PR Newswire
Tuesday, November 21, 2023 at 4:00pm UTC


PR Newswire

The investment will scale Wells Fargo's ongoing support of the RICE and will expand the center's reach and impact throughout Atlanta and beyond.

ATLANTA, Nov. 21, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- The Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs (RICE) today announced that they will receive a $1.5 million philanthropic investment from Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC). 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 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," 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.

Wells Fargo has donated roughly $420 million through its Open for Business Fund to organizations like RICE that support diverse small business owners. Open for Business Fund grantees report reaching more than 203,000 small businesses and empowering them to preserve or create 254,000 jobs. Of these businesses served, 79% were owned by racially or ethnically diverse individuals, 72% were low-to-moderate income, and 53% female-owned.

"As a RICE Stakeholder, I've had the privilege of scaling my business in ways that I couldn't imagine when we started," shared Louis Deas, CEO of Try Deas & Other Treats. "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."

"Wells Fargo has been a long-time supporter of RICE and The Bank of Doing is proud to support its mission and each of the dynamic entrepreneurs here today," added Mike Donnelly, Executive Vice President of Consumer Small and Business Banking for Wells Fargo in Atlanta. "In addition to our exciting future at the Russell Center, today is about celebrating the work RICE does day-in and day-out to build a strong and vibrant small business community here in Atlanta. It's important to take a moment to recognize those small businesses that give back and help set them up to have a successful holiday season."

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

For media inquiries and interviews, contact

To support RICE's mission through contribution, visit or reach out to Brittany Saadiq, VP of Development at

The Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs (RICE) is Atlanta's home for Black entrepreneurs. Positioned as a business generator, RICE serves as an economic mobility engine for the community: driving entrepreneurs and small business owners to innovate, grow, create jobs and build wealth. Inspired by the legacy of Herman J. Russell, one of the most successful Black entrepreneurs and civic leaders in Atlanta, RICE remains dedicated to its mission to Build. Black. Business. and stands as the only initiative of its kind in the nation. For more information visit, download the RICE Report Volume 1, and follow @RICEAtlanta on Instagram, Twitter, and @RussellCenterAtlanta on Facebook.

Shalon Brown

LaShunda Campbell 

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SOURCE Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs