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Imagine: the future of homegrown entrepreneurship

During Women’s History Month, Self-Help Recognizes Three Entrepreneurs Who are Blazing a Trail at the ABC Center in East Durham

Mar 27, 2019

[Durham, NC] March 27, 2019 - The grand opening of the Angier Business & Children’s Center (ABC Center), 2101 Angier Avenue on Saturday, March 30 from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. merits focus on three women who have worked long and hard to make their business dreams come true.  Each contributes to Durham’s history, capturing the spirit of local women entrepreneurs.

Dr. Arlene Chavis, senior pastor of No Greater Love Christian Church, is one of them.  For twelve years No Greater Love was a fixture on Hyde Park Avenue, where the church made strengthening the community part of its mission. Now the congregation brings that staunch community support to its new location on Angier Avenue.

“We’re excited to be here and beyond happy with the results,” Chavis reflects on the project’s development. 

“Builders were able to preserve the historic nature of the building while modernizing key structural elements. Our sanctuary now seats so many more people than we could accommodate at our previous location.”

No Greater Love is a non-denominational church and the congregation is very diverse in terms of education, race, and social status. Dr. Chavis tells why.

“Denominations tend to separate and divide people but we know God is a god of unity,” Dr. Chavis explains. “Our members are unified by working together for a better community.” 

“We talked with people who live in the neighborhood and discovered they wanted more Bible Study offerings for seniors,” she continues. “Resources for the homeless are also needed and we discovered neighbors wanted a way to bridge the gap between police and community.”  The church recently sponsored an open community discussion with the Durham County Sheriff Department to do just that.

As founder of No Greater Love Christian Church more than 18 years ago, Dr. Chavis is no stranger to the struggle of women in the clergy.

“It’s hard being a female playing in a male playground, so to speak, but when God tells you to do something, you do it,” she exclaims.  “When I retired from social work God moved me to found No Greater Love.  But there were plenty of naysayers telling me that starting a church would be ‘too stressful,’ or ‘no one would come because I’m a woman.’  But I never focus on gender.  When people try to put me in a box, that just makes me want to go out and do even more.”

“If I were to give advice to other women entrepreneurs I’d tell them this: Be strong or you’ll never make it. You’ve got to believe in yourself and God.  If you can perceive it and you can believe it - then step out in it and achieve it,” Dr. Chavis declares.

“Black women come from strong stock,” she adds. “Our ancestors didn’t quit. Just walk in it. See the fulfilment of your dreams.”

Although they’d never met before becoming neighbors at the ABC Center, Paulette Muhammad personifies that advice.  Muhammad has been in the early childhood development field for over 45 years. Her All My Children childcare service at the ABC Center will serve over 80 children, infants through preschool age, when fully enrolled. The Angier site is Muhammad’s second location.

Paulette started out with a day care in her home in New York City.  She and her husband moved to North Carolina more than 30 years ago, first opening a small boutique. It wasn’t long until Paulette was drawn back to her first love of children.  The couple opened their first childcare center in Durham’s West End neighborhood on West Chapel Hill Street.  The center later moved to a new home on Academy Road.

“Children are my heart,” she reflects.  “I have built connections with a whole lot of parents and children in my life – going back to my time in New York City to here and now in Durham. But I do what I do, not for recognition, but for the love of children.”

It’s a love that transcends generations. All My Children is very much a family affair. Sadly, Mr. Muhammad passed away in 2004 but the couple’s two daughters continue to build All My Children’s legacy. With a background in policy and early childhood education, daughter Tasha makes sure the curriculum supports key child development milestones.  Elisha is the numbers guru. As an accountant and director of business management, she makes sure the center’s financial affairs are in order.

“We’re an amazing team,” Tasha reflects. “We’re thankful for the opportunity to support the early social, emotional and educational development needs of children here in Durham. Our goal is to create more and more learning and development opportunities for the children of this community.”

“We’ve been blessed,” Paulette continues. “We’ve had hard times but my advice to women in business is just fight on. If life is shaking you around, just hold on.”

She concludes: “If you have a dream – do not give up. Keep pushing regardless of the situation.”

Another dynamic team of entrepreneurs are the proud owners of Russell’s Pharmacy and Shoppe, a new, black-owned independent pharmacy near the ABC center complex.  Terensia Russell and husband Darius have very strong ties to Durham.

Terensia was born at Watts Hospital, both she and Darius graduated from the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in 1991, and they have lived in Durham since 2001.  Darius graduated from Morehouse College in 1995, and Terensia graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1994. They both worked for several years as high school educators. Darius also has more than a decade of experience as a pharmacist here in Durham. He received his PharmD. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Opening their own pharmacy and shop has been a dream for many years and the story of how they became business owners is compelling.  Darius discovered his passion for pharmacy almost 20 years ago when he took a part-time job as a pharmacy technician in Smyrna, Georgia. Darius and Terensia soon moved back to North Carolina where Darius attended pharmacy school. After graduating and working as a pharmacist for many years, they were able to make their dream come true in East Durham.   

“What sets Russell’s apart is the personal touch, Terensia states.  “We want to impact people on an individual level. We want a sense of community, a sense of family and we want to impact people in a positive way.”

“We want people to feel that they can come to Russell’s and have their needs meet,” she concludes. 

There are over 145 million small businesses in the United States. Small businesses are important to local economies. They strengthen neighborhoods by offering employment opportunities and the economic benefits of shopping locally.

No Greater Love Christian Church, All My Children Childcare, Russell’s Pharmacy and Shoppe and other East Durham businesses will take part in the ABC Center grand opening on Saturday, March 30, from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.  Ribbon cutting begins at noon.

The ABC Center still has available spaces for rent, including offices and a single remaining retail storefront, and will serve other small businesses and nonprofits in the near future. 

Self-Help is a leading national community development financial institution headquartered in Durham, NC. Together with more than 150,000 members across the country, we work every day to expand ownership and economic opportunities for all, with special focus on people of color, women, and communities that may be underserved by conventional lenders. Since 1980, Self-Help has provided over $8.4 billion in financing to families, individuals and businesses across the country.

The nonprofit Center for Community Self-Help is the umbrella organization for the Self-Help family of nonprofit organizations, which includes Self-Help Credit Union, Self-Help Federal Credit Union, Self-Help Ventures Fund and the Center for Responsible Lending. Learn more at www.self-help.org, www.self-helpfcu.org and www.responsiblelending.org.

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Jenny Shields, Director of Media Relations, Self-Help Credit Union | Direct Line: 919.794.6798  | Cell: 919.695.2037 | Email: Jenny.Shields@self-help.org

Related Images

  • Dr Chavis
  • Russells Pharmacy
  • All My Children Child Care Center