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Spelman, Morehouse announce new Center for Black Entrepreneurship

Maria Saporta
Oner location for the new Center for Black Entrepreneurship will be at the Innovation Lab at Spelman College (Special: Spelman College)

Maria Saporta

A powerful Atlanta partnership will seek to nurture the next generation of Black entrepreneurs.

The Black Economic Alliance Foundation, Spelman College, Morehouse College and Bank of America are announcing the collaborative development of the Center for Black Entrepreneurship, the first-ever academic center designed to empower a new class of Black entrepreneurial talent.

Bank of America is donating $10 million over two years to support the new Center for Black Entrepreneurship, which will be located on the campuses of Spelman and Morehouse. It will guide students through an entrepreneurship curriculum that will support the creation of new businesses and help bridge the gap between students with competitive ideas and venture capital firms.

Oner location for the new Center for Black Entrepreneurship will be at the Innovation Lab at Spelman College (Special: Spelman College)

It is estimated that metro Atlanta is home to more than 100,000 Black-owned businesses, making it a center for Black students and entrepreneurs. But there is a disconnect between venture capital firms, traditionally based on the West Coast, and emerging Black student entrepreneurs, who tend to be located on the East Coast and in the South.

Spelman President Mary Schmidt Campbell said the college has witnessed a surge of interest in entrepreneurship among its students. To help meet that growing interest, Spelman established an Innovation Lab; and its Economics Department started to develop a curriculum around entrepreneurship.

“When the Black Economic Alliance proposed to both schools the idea of a Center for Black Entrepreneurship, the timing was perfect,” Campbell said in an email. “Involving faculty at Spelman and Morehouse and student entrepreneurial groups, and with generous support from Bank of America, the goal of the CBE is to create dynamic academic and real-world experience with mentorship from successful entrepreneurs for our aspiring Black entrepreneurs to launch their first ventures.”

Spelman plans to house the CBE in its dynamic Innovation Lab, where many of Spelman’s entrepreneurs already gather. Both programs will be housed the Center for Innovation & the Arts, a new state-of-the-art learning environment, slated to open in 2023. It plans to hire top tier faculty, support itsstudents financially, continue to grow co-curricular programs that offer real world experience, and offer courses online for those adults who are already in the workplace.

The new Center will seek to eliminate the access barriers among Black entrepreneurs, professional investors, and business builders by leveraging education, mentorship, access to capital and opportunity.

“The Center for Black Entrepreneurship will help close the opportunity gaps among industry, the investment community and Black entrepreneurs,” said David Clunie, executive director of the Black Economic Alliance, in a release. “The CBE will harness the multiplier effect of education, exposure, mentorship, access to capital and opportunity.”

Clunie went on to say that the partnership “will grow a strong pipeline of Black innovators and create a robust ecosystem of entrepreneurial excellence in Atlanta and beyond.”

Plans include providing certifications in project management, data science, coding, and cybersecurity to empower Black entrepreneurs with the technological tools they need to succeed. In addition, the CBE will explore partnerships with Atlanta-based higher education programs, the broader HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) community and schools that have prominent national models to provide co-curricular programing.

The funding will come from Bank of America’s $1 billion, four-year commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity, which includes support to minority entrepreneurs, as well as a focus on education, jobs, health, and housing.

“Morehouse and Spelman are two of the nation’s leading liberal arts colleges primarily serving the Black community and have some of the highest social mobility rates in the country,” said Wendy Stewart, Atlanta market president for Bank of America, in a statement. “Partnering with these historic institutions will be instrumental in supporting our next generation of entrepreneurs that will ultimately create economic opportunity and generate jobs in Atlanta.”

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Maria Saporta
Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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