Durham’s Chamber of Commerce chair seeks to revitalize town, empowering local businesses

Photo of Tobias Rose. Photo courtesy of Chris Charles.

Monday, April 22, 2024

By Campbell Atterbury

Tobias Rose is accomplished beyond his years. 

With a natural innovative spirit, he creates his own hip-hop music on the side, co-founded the creative agency Kompleks Creative at age 21, designed a cover for The Foreign Exchange’s Grammy nominated single and helped establish the nonprofit Black Wall Street. Despite his accomplishments, Rose is not satisfied. He has continued to find ways to benefit his community by becoming the chair for The Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce.

“I love being in this role right now, I love serving Durham,” Rose said. “I love trying to unite the entire business community and get everyone to understand what the chamber is supposed to really be doing.”

Rose noticed that in recent years, Durham has experienced an economic shift. As many professionals currently work on a hybrid or remote schedule, there has been less activity in businesses during the work week. However, over the weekends, stores and restaurants have been experiencing an uptick in sales. To adapt with this shift, Rose is prepared to explore innovative approaches to further stimulate business throughout the week.

“Goal-wise, what I want to see is a change, potentially, in how we’re using our downtown areas,” Rose said. “We can be creative and figure out how to use our spaces differently and use them better. And maybe we can be a model here in Durham for the rest of the country.”

With the ideation of the Chamber of Commerce’s new economic programming, Rose hopes to unite the business community in Durham. His current priorities center around strengthening the business ecosystem, fortifying their team and building a communications capacity. 

With his deep-rooted understanding of challenges and opportunities faced by entrepreneurs, Rose initiates innovation and sustainable growth. 

“The one thing I really respect about Tobias is his commitment to business in Durham,” Jes Averhart, co-founder of Black Wall Street Homecoming, said. “He is coming in with a really nice small business, mid-size business appreciation and he champions these in any way.”

Rose developed a strong connection to Durham’s market in 2001, when he co-founded Kompleks Creative with Daryl Wade. Both Rose and Wade were driven to experiment with graphic design and craft compelling online platforms. Their aim was to present their clients in a more enticing fashion by transcending beyond conventional boundaries of web design. In 2014, Kompleks acquired an office on 106 West Parrish Street in downtown Durham, which is nestled in Black Wall Street. As Rose is also a co-founder of the nonprofit, Black Wall Street, it only made sense for his creative agency to integrate into the area’s historic landscape.

“Those historic elements [with Black Wall Street], that’s what attracted me here,” Rose said. “I want to be a part of this legacy. I want to carry this stuff on, I feel like this legacy will inspire people.” 

Since 2001, Rose has been a prominent figure on Durham’s creative scene. His ascent to Chairman for the Board of Directors at the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce marks a milestone not only in his illustrious career but also in Durham’s business landscape. As Kompleks specializes in producing creative strategies, he has earned recognition as a dynamic and forward-thinking entrepreneur.

“Tobias is a good friend. He’s a good friend to the Durham community. He cares deeply about the city,” Adam Klein, Assistant Vice President of Economic Development at Duke University, said. “He really doesn’t see the bounds of a nine-to-five job, and going home and kind of checking out of his work for Durham. I think that’s part of what I really admire about him, is his work on behalf of this community and his service to the community permeates his professional life and his personal life, and makes him a fantastic friend and a great leader in our community.”

As Durham continues its journey of growth and renewal, Rose stands as a beacon of inspiration. His accomplishments are a testament to the power of entrepreneurship, creativity and community engagement.

Through his visionary leadership, Rose is not only shaping Durham’s business landscape, but also leaving an indelible mark on the fabric of the community itself. 

Edited by Adele Morris