StartUP Durham brings opportunities

The Courtney Jordan Group holds regular events to help people in Durham including this Feeding the Homeless event. (Photo by Avery Morton, Courtney Jordan Group photographer)


The Courtney Jordan Group is a non-profit organization with a mission to provide opportunities to people with great ideas, through its program, StartUP Durham.

“Providing viable solutions for our society’s issues here in Durham is that the wealth disparity in Durham is so great and being able to give services or opportunities to people who are under-resourced,” said Courtney Jordan, president of the Courtney Jordan Group. “Just because you don’t have doesn’t mean you can’t send your kid to an awesome summer camp, where we can take them to the beach, and do language lessons. We did an entire Avatar themed day for them where we turned the room into the Avatar world.”

Courtney Jordan discusses proposals for StartUp Durham. He is looking for great business ideas to help employ the community. (Staff Photo by Justice Davis)

Courtney Jordan discusses proposals for StartUp Durham. He is looking for great business ideas to help employ the community. (Staff Photo by Justice Davis)

Jordan, who is an alumnus of N.C. Central University, came to the university from Charlotte after the death of his father.

“A lot of my family members had gone to North Carolina Central University, and been heavily involved,” Jordan said. “They said, ‘You should come to Durham, where you have family and go to this school where people will look out for you,’ and those years were hard, because I was dealing with the loss of my father.”

Later, while enrolled in Duke Law School, Jordan was introduced through his business partner Mary Bassey to a man named Ibraham Ismail who taught him how to code. “He taught me about technology and he introduced me to the world of coding and I had never heard of coding before, and I had an idea for an app and I coded it.”

“I designed the app for BlackBerry, at the time Android had just came out, iPhone was out, but you couldn’t get the iPhone without AT&T, and it was the only touchscreen phone,” Jordan said. “This was when BlackBerry was still popular, with the iPhone and the Android you use your finger to unlock your phone and it was cool to do, but with BlackBerry you type it, I thought people are going to stop buying BlackBerry and BlackBerry’s going to go out of business and I love BlackBerry!”

“I was being a dreamer and thought, if I designed something cool for them to unlock their phone then that will save BlackBerry,” Jordan said. “I designed an app it used your background picture as your password, so if you circle my face, eye, or drew Mickey Mouse ears on me then that would unlock your phone.”

“I was in law school and I was working with people who taught me how to make my idea proprietary, because if I tell you my idea, you can go forward with it, but if I own it, it’s mine,” Jordan said. “I just went to different forums at the time and I would talk about what I was working on, because at this point, I wasn’t fearful of anybody taking anything because they couldn’t and I reached out to Research In Motion (RIM) which owns BlackBerry and they made me an offer, but somehow before I sell it for $50,000 I get a phone call (from Microsoft).”

Jordan would go on to sell the app that he coded to Microsoft for much more that what he originally intended and decided to reinvest the money that he made into different businesses.

“Money goes really quickly, even millions of dollars goes very quickly, so to reinvest into different businesses was very important to me. It was something my father taught me.”

After reflecting on how far he had come in his life, Jordan soon began to think of how he could help others. “I said ‘Oh my God, I am so blessed I’ve been able to pick myself up,’ but not everybody has the resources that I had,” Jordan said.

“It made no sense that just a block over, so many people were suffering, it’s a generational thing and I do believe the way to get out of that is through StartUP Durham.”

StartUp Durham is a program that attempts to take about seven businesses and provide a space to work and up to $110,000 for the businesses to reach their maximum potential. Being an entrepreneur is what put Jordan in the position to help the community, and he feels the true way to help those in the community is to give them a business.

“The lowest form of charity is just to give money, because it says ‘I do not value enough to give of myself,’ the highest form is to give a business, because then they can employ their community,” said Wendy Clark, founder of Carpe Diem Clothing which is housed inside the historic John O’Daniel Exchange along with the Courtney Jordan Group.

“I met Wendy just chatting entrepreneur to entrepreneur, she is an excellent entrepreneur and developer, and we just clicked,” Jordan said.

“The challenge in the U.S. is we have a lot of relief, but we have almost no development,” Clark said. “I’m really excited about what he’s doing with StartUP Durham, because this is exactly what we need, we need entrepreneurship.”

StartUp Durham can impact the community as it presents an opportunity for many to start a business that will have the financial support and stability that will give it a real chance at success.

“The wealth disparity on Durham is so great, and there are plenty of people that can feed the homeless and give them shelter, but the most charitable action that anybody can do is to give someone a business and show them how to run it,” said Jordan.

Jordan also intends on listening to student-proposed business plans eventually taking one to be among the seven in StartUp Durham.

“We’re only going to be taking one student, unless we get blown away, out of the seven that are just in the idea stage, we want to open that up to more people that have been out there, done something, and have something that they just need a push to get it to that next level,” said Jordan.

“Already we’ve had four different inquiries, one is a young lady that sells sugar free products at Duke, and another one has an excellent proprietary idea that is nothing like it for the trucking industry. They’re students at (North Carolina) State, and they’ve already won entrepreneurship awards, cash prizes,” Jordan said.

“One thing I can say about Durham is it’s growing, but people care about one another and a lot of responses from businesses here in Durham is an overwhelming ‘yes, we would love to mentor people’ to help grow Durham and change the negative opinion of Durham. Durham is in an excellent place.”

“Seeing over the years how the nonprofit helps people with education, homelessness, youth development and you see this revolving door happen, they keep coming back. It would be nice if they were loyal to us and in a better place, but they’re not, so that means we’re doing something wrong,” Jordan said. “If nothing has changed, that’s a problem, there is no growth. That’s where it becomes a systemic issue, I don’t think it’s right and I’m just one of many people who just want to see this community do well, grow, and succeed.”