Photos by Crystal at Picture Studios in Greensboro | Follow On Instagram @InsideMonthly

In this interview, we meet Judaea Morris, a resilient entrepreneur and community advocate from Raleigh, North Carolina. She is the founder of Collab Raleigh and the organizer of RaleighWRLD Summerfest 2023, which will be held at Dorothea Dix Park near Downtown Raleigh on Saturday, September 30th from 2 PM to 8 PM. Through her foundation and other ventures, she has been able provide vital resources to the community, and shape Raleigh’s growth in a meaningful way.

Where were you born, and what was your childhood like?

I was born in Raleigh, North Carolina. Wake Med. Lord knows. My childhood happened pretty quickly. I’m the oldest of five. I was a teenage mom, so that says a lot. I grew up fast and had to take care of my four younger siblings. My mom also had an in-home daycare, so I was taking care of the neighborhood’s kids and then messed around and have my own. So, yeah, it looked like hard work and a lot of sacrifices being made, of course, and just being a second mother figure. My mom worked at night, and my dad was a DJ, so obviously, he worked at night. That was his nighttime job. So, I was cooking dinner, bathing kids, getting ready for school, helping with homework.

What music do you remember listening to growing up?

I actually listened to a lot of soft rock coming up. I was what was known as an Oreo back then. So, it was a lot of The Fray, Green Day, Nickelback, NSYNC. I was a big NSYNC fan. I was also a Destiny’s Child fan too, as well. Maybe some Nelly. And then 50 Cent when he came out. I was a huge 50 Cent fan. Definitely knew all the lyrics to “In the Club” before I should have. I should have.

Photos by Crystal at Picture Studios in Greensboro | Follow On Instagram @RentMyStudio

How were your teenage years different from your twenties?

My teenage years were definitely different from my twenties. Again, being a teenage mom, I also wanted to be able to provide for my daughter. So, I graduated high school early, as well. So at 16, I had my daughter. By 17, I was in college. And so, that was a huge transition for anybody. Pushing out a baby and then a few months later going to college and being on the college campus by yourself for the first time. Growing up in a conservative home, it was the first time I had a lot of freedom. So, it looked like a lot of partying for me. I mean, I was just, I was wild. Not like girls gone wild, wild. But I was definitely, you know, enjoying my freedom and definitely wasted a lot of time in my teenage years. In college, partying and not taking it seriously. I went to a private school. It was extremely expensive. So, moving into my early 20s, by 19, I kind of got myself together, became like a full-time mom. My mom was keeping my daughter while I was in college. Got my first place and started working. So, my early 20s, I was really just hustling a lot, working two, three jobs. It was just me and my daughter. It looked a whole lot different from my teenage years, super mature.

What is it like raising kids in an world with social media?

My kids range from 16 to 2. The 16-year-old pretty much has access to anything, but he’s a good kid, and we have a lot of conversations with the older kids as well. I have a 13-year-old daughter, and the 16-year-old is a boy. We just, you know, like to have conversations. At least we know where his head’s at, you know, what he might be kind of into. He’s more into gaming and things like that. Getting to the point now where his friends can drive, so they’re kind of getting out. My 13-year-old daughter, she likes the TikTok, IG. She’s not allowed to have it, but she’ll get on it on my phone or on her friend’s phone, things like that. But we definitely monitor her phones. We have to set parental control settings on her phones to stop certain things. So, it’s definitely hard, but I feel like if you kind of keep that open line of communication with the kids, it’ll make it easier because at least you know where their head is at. And if they feel safe talking to you about the things that they are seeing or hearing, then it’ll definitely give you a leg up because you really can’t prevent it. Even if, you know, even though we stop our daughter from seeing on her phone, she’ll get on a school bus, and her friends are looking at it on their phones. So, it definitely is harder, but, again, just having that communication, I feel like it helps a lot.

Photos by Crystal at Picture Studios in Greensboro | Follow On Instagram @InsideMonthly

How did you come up with the idea for Collab Raleigh?

Honestly, it was just kind of like God in my ear. I have a print company, and I needed a space because I was working in a bedroom in my home. At that point, I had about three printers, and the room kept getting smaller and smaller. I had all this equipment. So, I was like, I need a space, a commercial space. It would have been my first time having a commercial space. I was only in business for one year at that point. And I had a friend who had just moved into a bigger commercial space and had a space, but it was still bigger than what I needed. So, my mom was like, okay, let me figure out how I can make this work for me without having to rent out this entire space for myself.

