Donated Funds Will Go to Support the WEI Pitch Competition for Women
The Atlanta Hawks have announced that proceeds from the sales of the 2020-21 MLK Nike City Edition Jersey will benefit the Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative, the City of Atlanta’s business incubator for early-stage, women-owned businesses. The $100K donation will be formally presented at tonight’s Hawks game versus the Oklahoma City Thunder at State Farm Arena. The contribution from the Hawks Foundation is earmarked to fund business workshops, a pitch competition, and grants targeted at metro area women entrepreneurs. Starting March 18, entrepreneurs will be able to register via the WEI website.
“The Hawks Foundation is committed to using our resources of to drive opportunities for communities of color in the pursuit of equality and access,” said David Lee, Executive Vice President of the Atlanta Hawks & State Farm Arena and Executive Director of the Hawks Foundation. “We are especially proud, during International Women’s Month, to focus on continuing Dr. King’s work by supporting the development of female entrepreneurs as a vital component of our city’s economic engine.”
WEI is the only municipally funded program of its kind in the nation focused on women’s entrepreneurship for early-stage startups. The program was launched by the City of Atlanta in 2015 to align entrepreneurial opportunities for women in Atlanta with the City’s economic development programs. WEI is part of Invest Atlanta, the City of Atlanta’s economic development authority, and furthers the goal of creating equity and prosperity for all of Atlanta. WEI historically serves a diverse constituency of female-owned businesses, with women of color accounting for more than 74% of the program’s participants.
“The women of WEI elevate and strengthen economic growth in Atlanta through equity and inclusion,” said Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. “Thank you to the Atlanta Hawks for your partnership, which will enable more women to start successful businesses, become the city’s next job creators, and encourage other aspiring women entrepreneurs to pursue their own dreams.”
The workshops and pitch competition will help more women entrepreneurs launch and grow a successful start-up in Atlanta. Entrepreneurs must register for the WEI Workshop Series to be eligible for the pitch competition occurring Spring 2021 (April – June). Workshops focus on best practices and tactics critical to early-stage start-up success around initiatives like tech enablement, sales and fulfillment, job creation, and software development. Participants will be evaluated by a panel of judges comprised of business and community leaders. Two sets of grants will be awarded for each pitch competition, ranging from $5,000 to $15,000.
“Women-led startups need more than ideas to succeed – they also need information on best practices, tactical programming with guidance, and intentional capital to support those ideas,” said Monica Delores Hooks, Executive Director of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative. “WEI helps to bridge these gaps early-stage female-led companies often face in turning big ideas into bright, successful businesses. We thank the Atlanta Hawks for their partnership and commitment to supporting women entrepreneurs through this exciting pitch competition.”
In October 2020, the Hawks launched an unprecedented partnership with the estate of civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) and Nike with the release of its 2020 –21 MLK Nike City Edition uniform. The release marked first time in the league’s history that the initials of an individual were featured prominently on the chest of an official NBA game uniform. At that time, the Hawks made known their intent to donate profits from the jersey sales back into the Atlanta community to help further initiatives championed by Dr. King.
The Hawks have placed a continuing focus on economic equity for the Black community supported through several financial commitments from the team led by Principal Owners Tony Ressler and Jami Gertz. In October 2020, the team announced a $5 million contribution to RCIE, the largest non-profit center for Black entrepreneurs in the nation, from the Ressler Gertz Family Foundation. Shortly after in December, the Hawks refinanced the $35 million construction loan on its state-of-the-art practice facility with a consortium of Black-owned banks in a history-making agreement, a first for any major league sports team.
For more information on the Hawks and WEI please visit Hawks.com/wei.