Black Business

From College Dropout to Real Estate Mogul, Kenneth Bell is Shaking Up Charlotte’s Investment Market

Kenneth Bell, a college dropout, is now a real estate mogul and the Founder and CEO of KB Holdings Construction and Development, a Black-owned residential real estate investment firm in Charlotte, North Carolina. He’s acquired a real estate investment portfolio – a mix of commercial and single and multi-family home properties – estimated at $35 million. And he has $14 million dollars in deals currently in the pipeline.

However, Bell’s public-facing success, in many ways, belies the extreme highs and lows he’s endured and transcended throughout his career and, well, his life. As the popular saying goes, Kenneth Bell doesn’t look like what he’s been through.

“I’m kind of an ‘idiot savant,’” jokes Bell, 51, referring to his tendency to transition professionally from one industry to another. He dropped out of college in 1995 to start a business and later owned a basketball camp for four years.

After his marriage in 1999 and the birth of his first son in 2000, Bell taught himself system engineering and eventually landed a “safe and stable” $90,000 – a year job working on the trading floor for Bank of America. But yet he found himself yearning for more.

“I was a young father at the time and I just really wanted to make sure that my family was straight,” remembers Bell, who was recently recognized by Pride magazine as one of the top Black real estate developers in the Charlotte, North Carolina area. “This spirit of entrepreneurship was ignited in me because of my desire to make sure that my kids were well taken care of. I always wanted them to have the best of the best and I still do.”

While many would have rested on the laurels of that early success, it only inspired Bell to dream bigger.

The turning point came when he dipped his toe into the world of real estate investment. “I bought my first rental property, a duplex, through sheer determination,” recalls Bell, now a father of three, including a toddler daughter. “Let’s just say that I used some creative financing to get my first deal, a mix of borrowing from friends and using some credit cards and savings. I piecemilled it all together to buy my first property, a duplex.”

He created real estate investment firm Agile Investments and at one point amassed a “43-door rental portfolio.” His excitement over being a landlord quickly faded, as he soon learned that dealing with difficult tenants wasn’t his thing. Next, he ventured into flipping houses, leveraging his skills and resources to turn properties for profit.

Things were great until the 2008 market downturn hit him hard. Then life hit him harder. In 2015 he hit rock bottom, after landing behind bars on an 11-month prison stint for leasing a commercial building to what turned out to be a marijuana business.

“I know this probably sounds crazy, but it ended up being one of the biggest blessings of my life,” he asserts. “I was finally able to slow down – I really needed to – and just think about the direction I wanted to take my life in. I was also able to help a lot of people that I met while in there. Since I’ve gotten out, I have been able to employ a lot of those people. I guess you could say I’m trying to take my second chance and help others get there’s too.”

Bell emerged from that severe setback stronger and wiser, transitioning into government contracting before returning to real estate, with an emphasis on infill development, a niche he’s mastered in the Charlotte market. “I noticed that while developers focused on large projects, there were overlooked opportunities in urban areas,” he explains.

One notable project, located near Johnson C. Smith University, an historically Black college in Charlotte, challenged widespread conventional wisdom in the industry. “People thought I was crazy, but I shut down the haters,” remembers Bell, referring to the skepticism he faced about selling homes in long-neglected areas. “I was able to transform neglected lots into lucrative properties.”

Since then, Bell has hit his stride riding a huge wave of success. “I hope to do $100 million worth of projects in the next two years,” he confides, adding that he’s now setting his sights on getting into the hotel ownership game, through Vesterr (, a platform touted as the nation’s first Black-owned and led crowdfunding platform for real estate investing. “Think of GoFundMe, but for commercial real estate,” he explains. “It’s the on-ramp many people need to get started in this commercial real estate game.”

In the midst of his winning season, Bell says he’s determined to continue helping empower others, especially members of the Black community, pursue a path to generational wealth. “Real estate is the lowest rung for generational wealth for Black people,” he asserts. “It’s the quickest and most accessible way for us to turn our financial situation around. As a community, we need to be taking advantage of these opportunities more in order to secure a better future for ourselves and our families.”

In light of his passion to pay it forward, Bell regularly shares helpful tips and advice on his Instagram page @kbholdings (“I have over six thousand followers,” he quips). He also provides personal mentorship and leads online courses in hopes of teaching others. “I want to create opportunities and change lives through real estate,” he says. “I believe in the transformative power of real estate.”

Learn more about Bell’s company via its official web site at

Kenneth Bell is available to share his inspirational story of financial success and resilience across all media platforms. For press inquiries or media interview request, please contact or 704-422-4214.

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