Entrepreneur faces a challenge when seeking property in Whiteville

COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WWAY) —A Whiteville native hoping to find a space to serve the youth in her hometown is facing a roadblock. A property owner denied her the opportunity to apply, citing concerns over potential drug trafficking.

It is not illegal for a commercial property owner to deny a lease to someone, but entrepreneur Shalisa Shaw was put off by one of the reasons she was given as to why she couldn’t apply, concerned it was due to discrimination.

Shalisa Shaw plans to open a space for 13 to 17 year old students in Whiteville, and found what she believed to be an ideal location to rent.

“A teen WiFi lounge, right because that is the idea, that is the business concept. So having a teen WiFi lounge, I feel as though it would serve as like a safe, healthy space, for our youth –right, to spend time and explore,” said Shalisa Shaw, entrepreneur.

Less than 3 weeks ago Shaw met the property owner and toured the building. She expected to fill out a credit application next.

Instead, the owner emailed her, stating in part “I am not sure that your concept will generate enough revenue to be a viable operating business that is sustainable. I don’t see how you will be able to pay your fixed costs,” and “My other major concern, is the risk of the location becoming a drug trafficking site, even with physical and electronic security. “

“I was completely shocked, by the receipt of that email and where it transitioned, like because the next steps that we discussed, that did not align to it,” said Shalisa Shaw.

Shaw said her main goal for the property is to serve the youth of Columbus County, not earn revenue, as she would independently finance the project. She was also confused by the connection of her business plan to drug trafficking.

“This very sense of prejudgment has impacted others wishing to invest in Columbus County, and it is unfortunate that their all still some, –right there are still some people with biases that have a form of control,” said Shaw.

Shaw is looking on the bright side, still searching for a location to move forward with a WiFi lounge for teens.

“I am confident that this incident will not prevent me from being able to fulfill my dream, –right, and I am actually more determined than ever to partner and build with other county locals and natives that believe in our community,” said Shaw.

WWAY reached out to the property owner about the email he sent Shaw, but he declined to comment.

Shalisa Shaw said she is open to suggestions and collaboration from community partners at sshaw@shawenterprise.us.

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