Black women-led RICE now the largest entrepreneurial hub in the United States

BY Preta Peace Namasaba May 23, 2024 10:25 AM EDT

The Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs (RICE) is a business generator specifically dedicated to the empowerment of Black business owners. It serves as an economic mobility engine for the community, driving entrepreneurs and small business owners to innovate, grow, create jobs, and build wealth. The Atlanta-based organization is now the largest entrepreneurial hub in the United States and is being led by Black women.

“Atlanta instills a profound sense of pride and responsibility. At RICE, we’re building a community that provides founders with the comprehensive support I once only dreamed of. It’s an honor to contribute to the narrative of Black excellence and innovation in the city that shaped me,” Monica Delores said about her role at RICE.

The center recently enhanced its leadership team with the appointment of Shawn M. Graham as Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer and Monica Delores Hooks as Chief Experience Officer. The two distinguished professionals shall work alongside RICE President and CEO James “Jay” Bailey to support and empower entrepreneurs. As the largest center in the world dedicated to growing, scaling, and developing Black entrepreneurs, their leadership reaffirms RICE’s commitment to diversity, empowerment, and the success of every entrepreneur in the community.

RICE was created in 2018 as a business incubator to galvanize and support local African-American entrepreneurs as they grow, scale and create jobs through their endeavors. It is inspired by the legacy of Herman J. Russell, one of the most successful Black entrepreneurs and civic leaders in Atlanta. The Center supports over 120 companies, representing more than 500 individual jobs. It provides Black entrepreneurs across various sectors with mentoring, networking capital resources, more than 50,000-square feet of meeting space and a host of different services.

One of RICE’s marquee offerings is its Supply Chain Accelerator, which focuses on contract readiness and connection with government contract opportunities. The center has partnered and collaborated with organizations such as the Economic Development Administration awarded, Comcast NBCUniversal, Truist Foundation, among others to provide entrepreneurs with grants, mentorship and resources and to grow the organization’s support of Black entrepreneurs. RICE plans to generate and accelerate 1,000 Black-owned businesses and produce $2 Billion in New Economic Value by 2034.

According to a report by McKinsey & Co., on average, Black founders start their businesses with less than one-third of the capital their white counterparts receive and only 4% of Black-owned businesses survive the start-up stage. In comparison, 46% of RICE entrepreneurs thrive beyond the startup stage, more than ten times the national average. They have driven $450 million in economic activity in Fulton County, Georgia. The arrival of Black women leaders marks a milestone in in the center’s journey to redefine entrepreneurship through innovation and inclusivity.

“I’m thrilled to lend my skills to RICE’s empowering mission. Our goal is to provide a solid platform for Black entrepreneurs to excel, reshaping the business landscape with innovative and sustainable strategies,” said Shawn M. Graham.