Russell Innovation Center For Entrepreneurs Announces $1 Million Grant From Paypal

The grant will establish a PayPal Retail Academy to support Atlanta-Area entrepreneurs.

The Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs (RICE) today announced a $1 million grant from PayPal Holdings, Inc. to launch a PayPal Retail Academy, which will provide a robust curriculum of innovative coaching, specialized tools, and valuable resources to help entrepreneurs based in Atlanta grow their businesses.

As an extension of PayPal and RICE’s shared missions to empower underrepresented entrepreneurs, the PayPal Retail Academy will educate participants on every aspect of successfully starting and scaling a retail business. The curriculum will include training on non-traditional retail paths, up-leveling checkout and digitization, developing global marketing strategies, and navigating supply chain issues. Other key components will include research and recommendations to eliminate some of the barriers underrepresented retail SMBs face.

“Beyond education, this partnership symbolizes growth for our entrepreneurial community,” said Jay Bailey, President & CEO of RICE. “We recognize the paramount importance of harnessing retail avenues and embracing digital transformation. The PayPal Retail Academy will serve as a conduit for this knowledge, empowering RICE Stakeholders to navigate the complexities of retail with resilience and innovation. Every facet of the Academy is meticulously designed to elevate entrepreneurs to new heights.”

Participants in the PayPal Retail Academy will receive both financial and human capital. These entrepreneurs will be eligible to receive grants ranging from $2,500 to $10,000 alongside mentoring and coaching from PayPal employees.

RICE will manage and facilitate the formation of the Academy. The Academy will be open to all RICE member companies, known as Stakeholders, and businesses in the Atlanta-metro area with a focus on underrepresented communities. RICE Stakeholders are concentrated in the consulting, technology, food and beverage, film and media, and education industries, and represent various stages of growth, from ideation to more seasoned revenue-generating companies. Learn more about becoming a RICE Stakeholder here.

“Empowering entrepreneurs and helping strengthen small businesses are key to PayPal’s mission to make our financial system more accessible and inclusive, ” said Dan Schulman, President and CEO, PayPal. “Through invaluable partnerships with organizations like RICE, we can create greater economic opportunity and build thriving communities.”

At 54,000 square ft., RICE is the largest business incubation hub dedicated to providing resources and building Black-owned businesses in the United States. Currently, the non-profit organization supports more than 360 Black-owned businesses from ideation to scale. RICE previously received a grant from PayPal to assist businesses in their recoveries from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Growing and scaling any business comes with a unique set of challenges. The Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs continues to go above and beyond to seek out relationships that will improve the odds for success for Stakeholders,” said Dr. Bianca Kiovanni, RICE Stakeholder and owner of Simplicity Beverage Company. “As a business that uses PayPal and a proud RICE Stakeholder, I’m thrilled that this partnership will provide entrepreneurs like me with critical resources to further increase the credibility and soundness of our businesses.”

This grant is also an extension of PayPal’s involvement in the Southern Communities Initiative (SCI). SCI, which was launched in April 2021 by PayPal, Vista Equity Partners and Boston Consulting Group, aims to address the racial wealth gap with a focus on six southern communities where nearly half of all Black Americans live, including Atlanta, GA.

For more information about the PayPal Retail Academy and the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs, visit Also, follow RICE in action on social media: @RICEAtlanta on Instagram and Twitter and @RussellCenterAtlanta on Facebook.

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