Durham's history and future are based, in part, on the entrepreneurial spirit of its diverse community. This Black History Month, we celebrate the legacy of Durham's Black Wall Street and tip our hat to the innovators who are making Durham one the best places in America to start a business.
We teamed up with American Underground to bring you a series of profiles of African-American entrepreneurs in Durham who are changing the business landscape. Meet Hassan Pinto, a 13-year Durham resident and founder of My.GreatestFan.com and Blue Blood Rivalry.
1. What ventures are you currently working on?
My.GreatestFan.com is a website designed for youth sports, clubs, and teams to raise money for any purpose. Whether that's a trip to Europe, a scoreboard, uniforms, whatever they want to do. The body of the business is using crowdfunding to create an avenue for localized communities to transfer money to the things they're passionate about.
Blue Blood Rivalry is a brand that consists of a website, a beer that's at 26 Triangle restaurants, a film, and an e-book. The film has aired at the Carolina Theatre, the Stadium 10 at Northgate, and next week it will air in Chapel Hill at Silverspot Cinema.
2. Blue Blood Rivalry centers on the competitive rivalry between Duke and UNC, especially as it relates to basketball. How did that rivalry inspire your entire Blue Blood brand, particularly the documentary you produced?
I said to myself, "Why do I want to live on Tobacco Road? What is about this place that's special and near to my heart?" The essence is the rivalry - these two competing universities that sit on Tobacco Road and create this electric experience that not only happens on Duke-Carolina [game] day, but happens every day.
In 2012 we took an inside-outside look and performed the first reality documentary ever done in this space, where we filmed the [Duke-Carolina game] and talked to 150 subjects as game day was unfolding. We allowed the fans, coaches, and players to tell us what it is and give us all the historical references.
I turned to Kickstarter in 2012 to make Duke-Carolina: The Blue Blood Rivalry. After 30 days I had $30,000. If your friends will put their money behind this film, they're as passionate about this project as you are. It was such a great passion project because it detailed two communities that I love: Durham and Chapel Hill. It showed why this place is amazing
3. What is special about Durham to you, as an entrepreneur?
It brings a smile to my face because I don't know where to start. As an entrepreneur, the biggest thing about Durham is optimism. Everybody's entrepreneurial here, from the guy with a food truck to the people starting album labels to the people in the tech space. If you get in now you can be a pillar in the community 5, 10 years from now.
I love living in Durham because I feel like I get everything. I have the countryside, suburban living, and then I have this incredible downtown with some of the best culinary experts in the world. I grew up in New York, I've lived out on the West Coast, but when you factor in proximity, entertainment, home values, people - this place is amazing. There's no other place in America I'd want to live.
4. What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
The biggest challenge is understanding where preparation and opportunity intersect. You could be building something that you can't capitalize on because the market may not be ready, people may not be ready, it's before its time. You don't have a good understanding of how long it will take to be successful.
When I factor in the city of Durham, one of the key components that was very important to me was making sure I could survive. If you're an entrepreneur you have to live in a city that has everything that you need. For me, I needed to be in a low or medium-cost tech hub. I needed to have the human capital around me so that I could get good people and grow my business. I also needed to survive and keep a roof over my head because at times you may have to have a second job to do what you think of as your first job. That second job may have to pay all your bills.
Durham was a place I could do everything. I could raise my kids, pursue my passions, and have a great lifestyle. Nowhere in the country could I replicate that.
5. Where will folks find you on the weekend?
If it's summertime, you can find me at the [Durham Bulls] baseball stadium. I really like being around my community and I can always find people I haven't seen in a couple of years. Out on the landing, with all the North Carolina beers, that's where you'll find me.
The entrepreneurs featured in this series are members of American Underground, a Google for Entrepreneurs Tech Hub and startup community based in Durham.