So I was like, I know there are probably other entrepreneurs that want space but can’t afford to rent an entire suite. So I said, I’ll rent the entire suite and rent out all the other rooms and the spaces that I don’t need and help some other business owners out by cutting down the cost of what they would have paid going somewhere else, giving them a collaborative environment, almost kind of like a barbershop feel for business owners. And that’s how Collab Raleigh was birthed.

I was, I think, pregnant when I first got the lease. So I did a lot of the renovations pregnant. So we had some wallpaper falling, and some stuff might not have been built correctly. But we did it, and we put it together. I got it in October. It was opened up by that January. It came together so quickly and so fast. When we did the grand opening, I didn’t really have a publicist. I mean, we had made a flyer and was posting about it, but I didn’t really run any ads. It ended up just being hundreds of people in a parking lot that had showed up to support, and we were super amazed. At the time, I didn’t have an assistant. It was just me doing this on my own. And so it has really grown into something very beautiful. We have housed now over maybe 20 different businesses in that space, probably more than that, podcasts, and networking events, and pop-up shops, and all types of things. So that’s how Collab Raleigh was birthed.

How has your business model evolved since you started it?

So, my business model for Collab Raleigh has evolved because our model is “collab, don’t compete,” but what we have learned is that when you move into an arena where there is so much competition and people don’t understand, number one, the impact of collaborating, even collaborating with people who do the same thing as you, you’ll hit a brick wall there. And then you also hit a brick wall with just people who are used to that competitive environment and would rather tear you down than work with you, if that makes sense.

I’ve had to evolve in the people, of course, that we choose to partner with and also even people I just choose to have conversations with. We have had business meetings, and we have talked about things, and people have taken my ideas and done it. I’ve had people I was supposed to do events with, instead of doing it with me, they had a separate event on their own and did it on the same day as my event. So, it has evolved in a way of vetting people in a different process, of course, still having that same message of collaboration and being willing to collaborate.

But now that process looks a little different. We want to make sure that we’re dealing with like-minded individuals and businesses that really have a heart for collaboration and understand that competition is needed in a marketplace, but as a minority-owned business owner, we are nowhere near the marketplace we really need to be. So we have to, unfortunately, collaborate even more to get to a certain position to really start competing on a certain level. And also, if you look at bigger brands, they collaborate. They don’t compete with each other. They collaborate. They find different ways to work together. And I think that the tide is definitely changing on that. I think we show people ways that it can be done and it’s successful.

How would you describe the RaleighWRLD Festival?

I would describe RaleighWRLD Fest as a day of celebration for any Raleigh native, anybody that has ever visited the city of Raleigh, or is even curious about visiting the city of Raleigh. It’s a day of celebration for the creatives, the curators, for artists, for tastemakers, for people who like to indulge in food and arts and entertainment. It’s a day of celebration and collaboration to come together for that common goal, just to have a good time, be around like-minded individuals, and have that friendly environment to enjoy yourself.

RaleighWRLD will be on Saturday, September 30th, 2023 | Visit for more details

I feel like, you know, once you get to a certain point, the clubs are not really what you want to do anymore, but you still want to have a good time. Just sitting on a picnic blanket out in the field, looking at the skyline, and eating food from a food truck, it’s good food, and just being around your family and just the scenery and the energy that’s there. I feel like to bring that all together is just a beautiful masterpiece, and I feel like it’s something that anybody and everybody can enjoy, from the youngest to the oldest. I feel like it’s something for anyone and everybody, even people who really don’t like the outdoors can enjoy that outside space just because of the view.

What have you learned about yourself as a team leader?

I have learned as a team leader about myself that when it comes to high-stress situations, it’s important to make sure that I keep people aware of the type of environment they’re going to be working in. I’m the type of person that doesn’t like to be blindsided, so when I have conversations with my team, when I have conversations with my volunteers, my staff, I let them know, “Hey, this is going to be chaotic, it’s going to be a mess, something’s not going to go right, things are going to go wrong.” So, go ahead and get that out of your head.

But understanding how to pivot and improvise in that moment and making good decisions, sometimes in a heated moment, will make or break anything. So, those are the conversations that we have with the team, and I feel like people are super appreciative because when it gives them space to say, “Hey, listen, I don’t do well in high-stress environments,” we can find alternative roles for them. For example, instead of having someone at a registration table with a long line of people, they could be passing out water bottles. So, I think I’ve learned that about myself, like my communication when it comes to a team is really good. It comes from my background in social services and my experience in the corporate world. I’ve seen what a lack of communication can do, so I make sure I stress communication.

What should people expect to see in year two of the event?

