Rolling Out

Wells Fargo grants RICE Center in Atlanta $1.5M to help Black businesses

Bank becomes latest corporate sponsor

On Nov. 21, the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs received a $1.5 million “philanthropic investment” from Wells Fargo. The funds will go to help continue to advance the 360 stakeholders and Black entrepreneurs under the center’s tutelage.

A part of the bank’s gift to the center includes the development of the Wells Fargo Learning Lab. The lab will be RICE’s largest classroom, providing a place for business owners to share knowledge. Wells Fargo also sponsored five RICE stakeholders during the announcement: Try Deas and Other Treats, STE(A)M Truck, Beautiful Curly Me, HEY! Helping Empower Youth and Cruvie Clothing Company. The ceremony came with a RICE holiday week pop-up, and Wells Fargo representatives supported each vendor at the pop-up.

Jay Bailey, the RICE Center’s CEO and president, gave rolling out details about the investment.

What does this $1.5 million mean?

It means progress. It’s a true story that just four years ago, this room didn’t even exist. We have created a safe space for Black entrepreneurs to fail and fly. We have created a space for Black entrepreneurs to feel their self-esteem and confidence go up. We have created these beautiful spaces and have brought in some of the largest, most prevalent brands in the world under one roof. Wells Fargo is one of the largest financial institutions in the world. For entrepreneurs to know they have the support, the learning, the access to one of the largest companies in the world, what does that do for their self-esteem? Wells Fargo also provided enough capital to build out one of the spaces that will continue to support and serve entrepreneurs at the Wells Fargo Learning Labs. In there, we’re going to have state-of-the-art classrooms, meeting community spaces, computer labs and just a beautiful place for people to feel good about their aspirations, to feel like their ideas matter, and to be in a beautiful space that undergirds their self-esteem, self-confidence and belief.

What did it say about the Wells Fargo executives’ character to surprise five stakeholders and support each vendor at the pop-up market?

It’s what a partnership should look like. It is not just about the transaction of delivering a check. If we want to move the needle, if Wells Fargo wants to be true to their mission, and true to their motto, they have to do more. I think the gesture of the check given to us is one thing, but we want to pour into the others that are in the room, even in the context of Small Business Saturday being this Saturday and ensuring some of these small businesses have this the springboard to launch them into Small Business Saturday, that kind of corporate awareness is what you always look for in a good partner. Someone who says, “OK. This is what we’re going to do. We have to think of ways we can do more.”

That was really a powerful thing. Not only for the five entrepreneurs who got incredible gifts, all valued from $4,000 to $7,000, but to [be able] say every vendor in the building will be able to benefit as well [is powerful too].

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