Whiteboard from Havana Nights event

A Havana Night in Durham

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My CrossComm colleagues and I recently attended the Havana Nights fundraiser celebrating entrepreneurship in Durham. The Latin-themed summer kickoff party delivered as only a Durham event could, complete with delicious food, entertainment, and local ecosystem movers and shakers. I thoroughly enjoyed gorging on empanadas from Boricua Soul and reconnecting with friends like Jes Averhart and Geraud Staton as I bopped my head to some Caribbean jams provided by DJ Big Fella.

But, as you might have guessed, CrossComm’s reasons for sponsoring the event weren’t just so I could eat, mingle and dance (if so, I have some great sponsorship ideas to discuss with our CEO, Don Shin.) The event supported The Helius Foundation, a non-profit providing mentorship, resources, and programming to necessity-driven entrepreneurs.

Durham-mayor web

For CrossComm, this mission is directly in line with our values as an organization. As a company that has been in Durham for over 20 years, we’ve witnessed the recent explosion of the local entrepreneurial scene and have been delighted to mentor, collaborate, and learn from others who contribute to our ecosystem. But we also understand that there are communities who traditionally don’t have access to the same opportunities as others, due to factors such as economic status, education, and race. Additionally, as Durham continues to transform and grow, so too do gaps in opportunity and wealth. For this reason, we are both honored and enthusiastic to support The Helius Foundation in its mission to provide mentorship and resources to underrepresented founders. Their work not only impacts the lives and businesses of these entrepreneurs, but also helps make our region more innovative as more diverse minds are empowered to contribute ideas.

Personally, this is a subject that resonates deeply with me. I was first introduced to our local startup scene when I began working for the Google-backed startup hub, American Underground. While there, I helped create programs to support underrepresented entrepreneurs, such as the Google For Startups Exchange for Black founders and the Creative-In-Residence program. So, to have just begun my role at CrossComm and have one of my first assignments be representing us at Havana Nights was an essential initiation for me. It was an onboarding experience that allowed me to witness CrossComm’s values in action, validating my excitement to join this team.

Thanks to The Helius Foundation team for putting on a great event and letting CrossComm be a part of it. Some personal highlights include:

  • The inspiring entrepreneurial stories we heard from partygoers, vendors, and sponsors.

  • When Jes Averhart used the term “Bull City Bonded” in her keynote to describe the connection and responsibility Durhamites have to support and help one another.

  • The hilarious moment when our Director of Business Development, Jennifer Atala, met Mayor Steve Schewel and asked him if he lived in Durham (in her defense, she JUST moved to Durham)

  • Seeing individual partygoers donate as high as $2,500 to reach a night total of over $23K. Wow!