henry McKoy, Managing Director of NCCU Eagle Angel Network
Advancing Black Leadership and Talent
As part of our commitment to actively seek BIPOC talent and invest in the advancement of Black leaders, we’re focused on recruiting from regional Historically Black Colleges and Universities. In cooperation with our parent company, our partnership with the NCCU School of Business also includes a commitment to mentorship.
We’re kicking off a program pairing Durham-based Burt’s Bees and Clorox Company executive mentors with business classes. Mentors will provide the class with a Burt’s Bees case study and mentor students in small groups to develop solutions as a class project. We’re also planning to host a mock interview event and meet and greet with our team at our downtown Durham Campus. Our hope is to expand our relationship with NCCU business students and create a pathway to internship or employment.