"I encourage each of you to take risks, dream big, start where you are with what you have."
Nicholas Perkins hasn't been back to his childhood home in 30 years. Humble beginnings started inside the two-bedroom apartment he was raised in on Elliot Circle. The 42-year-old remembers daydreaming about his future.
Big dreams and hope
"My ability to dream and visionary characteristics were born in this place. A lot of times when you grow up in impoverished situations like this all you can do is dream and hope for," said Perkins. "It brings back a lot of memories of being here. The place looks the same."
He attended EE Smith High School before heading to Fayetteville State University. Perkins was a student in Dr. Pam Jackson's Operations Management class.
"After class every Friday night for 30 minutes he kept asking questions," said Jackson. "How do you apply this? Does anybody use this? He was really using this class to figure it out so that later on he'd be successful."
Perkins is a double HBCU graduate from Fayetteville State University and Howard University. He owns Perkins Management Services, a contract food services company primarily serving HBCUs.
HBCU experience changes the game
"There was a glaring difference in the way food services were being delivered at HBCUs versus non-HBCUs. That became a niche market for me," he said.
Perkins is also President and CEO of the national burger franchise Fuddruckers. Between both businesses, he's a busy man who oversees hundreds of employees. His mother always knew he was destined for greatness.
"He is fearless and a go-getter. He will not take no for an answer," said Denise Perkins Parker, his mother. "I always explain to him: never forget where you come from."
Perkins hasn't forgotten his roots. He gave the commencement speech in 2022 for Fayetteville State University. He had a message of inspiration for the graduates.
Returning to Elliott Circle brought back a lot of memories for Perkins. He shared words of wisdom for others hungry for success.
"I encourage each of you to take risks, dream big, start where you are with what you have," said Perkins.
More Black History in NC
63 years later, an overdue historic marker for a major moment in Raleigh civil rights history
Black cultural life in Raleigh getting a museum to call its own on city's southeast side
Rediscovering the history of Raleigh's Black neighborhoods
Effort ongoing to record the untold Black history at Raleigh's Dix Park