Sunday, July 14, 2024

EY cites Greenville’s Balot as Southeast Entrepreneur of the Year

Rich Balot

Rich Balot, a Greenville businessman who has built the largest U.S. chain of Verizon retail stores over the past two decades, was recently named a winner of EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year Southeast Award. He now becomes a finalist in the consulting firm’s national competition.

“It had to do with me growing the business from one store in Wilson to more than 1,700 today,” Balot says. The judges also showed interest in Balot’s decision to sell his Victra retail business to a private equity group in 2015, then come back as CEO in 2019 and acquire a majority interest two years later.

Balot, 47, says he’s now fully committed to running Victra, which has annual revenue of $3 billion. “Verizon has lots of exciting things going on,” he says, citing the telecommunication giant’s efforts with streaming, home internet services and integrating artificial intelligence.

While Victra is the company name, Balot says the stores promote the Verizon brand and operate in a way that is indistinguishable from corporate-owned sites. Victra stores in 50 states employ from 7,000 to 10,000 people depending on the season.

While the Raleigh headquarters has several hundred employees, Balot lives in Greenville in Pitt County. “Why would you live anywhere else,” he says. “I’m an East Carolina University Pirate and I just love Greenville.” He and his wife, Colleen, have four children, who are ages 13 to 19.

Balot graduated from the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics in Durham, then attended N.C. State University for two years before transferring to ECU to be closer to his first business, a mobile DJ service.

He often needed directions to parties and weddings, so he was an early adopter of mobile phones, paying $40 a month for 30 minutes of service on his first contract. He earned a bachelor’s degree at ECU, then joined his brother, Dave, to open their first mobile phone store in Wilson in 1999. Their business was initially called ABC Phones of North Carolina

Since then, Victra has bought more than 30 companies in what Balot calls a “roll-up strategy.” The biggest acquisition occurred in August 2022 with the purchase of Go Wireless.

He had kept a 20% interest in Victra when he sold to two private equity companies, who struggled with the business. “They didn’t run it into the ground, but they were headed in that direction,” he says.

He then repurchased it with several partners, with the Balot brothers controlling a majority stake.

During his brief “retirement,” Balot says he opened several other businesses including a bagel shop, golf cart rentals, real estate and a consumer finance operation. All are doing fine, he says. But his main focus is Victra and his main philanthropic interests, including John Paul II Catholic High School in Greenville, where three of his children attend; and Haven at Blue Creek, a women’s rehabilitation center started by his wife

“I love what I do and I’m in it for life,” Balot says. “ I don’t plan to go anywhere. I’m making money to give back to the community.”

David Mildenberg
David Mildenberg
David Mildenberg is editor of Business North Carolina. Reach him at

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