Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs Receives $1.5 Million Investment From Wells Fargo


The Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs (RICE) received a $1.5 million philanthropic investment from Wells Fargo & Company. The momentous investment aims to scale Wells Fargo’s continuous support of the phenomenal work at RICE through initiatives aimed to develop small businesses, facilitate access to capital, curate dedicated learning spaces, and expand RICE’s reach and impact throughout Atlanta and beyond.

To kick off the grant announcement, RICE and Wells Fargo hosted a pop-up holiday market at the Russell Center featuring a variety of products from RICE entrepreneurs in celebration of small businesses doing wonders for their community. During the marketplace, The Bank of Doing and RICE surprised five distinguished RICE stakeholders with a combination of grants and resources specifically tailored to their companies’ needs to help them achieve their business goals as they enter the busy holiday season. The RICE-selected entrepreneurs include:

  • Louis Deas, CEO of Try Deas and Other Treats
  • Marsha Francis, Founder of STE(A)M Truck
  • Evana & Zoe Oli, Co-founders of Beautiful Curly Me
  • KaCey Venning, Co-Founder of HEY! Helping Empower Youth
  • Tony Cruver, CEO of Cruvie Clothing Company

“When RICE opened in 2019, the vision was clear: to create a thriving ecosystem where Black entrepreneurs could turn their dreams into successful businesses,” shared Jay Bailey, President and CEO of RICE. “Wells Fargo, as one of our inaugural partners, shared this vision from the very beginning, and their support has been instrumental in our journey. Today, as we celebrate their $1.5 million investment in our work, we see our vision taking an even more expansive form. This generous contribution is helping RICE to accelerate our mission to build Black business.”

“RICE’s mission to inspire and empower Black entrepreneurs is more critical than ever, as these small businesses are among the fastest-growing in Atlanta and the economy overall,” said Darlene Goins, head of Philanthropy and Community Impact at Wells Fargo. “This philanthropic investment is consistent with our unwavering commitment to advance economic equity, create opportunities for small business growth and drive positive change while we also honor Herman J. Russell’s enduring legacy.” 

Wells Fargo’s $1.5 million investment at RICE will fund the following:

  1. Programming: As a signature partner of RICE’s “Supply Chain Accelerator,” Wells Fargo’s investment will support an annual initiative aimed at developing 100 small businesses on the verge of readiness to engage with industry leaders, large corporations, and government agencies. This program empowers entrepreneurs to thrive in an ever-evolving business landscape.
  2. Access to Capital: The Wells Fargo investment will help to fund 50 small business micro grants for RICE stakeholders. These grants, ranging from $2,500 to $10,000, will help eliminate significant barriers that hinder access to funds for these businesses. By doing so, they will bolster the capacity to grow, create jobs and instill hope in the communities they serve and support.
  3. Placemaking: Wells Fargo will unveil the “Wells Fargo Learning Lab”, which will bear the bank’s name in perpetuity. This will stand as RICE’s largest classroom and learning space collaboration for nurturing innovation, knowledge sharing and skills development.
  4. Impact at Scale: The Wells Fargo investment will help fuel the development of a digital learning platform, expanding RICE’s signature BIG I.D.E.A.S. curriculum into virtual spaces. This innovative platform will extend the reach of RICE’s coaching, mentorship, digital content, peer learning, technical assistance and more beyond the physical borders of the Russell Center, empowering Black entrepreneurs nationwide.


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