Founder Stephanie Basima Terry works to reduce wealth inequalities among Black and brown entrepreneurs in rural North Carolina
By Lori D. Roberts Wiggins | Photography by John Michael Simpson
First things first, requests Stephanie Basima Terry. “I did not get here by myself, no way,” she exclaims. “You see one woman, but there are so many people whose shoulders I stand on, who paved roads for me, who informed everything about who I am. I just want to do my part to transform our world, to build a more vibrant and interdependent and unified community.”
The 54-year-old native of Brooklyn, New York, shares her journey as executive director of WEBB Squared, short for “Wealth through Entrepreneurship for Black and Brown Businesses Squared.” Stephanie co-founded the Pittsboro-based nonprofit with associate director Rinnie Orr as an incubator and accelerator hub to help reduce wealth inequalities among Black and brown entrepreneurs in North Carolina’s rural counties like Chatham.
Stephanie, who has five children and seven grandchildren, counts her own mother as her first mentor and role model. After Stephanie left DeSales University as a sophomore to become a wife and mother, she credits her palate for vegan soul food and a penchant for community organizing to the decade she spent in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, surrounded by fellow African American, stay-at-home, home-schooling moms. Divorce prompted a career change that steered her to Chapel Hill. Remarriage, she says, awakened her soul and energized her own entrepreneurial spirit, leading her to open Sweeties Southern and Vegan Catering business in Durham in 2017 with her second husband, Michael Terry of Siler City. They were forced to close during the pandemic in 2021.
“We reach people who are unaware of resources and information, and we activate those who are aware but disconnected by the culture of distrust in a race-constructed society.”Stephanie Basima Terry
Through it all, she is guided by her Baha’i faith and its spiritual principle of the oneness of humanity. And, what motivates her still, Stephanie says, is the inspiration she carries from people she’s met along the way, the empowerment extended by those she’s helped and those who have helped her in return.
“The experience helps me understand the needs of the entrepreneurs we work with and understand how to build a nonprofit [from the] grassroots up,” Stephanie says. “As an organizer, I learned the value of starting, building and deepening relationships. It’s the glue to everything that I do.”
After years of activism in her community and with churches, Stephanie joined Chatham-based CORE – Community Organizing for Racial Equity – and began to see the world through a different lens. “My worldview was shaken,” she says about learning to recognize intentional systemic practices and legislation that tilts social and economic advantages by race. “But that was the education I needed to make the journey to my life’s work.”
In 2021, WEBB Squared launched through an online group of entrepreneurs as a result of a similar void in recognizing and resolving issues common among entrepreneurs of color.
“We reach people who are unaware of resources and information, and we activate those who are aware but disconnected by the culture of distrust in a race-constructed society,” Stephanie says. “We can break through to the entrepreneur who feels powerless and build bridges across the divides.”
For the next three to five years, WEBB Squared will focus its efforts locally to connect entrepreneurs to resources and networks. The organization offers workshops that explain how and why to build business infrastructure. “We take them from informal to formal to formalized [planning],” Stephanie says. WEBB Squared also provides public and private stakeholders with diversity, equity and inclusion training, “so stakeholders recognize why a growing wealth gap is everyone’s problem,” she says.