Alumnus Uses Entrepreneurial Spirit to Launch Entertainment Enterprise

Posted November 11, 2020, 4:11PM

Sulaiman Mausi arrived at North Carolina Central University in 1991 from Detroit, Michigan, carrying with him a legacy of leadership and history of entrepreneurship that was rooted deep in his spirit. His grandfather, Nathan Garrett Sr., was the first Black certified public accountant practicing in North Carolina. His great-grandfather was a pharmacist and lived until he was 104 years old. Mausi is a sixth-generation entrepreneur. 

grandfather
Mausi celebrating his graduation day with his great grandfather, Dr. York D. Garrett.
Photo courtesy of Sulaiman Mausi 

“I often came down to North Carolina from Detroit to visit,” he recalled. His mother later sent him to NCCU, where he majored in history. 

“Coming here, there was a different energy, mindset, and way of life. I came from inner-city Detroit and arrived on campus seeing young people who were focused on learning. The weather was nice, and Durham’s location was central, making it easy to visit Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Hampton, and Myrtle Beach.”

Mausi lived with his grandparents on Cecil Street during his freshman year. “My grandmother, in particular, helped guide me my first year there,” he said. 

“I enjoyed history and thought about going to law school, as my grandparents were graduates of NCCU School of Law.” 

He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1997 before returning to Detroit.

Mausi started the Dome Group, LLC, with his wife, Lesleigh, a former teacher and secondary school administrator, in 2009. (Pictured left to right) Grandparents Wanda and Nathan Garrett, Sr. wife Lesleigh Mausi, son Ahmad, Sulaiman Mausi and son Sulaiman Jr. Inset: Mausi celebrating his graduation day with his great grandfather, Dr. York D. Garrett. 
(Pictured left to right) Grandparents Wanda and Nathan Garrett, Sr. wife Lesleigh Mausi, son Ahmad, Sulaiman Mausi and son Sulaiman Jr. (not pictured, son Nasir)
Photo courtesy of Sulaiman Mausi 

  

LIFE AFTER NCCU: HISTORY’S CONTEMPORARY CONTEXT 

 

“My mom worked under then-mayor Coleman Young, the first African American mayor of the city,” he said. 

Shahida Mausi produced plays and special events for the city and later started The Right Productions Inc., with Mausi assisting behind the scenes. 

Mausi
Photo by Chioke Brown

He also produced marketing assets for the Detroit Historical Museum, and in 2002-2003 came up with an idea for an exhibit that brought his history degree to life.

“I developed a concept for an exhibit on techno music, called ‘Techno: Detroit’s Gift to the World,’ that premiered in 2003. The musical genre was birthed in Detroit, and I was given the opportunity to tell how it started and curate the traveling exhibit.  

Essentially, I was creating living, breathing history. I understood and appreciated that you have to carefully tell stories and preserve oral history.” 

Mausi further expanded his interest in entertainment and music through the Detroit Music Festival by driving artists and arranging transportation. 

“I figured: ‘If I can do this for you, I can do it for myself,’ and I’ve been an entrepreneur ever since.” 

He quit his job at the Detroit Historical Museum and started arranging bookings for MGM Grand Detroit casino, which led to additional opportunities. 

“I won a contract with Chene Park Amphitheatre, now Aretha Franklin Amphitheatre, in Detroit in 2004 and decided to build, grow and learn from that. 

His mother, still working in Detroit, is the only African American female majority owner and manager of an amphitheater or entertainment complex in the country.  

In 2009, Mausi started The Dome Group LLC with his wife, Lesleigh, a former teacher and secondary school administrator.  

 

THE BULL CITY RETURN 

 

Mausi and his wife relocated to the Triangle area in 2008, the same year that the Durham Performing Arts Center, or DPAC, opened in downtown Durham. 

 “They needed someone in the urban space to book artists, and I had the relationships,” he said. “We booked award-winning headliners, including Mary J. Blige, Big Sean, H.E.R. and others.” 

The Dome Group picked up additional talent and clients, including the City of Durham, City of Raleigh, Durham’s Bimbé Cultural Arts Festival, and annual homecomings for NCCU, Winston-Salem State University and Shaw University, while continuing to also host operations in Detroit.

His experience taught him how to build a successful business. 

“In the entertainment business, you have to put your personal feelings aside,” he said. “Yes, you can be a fan, but provide the artist’s team with a competitive budget and stay within it.” 

In reflecting on his biggest success thus far, Mausi replied: “It’s been the ability to employ people. That really means a lot to my family and to how we build our business. It’s also about helping other companies build and grow, as well. I don’t think people always realize the economics of how partnering with other minority-owned lighting, insurance, marketing and transportation companies is so important..” 

He also spoke about his failures: “Every concert isn’t a success. You have to just make sure you win more than you lose and learn from your previous mistakes.” 

 

GIVING BACK TO NCCU 

 

The Mausis have established an endowed scholarship with the university, the Mausi Endowment for Music and Arts Endowed Scholarships. 

“I got so much out of NCCU,” he said. “It is invaluable for us to be able to reach out and teach other young people what we learned. I want to pour into others and ensure NCCU is thriving for another 100 years. I believe future Eagles should get the same high-quality education that I was able to get when I was here.” 

He also provides opportunities for future entrepreneurs. 

“If the phone rings, I try my best to answer it. I try to accept any opportunity to speak to and encourage students. Many of the perceptions of Black men in the community aren’t true, and it is an honor and a privilege to give back.” 

In March 2018, Sulaiman and Lesleigh Mausi acquired The Art of Cool Festival, a Durham nonprofit established in 2014 by Cicely Mitchell, a music-loving biostatistician, and Al Strong, an instructor in the NCCU Jazz Studies Department. 

The annual festival’s economic impact is approximately $3 million. “The festival puts the city, region and state on a national stage,” Mausi said. “It’s a huge undertaking for us, but we consider it a privilege and are up for the challenge. People go to the Essence Festival in New Orleans, so why can’t they come to Durham?” 

The 2019 festival featured Run DMC, Jill Scott, Big Daddy Kane, Ari Lennox and 9th Wonder.  

 

COVID-19 PIVOTS 

 

COVID-19 changed every industry, including The Dome Group’s businesses. “Nothing will replace live music and The Dome Group LLC will be back stronger than ever. We have been doing smaller, virtual events in Detroit, but safety is always our first priority.” 

The Mausis also have new ventures underway. “Our main pivot has been to start a logistics business, ATAP Logistics LLC, and we have a contract with Amazon,” he said. 

There are elements of continuity in the new business, Lesleigh Mausi said. “We are employing the same people who are trusted in the community and have worked with us at concerts and festivals over the years,” she said.  

And they have penned a book on couples who thrive both in marriage and business, scheduled for release in late 2020.  

"I got so much out of NCCU. It is invaluable for us to be able to reach out and teach other young people what we learned."

- Sulaiman Mausi 

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