Celebrating Black-Owned Businesses for Black History Month


​We take immense pride in acknowledging the contributions of Black Americans to Raleigh, the Triangle, and North Carolina. Raleigh has a rich history of Black culture and heritage, represented by institutions such as Shaw University, the first Historically Black College or University (HBCU) in the South. Founded in 1865, Shaw University holds a special place in our community’s heart and symbolizes the resilience and strength of the Black community.
St. Augustine’s University is another HBCU in Raleigh, founded in 1867. St. Augustine’s campus is home to the St. Agnes Hospital, which served Black Americans all along the East Coast during a time of racial segregation. Raleigh’s Black economy thrived with East Hargett Street as its core and has left an indelible mark on the city’s history and culture.
We honor and celebrate the Black leaders who have inspired our community, not only during Black History Month but every day. To commemorate this occasion, we would like to highlight some of our Black-owned business members and Black Business Leaders who are part of our community. Join us in honoring their journey and discovering more about the Black leaders who have made Raleigh a vibrant and inclusive city.

Black Business Leaders in the Triangle

Lileah Akiode is the proud owner of The Black Diamond Agency – a recruiting firm with a lot of heart and passion for helping people. When she’s not matching incredible people with companies that will value their talents, you’ll find her chasing after her energetic four-year-old son and enjoying time with her wonderful husband. Lileah started The Black Diamond Agency because she knew there was a better way to help both businesses and candidates thrive. She’s a connector at heart who loves bringing people together for a common goal. If she can spend her days helping talented individuals from all walks of life make positive change – while balancing her home life – that’s living the dream! The Black Diamond Agency allows her to do that in a way that aligns with her values around diversity, inclusion, and empowering people’s full potential.

What is your business, and what do you do?

The Black Diamond Agency is a recruiting agency that genuinely loves connecting great people with the right companies so they both thrive and evolve. They take the time to truly understand each company and candidate, looking beyond just skills to find people who will bring fresh ideas, unique experiences, and diverse problem-solving abilities to the table. The Black Diamond Agency supports a wide range of industries – whether your needs are in retail, biotech, engineering, or everything in between! They love working with companies that empower people to do their best work while staying true to themselves and valuing their contributions.

Who is a Black Leader who has inspired you on your journey?

Michelle Obama has been an inspiration to Lileah in many ways. She is a successful lawyer, writer, and public figure and an incredible role model for anyone who wants to make a positive impact in the world.
One of the things Lileah admires most about Mrs. Obama is her kindness and compassion for others. She’s always advocating for important causes like healthier eating habits, support for military families, and education. What really stands out to Lileah is how she treats people with respect and empathy, no matter who they are or where they come from. It’s a reminder that we all deserve kindness and should strive to treat others with the same respect and empathy Mrs. Obama shows. Another aspect of Mrs. Obama’s leadership that she finds inspiring is her resilience. She’s faced various challenges throughout her life and career, but she’s never given up. Instead, she’s remained strong and focused on her goals. This is a powerful lesson for anyone going through tough times and a reminder that even when things are difficult, we can keep going and achieve our dreams.

Wanda McArn is originally from Lumberton, NC, and graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill. She retired from WW Grainger in 2020 to pursue her ikigai (or reason for being). She is a caregiver for her 91-year-old mother, middle child of 3, family historian, poet, writer, mentor, connector, and mental health advocate. She is also the great-great auntie of 2 nieces and one nephew but is known as Aunt Wanda to many in her circle of influence.

What is your business, and what do you do?

Wanda is the Founder and CEO of Next Step Development Corporation, a nonprofit developer of tiny home communities for those experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity. Next Step Development Corporation was formed in 2021 and is looking to start its first community of 10-15 homes in 2024. She aims to provide safe, attractive, and affordable communities that allow their residents to access the wraparound services they may need to live successful lives.

Who is a Black Leader who has inspired you on your journey?

Carla Harris, Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley, inspirational speaker, author, and gospel singer, inspired Wanda on her journey. Until Carla Harris stepped down from the Vice Chairman role at Morgan Stanley in late 2021, she was one of the most senior Black women on Wall Street.
Wanda has been reading Carla’s books, listening to her motivational seminars, and collecting her quick career tips on social media for years. Her book Strategize to Win: The New Way to Start Out, Step Up, or Start Over in Your Career specifically motivated Wanda as she contemplated retirement. She wrote, “Rather than reinventing yourself, seek to reposition yourself by leveraging your experiences.” Wanda found this valuable as she began to take an inventory of who she was and what she had to offer the world. Wanda believes Carla Harris’s tips and books offer actionable steps you can take in any career.
Bonitta Best is the Managing Editor and Sports Editor of The Triangle Tribune, and she leads the editorial direction and content of all platforms.

What is your business, and what do you do?

The Triangle Tribune is a multimedia conglomerate that covers the Triangle’s African American community in Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. They engage readers through a Sunday weekly newspaper, website, YouTube page, and social media platforms. The Triangle Tribune covers state, local, and national stories and opinion pieces. They stand in as the voice of the black community. They also highlight pivotal figures in black history as well as business partnerships and small business growth.
The Triangle Tribune is owned by The Charlotte Post Publishing Company, which is a minority-owned and operated company. The Charlotte Post Publishing Company has served North Carolina and Upstate South Carolina for over 140 years!

Who is a Black Leader who has inspired you on your journey?

The Black person who most inspired Bonitta in her career so far is Robin Roberts. Before Robin Roberts became a star at Good Morning America, she was the first Black female sportscaster on ESPN. Bonita has always loved sports, and Robin inspired her to switch careers in her thirties to do what she loves, even if it meant starting with no pay. Robin showed Bonitta that it was OK for a woman to love sports, know just as much as a man, and not apologize for it.
Check out stories from The Triangle Tribune to learn about other pivotal figures in Black history, such as Constance Baker Motely, the U.S. Army’s first all-Black WWII paratrooper unit, and the women behind the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

As Black History Month comes to a close, we want to continue to honor and celebrate the contributions of Black Americans to Raleigh, the Triangle, and North Carolina. We also want to continue highlighting the Black business leaders in our community, such as Lileah Akiode, Wanda McArn, and Bonitta Best, who inspire us with their determination and vision! Let us continue to honor and uplift Black voices, not just during this month but every day–let us know about a Black leader who inspired your journey on social media by tagging us at @raleighchamber and @triangledei on LinkedIn and X.

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About the Author

Kassie Hoffman
Kassie pens down all the news from the world of politics on ANH.