By Brenda Porter-Rockwell
Ask any real estate developer why they chose their line of business and most will say they want to help shape the communities where they live, work and play. Charlotte real estate developer, James Scruggs, has a similar, yet slightly different outlook. He builds in service to God with the goal of uplifting and empowering individuals to create their own kingdoms or financial footholds through real estate.
Guided by a higher power, Scruggs, CEO and President of Kingdom Development Partners, modeled his business based on a key pillar of the Christian faith — be of service to others.
“In the Christian faith, the kingdom of God is an important concept,” said Scruggs. “So, when I thought about the mission of my development company, I wanted it to be in service of the kingdom of God. I also wanted it to denote that the mission of this business would be to help people [build] their own kingdoms or financial foundations.”
Based on his experience, Scruggs said he believes that real estate investing such as home buying can lead to wealth building and lasting financial change. Homes increase in value, thus creating equity that can be used to re-invest. Also buying a home means you become eligible for mortgage deductions on your taxes, lowering your tax burden and keeping more of your money. It’s a perk unavailable to renters.
“Real estate changed my life. So, when days get hard, I think about what real estate has already done for me and my family, and I am motivated to help others experience this as well.
When one door closes
Real estate development has been good to Scruggs, but it was not his first career choice. He came to real estate developing through a career in finance. He was a licensed bonds trader where he diversified his personal portfolio with real estate investments. But change would come knocking. His employer at the time planned to move the finance business from Charlotte to New York. Scruggs had a decision to make. He could give up his adopted home and move his family north or trust in God’s plan for him.
“This was a real example of when God closes one door, another one always opens up,” Scruggs said.
What started as a financial investment strategy would turn out to be a blessing. Scruggs would go on to become a licensed real estate agent and partner with a local real estate firm. The relationship with the firm continues to this day, since it was that early experience which cemented his commitment to customer service and authenticity.
“Over the course of three years, I was able to acquire a substantial real estate portfolio” he said.
As he developed new skills and a broader outlook on real estate investing, becoming a real estate developer was a logical next step, yet Scruggs said, there have been bumps on his road to success with Kingdom Development Partners.
“As a Black developer, it has been harder to get access to capital,” Scruggs noted. “That said, a lot of the investment choices that I made in the early days of my career have borne fruit in my development business,” he said.
Scruggs is the vision behind some of the newer neighborhoods in The Queen City. Communities include Enclave at Enderly Park, described as a collection of 15 high-end two-story modern farmhouses; a suite of townhomes in the same Enderly Park neighborhood as Enclave, known as The Townes at Fern; as well as Kingston on West, which Scruggs said is a luxury, multi-unit community in the Historic Wilmore Community.
A career on the rise
Relationship building is the third pillar of his success, Scruggs said.
“There is a saying that when the student is ready, the teacher will come. That has been true in my career. The most impactful relationship that I have has been my relationship with Hugh McColl.”
McColl, the former CEO of Bank of America, is a banking legend in Charlotte and a mentor to several young, local entrepreneurs.
“Mr. McColl has gifted me with his wisdom, access to his network, and critical insights about life and business. He also charged me to provide the same to the next generation of African American entrepreneurs,” said Scruggs.
Even with sage advice from a successful businessman like McColl, there is one lesson Scruggs had to come to on his own. He had to build a team and partner effectively with that team. Starting out, Scruggs thought he had to carry the load alone. Over time, he learned to trust and delegate.
Navigating the early trials of entrepreneurship “has allowed me to lighten the load and …. accelerated my growth,” Scruggs said. “I’ve learned that I don’t have to know everything. I just need to have a team or partners who have the right expertise and skills.”
Looking back on what he knows now, wisdom shared by McColl and results from learning and growing, Scruggs would still encourage anyone to pursue a dream of real estate investing or development.
Some advice Scruggs gives to people who want to pursue real estate investing or development is to “Network, network, network! Find mentors and investors that believe in you and your plan and demonstrate your ability to execute.”
His final piece of advice: “Have a vision bigger than yourself.”