2023 Stakeholder Awards Ceremony – Celebrating Black Businesses the RICE Way!

The first-ever Stakeholder Awards Ceremony was an intimate gathering and celebration held on August 31,2023 honoring our first Founding 100 Stakeholders at RICE. Certificates of Achievement were also given to those promoted Stakeholders that completed their action plans and catalyst sessions within their Big IDEAS programming. The evening was topped off with a presentation of checks to recipients of the Amplify Grant powered by MasterCard.

The Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs chose to recognize and celebrate our Founding 100 Stakeholders with plaques and commemorative t-shirts to mark the occasion. Of course, we did it the RICE Way by engaging fellow Stakeholder businesses Royal Trophies and The Bottomline Pivot as vendors for the tokens of appreciation we provided.

Founding 100 Stakeholders were welcomed back to Atlanta’s home for Black entrepreneurs with a VIP Pre-Reception before the formal event begin. There was nothing but smiles, hugs, and love as many of the Stakeholders reconnected to catch up. After, they were ushered into the lavishly designed space to receive their recognition, some Stakeholders received more acknowledgements Kris Hale, Eldredge Washington, and Adrian Shelby were honored for their early contributions and efforts to build the RICE rich culture and vibrant community.

Moreover, Channing Baker of Evolve Contractors was recognized with the Exemplary Stakeholder Award having completed the requirements of the Big IDEAS programming for his stage with zeal and excellence after embracing all the resources that RICE offers. Almost 70 RICE Stakeholders were promoted to the next stage of the Big IDEAS continuum. We would like to recognize the following Stakeholders moving forward!

Congratulations to you all!

Aisha Floyd of CRM Tech Global®

Aisha Ervin of E-Line Media & Production

Alison Mason of Lilacs on York Creative Studios

Amia Mize of TavT4Families

Andre Parr of Mudd Made Manufacturing LLC/ Fly Guy Entertainment Co.

Anitra Terrell of Reflektion Design

Anthony Howard of HR Certified, LLC

Averri Liggins of Black Women Moguls

Brian Reynolds of Just For Teens

Brian Davis of Stealth Tech Services

Brittany Hardy of The Hardy Clinic

Bunduki Ramadan of BNDK LLC

Caiseen Ward of Aesthetic Engineering LLC

Carla Halls of The Cactus Beauty Bar

Channing Baker of Evolve Contractors

Charla Mitchell of C.R. Clothing Co./Charla Ruschelle

Chi T Mathias of Inside Out Health & Beauty, LLC

Christie Rankins of Redress Lives In Logistics

Danielle Clay of AGC Solutions

Dawn Sizemore of Practical Education Solutions

Debra Dantzler of 3D Psychotheraphy

Dedren Snead of Subsume Media

Delroy Walters of inSIDEKonnect

Demarco Steed of Majestea, LLC

Donnetta Wells of Wellsons Financial Group

Ellakisha O’Kelley of Scire De Jure Legal Firm, LLC

Eric Marcus of Royal Trophies

Felicia Johnson of Ella & Iris Home

Francine Bethune of C Marie Botanicals

Jace McKie of Nation Unlimited Services

Jadaun Sweet of Take Heed Media

Jarvis Broughton of Interrüt

Jeff Cook of The Bottomline Liquidators

Jennifer Barbosa of International Supply Partners, LLC

Keith Ambersley of Boutyah Technologies LLC dba JIB RSA

Kenneth Barnes of Humble-Speaks

Kyeron Simmons of Agripreneurs

Kyra Cisero of Waisted One, LLC

Lakila Bowden of iSee Technologies

Latabia Woodward of Who’s Got Next Music

LaTrice Ross of Humanizing Diversity

Lawrence Nathaniel of Skyhub Company

Leisha Starchia of Black Feather Mystic, LLC

Lindsay Barnette of Kultured Misfits Clothing Collection, LLC.

Lisa Tinsley of KISA Public Radio

Morale Ocain of The Hair Debate, Suite Morality Salon Suites,  Rooted, The Hair Experience Podcast

Mouse Gregory of Mouse Apparel Inc.

Natasha Simmons of Yacht Club Access

Omar Whilby of Capsul Tools

Oral Gooden of SWISSHTECH Corp.

