Comcast RISE Program Empowers Atlanta’s Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs; Donates $1 Million To R.I.C.E Center

Comcast RISE, the innovative initiative bridging digital equity efforts with small business support, has once again chosen Atlanta as a recipient city for its transformative program. 

As Atlanta gears up for its second round of Comcast RISE recipients in 2024, the city anticipates another wave of empowerment for its local entrepreneurs and small business owners.

To launch this exciting endeavor, the Comcast RISE kick-off event took place at the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs. The event featured insightful briefings from key figures including Jay Bailey, President & CEO of the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs (R.I.C.E), Mike McArdle, Senior Vice President of the Big South Region at Comcast, and Pinky Cole Hayes, Founder and CEO of Slutty Vegan and Bar Vegan. It was also announced that the R.I.C.E Center would be the recipient of a $1 million donation from the Comcast RISE program.

McArdle said, “Digital equity is when everyone, regardless of background, regardless of color, regardless of income, has opportunities to reach their potential through digital services, internet services, and receiving access to those critical digital, capabilities that we all know are critical to school, to business, to growth, and to life.”

As a successful entrepreneur and dominating force in business, Pinky Cole Hayes highlighted the importance of initiatives like the RISE program in supporting small business owners. 

“Entrepreneurs already have enough to deal with. Entrepreneurs can’t just call their friends and family to get money. To have corporations like Comcast come in and provide support sets the tone and shows that businesses do care about entrepreneurs. Especially that brings in the revenue that Comcast brings in. That cares about Atlanta the way Comcast cares about Atlanta.”

Moreover, the Comcast RISE program’s commitment to fostering digital equity and entrepreneurship is showcased by its comprehensive support package for small businesses. Since its inception in 2020, the program has provided assistance to over 13,000 businesses nationwide.

“First is a $5,000 monetary grant to support the business and a technology maker makeover. Based on what the business does, what they need, consulting services and training. We’re also going to help them produce a 32nd spot to run for 180 days for their business,” McArdle said. “So it’s really a comprehensive package that has evolved over time. And this is the first time we’re putting all that together and all those elements go to the 100 businesses.”

Furthermore, to be eligible for the Comcast RISE program, businesses must have been operational for at least three years, employ 100 individuals or fewer, and be independently owned. The program’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion is evident in its support for businesses of all backgrounds, reflecting Comcast’s dedication to uplifting communities and fostering economic growth. 

One Atlanta business owner who benefited greatly from the Comcast RISE program is Derrick Hayes, Founder and CEO of Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks and husband of Pinky Cole Hayes. He is a previous recipient of the package and experienced first hand it’s life changing effects. In an exclusive interview with ADW he highlighted the program’s instrumental role in his business’s growth and expansion. 

“Not only being a Black owned business, but just doing this for the first time. It’s not many resources and ways that you can get help out there. The Comcast RISE program stepped up to the plate when I needed them the most. They gave me the technology. And now my business is franchised. So of course, that helped me out in the long run,” Hayes told ADW. 

In addition to its tangible benefits, Comcast RISE serves as a testament to the company’s longstanding commitment to corporate social responsibility. “This is a marquee program that speaks to the comprehensive set of services we can provide as a company in the community,” McArdle said. “We live, work, and play in Atlanta, and we want to make sure we support the businesses that are making Atlanta so great.”

The impact of Comcast RISE extends beyond financial support, empowering entrepreneurs to realize their dreams and contribute to the vibrant tapestry of Atlanta’s business landscape. As Pinky Cole Hayes emphasized, initiatives like Comcast RISE are essential for providing resources and opportunities to small businesses.

As Atlanta embarks on its second year as a Comcast RISE recipient city, the program’s impact continues to reverberate throughout the local community, fostering entrepreneurship, and driving economic empowerment. Through initiatives like Comcast RISE, Comcast reaffirms its commitment to building a more prosperous future for small business owners and entrepreneurs.

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