Owen Metts, Sr. is a jack-of-all-trades who prefers to keep a low profile and let his work and actions speak for him rather than words. But despite his preference for keeping behind the scenes, there’s never a shortage of projects for him to work on. “When I wake up in the morning, often as early as 4:30 am, it’s just a matter of which briefcase it is that I need to pick up for that day,” he says with a laugh. Even aside from his real estate and insurance businesses, Owen has many commitments, a few among them being his service on the board of directors for the Harrelson Center, his role on the advisory board for the Salvation Army of Wilmington, and his position as an associate pastor at Saint Luke A.M.E. Zion Church, where he’s been a member for 35 years. The key to Owen managing to juggle so many responsibilities? “Always put God first. And I’m a strong believer in people not just working, but doing something that finds them fulfillment.”
For Owen, that fulfillment has been found largely in his insurance work, and in the most recent chapters of his life, real estate. For over 35 years, Owen has worked in insurance; this has included not only working for companies such as Mutual of Omaha, but also owning and operating his own insurance consultation business–The Benefit Connection–for the last nearly four decades. After successfully working in this industry for so long, one might wonder why the decision to add realty onto his plate? “I never look at the complexity of a problem–I look at the solution. I want to help people,” Owen says. “Sometimes God will take you around before he places you where you need to be. If I seek what I’m looking for in His name, then I will find it. I believe and practice that.”
Where God placed Owen was at a condemned building at 801 Dawson Street. But to see it today, after three years of work bringing Owen’s vision for the space to life, you’d never have known that it was ever in a state of disrepair. According to Owen, the satellite office will serve to host both of his businesses, and will also be available as a venue for events such as wedding receptions, corporate events and anniversary parties. He says that they refer to the renovated building as the Oasis. “Before, this area was considered by many to be a ‘dried pond’. So we dropped an ‘oasis’ in the dry pond to motivate people to go out and do even better things for their community. We want people to come in and get a drink of inspiration, a drink of new vision, and a drink of new hope.”
While Owen is grateful for his successful ventures, and is not one to be defined by the perceptions of others, he is also aware of how his image and works can serve as motivation for people in the community. “My wife and I kind of laugh about how every week someone is calling asking me to come work for them. But why would I do that in this part of my life? As it relates to the racial issue, I feel that, for me, if I did opt out to just work for someone else, I feel like I would be selling my people short. I’m seen as a successful entrepreneur, so I can’t just fold up and go do that.”
But Owen is also determined not to let the factor of race ever limit his work, and he advocates for others to do the same. “I don’t want to focus on the racial issue, I focus on what I want to accomplish as an individual. I focus on the task assigned to me by God. The issue of race certainly exists, but the fact of the matter is that you have to focus on your goals, and how you can help others accomplish their goals as well.”
“As I sit in the middle of this building resurrected from the dead, it makes me think: many people have had the same opportunities that I’ve had. Sometimes someone can give you an opportunity and what you do with it is up to you. And when you don’t know how to capitalize on it, you have to have the sense to ask someone who has more knowledge for help. Sometimes we get in a certain situation because we’re afraid to ask for help. I don’t have a problem saying I don’t understand something. We have to learn how to seek out knowledge from mentors–any mentor. From people like StepUp Wilmington, for example,” Owen added with a smile.
“I think that sometimes people don’t only need to hear a sermon. Sometimes they need to see a sermon. When you say something, let me see where the action is. If you talk about a God that you serve, show me what He has done for you in your life.”
Finally, Owen’s advice for anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit? “I would say focus on your goal, whatever that is. And try to put God first in everything you do. He will make provisions for you that you cannot make for yourself. Do that and don’t focus on problems, but stay focused on your goal, and be willing to work. A higher purpose needs to wake you up every morning.”