So, in year two this year, people should expect to see a lot more collaborations at the festival. We have a couple of surprises in store that I’m trying to figure out how much I want to reveal, but definitely expect to be wowed by a couple of different things. The people that we have put together this event with and have curated these different events within the event, I would say look out for that. You never know at what point something might happen at the festival this year, so be prepared to be surprised.

Photos by Crystal at Picture Studios in Greensboro | Follow On Instagram @RentMyStudio

It’s not one of those events where you show up at the last hour. You want to be there for the whole day to get the full experience. Also, expect to see a change in layout, creating a closer-knit feel so that people can mingle more easily. We want people to be closer together this year, not too close, but close enough to interact comfortably. We’re going to have some DJ sets this year, so there will be opportunities to enjoy some music and party a bit. That’s what comes to mind right now, but there will be more exciting elements to discover at the event.

How do you plan to grow the event in future years?

Honestly, my vision for the future growth of the festival is expansive and can go in many different directions. Currently, our biggest challenge is the high cost associated with organizing the festival, and we need more support to continue growing. While we do receive support from various sources, we require additional support, not just from businesses but also from the city itself, to fully realize our goals. To clarify, I’m not just in this to entertain people. Entertainment is a part of it, but our primary aim is to make a meaningful impact on our community. I want our festival to leave a lasting imprint, and if we can’t achieve that, I wouldn’t want to continue.

In our first year, we received an impact report from the city that showed we had already made a significant impact. Our goal for this year is to quadruple that impact and have the ability to pay four people’s salaries at the City of Raleigh through the festival. Looking ahead, I want to expand our impact even further—tenfold, if possible.

Beyond entertainment, I want to give people access to mental health resources, promote sustainability by encouraging people to grow their own food and make informed decisions about their diets, and provide resources for financial security and life insurance. These aren’t just bills; they are necessities, and we want to help our community access these resources. Ultimately, I want our festival to impact people in such a profound way that they’re talking about it year-round because they’re experiencing daily benefits from what happened at the festival. For example, last year, we had a media person who worked with us and later received referrals from us. She went on to work with at least ten celebrity clients and credited us for changing her life. That’s the kind of impact we want—where everyone who attends is continually affected in some way.

Who is the best-dressed member of your family?

Oh, that’s a fun question. I would have to say the best-dressed member of my family is probably my uncle, Sean. He’s always had a very sharp and clean-cut style. From his outfits to his shoes, he pays meticulous attention to detail. He even had a thing about his Air Force One sneakers—if the bottom got dirty, he would give them away! So, I would definitely say he’s the best-dressed in the family. Another fashionable member was my late uncle, Monk. He had a knack for looking sharp and stylish, often donning COOGI outfits from head to toe.

Who would be the lead actor in a film about your own life?

If a film were made about my life, I would love to see Tika Sumpter play the lead role. I admire her work and think she would bring a lot of depth and authenticity to the character.

Photos by Crystal at Picture Studios in Greensboro | Follow On Instagram @InsideMonthly

What do you think about the recent growth of Raleigh?

My perspective on the recent growth of Raleigh has evolved over time. As a Raleigh native who has experienced the city’s growth firsthand, my feelings have changed significantly. Initially, when I first witnessed gentrification and rapid changes in the city, I was upset. It felt like my city was being taken away from me without my awareness or consent. I had seen the city transform, and it was almost like I was blindsided by the speed of change. However, as I gained a deeper understanding of the city’s plans and began to engage with decision-makers, my perspective shifted. I started to appreciate the beauty in the development and construction taking place. I became more proactive in aligning my brands and businesses with the city’s vision rather than feeling like an outsider.

I now see the city’s growth as an opportunity, but it also comes with challenges. The city is expanding rapidly, and I’m excited about the new buildings and opportunities emerging. However, it’s crucial that we address issues of affordability and access for all residents. We need to ensure that the benefits of this growth are inclusive and reach everyone in the community.

Overall, I’m more appreciative of Raleigh’s growth, but I also recognize the importance of being actively involved in shaping the city’s future to ensure it benefits everyone.

What are the best spots to take a date around downtown?

One of my top recommendations for a date night around downtown Raleigh is Barcelona Wine Bar. It’s a fantastic spot with a tapas menu, and they offer a charcuterie board that is absolutely amazing. I’m a big fan of charcuterie, and theirs is to die for.

What makes it even more special is the outdoor seating area. Even in the winter, they have heaters and provide cozy blankets to keep you warm. It creates a romantic and comfortable atmosphere for a date night. I’ve had wonderful experiences there, and it’s definitely a must-visit spot.

“Our goal for this year is to quadruple that impact and have the ability to pay four people’s salaries at the City of Raleigh through the festival.” Judaea Morris, RaleighWRLD