These Black men in business are going the extra mile to create opportunities for their community, all while creating a seat at the table for themselves.

André Walters and Derrick Brown — co-founders of Charlotte-based hybrid investment firm Free Fenix — have announced their latest move in the franchise space. The two are partnering with investment firm New Spring Capital to close a deal that makes them part-owners of Duck Donuts — a Mechanicsburg, PA-based chain of donut franchises.

As part-owners of the franchise, Walters and Brown also hold board seats at the company, which makes them the one of the first Black men to hold such positions at Duck Donuts.

“We believe the world is just getting to know Duck Donuts and when they do, they will notice what we noticed,” they tell AfroTech. “It took many long hours, conversations, compromises and perseverance to get this deal done, but in the end we accomplished the objective we established over a year ago and we think this is a win for not just us, but for the culture as a whole.”

According to them, large strategic decisions at companies like Duck Donuts are made at the board level. These two having the power to influence rulings at the top of the chain gives them the opportunity to position Duck Donuts as both a great product and company that “understands its role in the broader conversation surrounding access and inclusiveness, particularly when it comes to franchising opportunities.”

Courtesy of Free Fenix

“The significance of being at the table with a growing company like Duck Donuts can’t be overstated.  In order to spark change you have to be a part of the core conversations,” Walters and Brown share with us. “Serving on the board gives us an opportunity to participate in the thinking and decisions regarding the company’s priorities and that also allows us an opportunity to ensure that all stakeholders are represented in that thinking and those decisions.”

Duck Donuts’ decision to partner with both Free Fenix and New Spring Capital was fueled by its need to accelerate company growth, increase brand awareness and strengthen corporate and franchise culture.

To get the ball rolling on this partnership deal, Free Fenix first joined forces with New Spring Capital to provide a hefty investment toward the acquisition. 

“We were introduced to them through a mutual contact and it become very clear early on that Free Fenix would benefit tremendously from connecting with New Spring,” Walters and Brown share. “The leaders of their franchise division have great experience growing franchises and taking them to the next level.”

The Duck Donuts franchise chain currently operates 101 locations, and its partnership with Free Fenix will only bring more economic access to the company.

Free Fenix was created to offer game-changing collaborations and to serve as a one-stop-shop for all venture needs, according to its website. By working with innovative, high-performance firms, the hybrid investment company is able to utilize its vast network to help close the gap between the industry and the community, and give prospective partners an entry point into a global marketplace.

“Franchises play an important role in communities throughout the country and the world for that matter.  They employ many and they are significant stakeholders in the communities that they serve,” Walters and Brown tell us. “We started Free Fenix with a simple mission, ‘to enhance lives,’ and these franchises provide a great vehicle in which to do just that.”

They added, “When we succeed with our mission through the franchises we partner with, we not only enhance our lives, we also enhance the lives of the customers we serve, the communities we do business in, the employees we employ and the partners we join forces with. Ultimately, Free Fenix was started to help as many people win as possible.”

In line with the firm’s overarching goal, Walters and Brown intend to expand Free Fenix in ways that not only benefit their business dealings with Duck Donuts, but also create more economic opportunties for marginalized communities.

Looking ahead, the two co-founders “intend to continue partnering with brands that offer opportunities to not just a few but to all.”

“We will continue looking for those brands and when we find the right fits, we will continue to help those brands grow in the markets in which we serve.”

For more information about Free Fenix, visit its website.

Editorial note: This article has been updated and revised.