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RICE receives $1.5M investment from Wells Fargo

The Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs (RICE) has announced yet another investment — this time, a $1.5 million boost from Wells Fargo.

RICE receives $1.5M investment from Wells Fargo

The Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs (RICE) has announced yet another investment — this time, a $1.5 million boost from Wells Fargo.

The investment will support five stakeholders within the organization. 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; and Tony Cruver, CEO of Cruvie Clothing Company.

“When we opened the doors of RICE in 2019, our vision was clear: to create a thriving ecosystem where Black entrepreneurs could turn their dreams into successful businesses,” Jay Bailey, president and CEO of RICE, said in a statement. “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 on an even more expansive form. This generous contribution is helping RICE accelerate our mission to build Black business.”

The funding will also support programming to develop 100 small businesses, provide 50 entrepreneurs with access to micro-grants ranging from $2,500 to $10,000, and establish the Wells Fargo Learning Lab to encourage skill development.

Moreover, 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.

“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 has donated roughly $420 million through its Open for Business Fund to organizations like RICE that support diverse small business owners. Of these businesses served, 79 per cent were owned by racially or ethnically diverse individuals, 72 per cent were low-to-moderate income, and 53 per cent female-owned. At least 254,000 jobs have been provided as a result, a statement reads.

“As a RICE stakeholder, I’ve had the privilege of scaling my business in ways that I couldn’t imagine when we started,” Louis Deas, CEO of Try Deas & Other Treats, said in a statement. “Month after month, I’ve been able to access invaluable resources that have propelled my business forward, and I’m excited for the opportunities that will come as a result of this investment.”