Ottea Cormelo O’Connor of GHST Investments LLC

Queen Oddette Activille of Senan Wholistic Market and Cuisine

Reginald Smith of TrendTech Logistics

Shari Pritchard of Skyyes the Limit Ventures Corp

Sheryl Merritt of Creator In Me / Kingdom Atlanta


Sumayya Holmes of Ops by Design

Susan Simmons-Stevenson of The Lifecycle Network

Symphony Lyricist of Lotus Flower Om

Tiffany Turner of TC & Co., A Prestigious Brokerage Firm

Tobias Browne of IndigoBlueDevelopment

Tonya Menefee-Parker of Thrive Care Home Consulting, LLC

Tresaca Hamilton of The Sid Center

Tunisia Cornelius of Levels 2 Skin

Vinny Williams of AddressMe Inc.

Wendy Taylor of Faith & STEAM, LLC

Wesley B. Fountain of Ed Fountain Jewelry & Leather

Yaminah Childress, J.D. of YANY Beauty

Yvonne Theresa Bostic of Kayla’s Italian Ice

Take some time to view and download photos taken by Stakeholder Adrian Shelby here.

Exciting News from the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs (RICE)!

We’re thrilled to announce that we’ve just secured a major boost toward our mission to #BuildBlackBusiness! 🌟 Thanks to the incredible support of PayPal in collaboration with the Southern Communities Initiative (SCI) we’ve been awarded a generous $1 million grant that will fuel the creation of a groundbreaking initiative: The PayPal Retail Academy. This platform is set to reshape the landscape of retail entrepreneurship! 🛍️ With a focus on fostering innovation, nurturing growth, and scaling ventures, this Academy will provide invaluable insights and resources to entrepreneurs.

We will be launching this initiative in January of 2024.

Learn more from our AJC exclusive interview: https://lnkd.in/g2J9K6UC

Check out the picture here: RICE & PayPal 8.29.2023

Read full press release: https://newsroom.paypal-corp.com/2023-08-29-Russell-Innovation-Center-for-Entrepreneurs-Announces-1-Million-Grant-from-PayPal


RICE is headed to Colombia!

As we continue to celebrate National Black Business Month, we are extremely excited to share that we be embarking on our first trade mission trip with 20 Black entrepreneurs to Cali, Colombia!

Cali, a city steeped in history and culture, mimics Atlanta, GA in more ways than one! It’s a place where the spirit of resilience and innovation resonates deeply, mirroring the tenacity. This remarkable city, nestled in the heart of South America, boasts a rich tapestry of opportunities for collaboration and growth, and aligned with our mission to provide, access, opportunity, and (I can’t remember right now.)

The trade mission is more than just a journey; it’s a chance for us to forge connections that transcend borders, weaving together a tapestry of partnerships that hold the power to uplift and empower.

Cali’s diverse economic landscape offers a fertile ground for our ventures to thrive. By engaging with local businesses, entrepreneurs, and officials, we’re not only sowing the seeds of commerce but also nurturing a future where collaboration knows no bounds.

Distinguished from other trade missions, this venture is groundbreaking, led by a collective vision to empower and uplift. For the first time, we’re forging a path solely focused on propelling Black entrepreneurs forward globally. The Mayor’s office and local officials have paved the way, but this mission carries a unique purpose, demonstrating our unwavering commitment to fostering growth.

Supported by an exceptional network of partners, we’ve paved the way for these remarkable entrepreneurs, ensuring they can embark on this journey with confidence. Every aspect has been meticulously planned, from covering costs to providing unwavering support, all geared towards ensuring the triumph of this mission.

Stay tuned as we embark on this remarkable adventure and unveil the countless opportunities that Cali, Colombia, has in store!

Read more on this AJC news clip: https://www.ajc.com/news/business/black-entrepreneurs-from-atlanta-headed-to-colombia-on-a-trade-mission/GQQJ52RL4VBQDMWV2JEBJWAEAA/

Take the RICE Way Challenge

Are you ready to take on The RICE Way Challenge? For National Black Business Month, The Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs invites you to support black-owned businesses like never before!

Throughout the entire month, we’re striving to achieve $100,000 in sales with black-owned businesses. Join us in this endeavor by visiting TheRiceWay.org and creating an account to become a part of the Black Business Builder Leadership Board. Every time you make a purchase, simply add your transaction and attach a picture of the receipt for verification.

To make this month even more exciting, we’ll be hosting various activations in the city at different Black-owned businesses, giving away fabulous gifts and products to those who are participating in the challenge. And at the end of the month, we have a grand prize awaiting the top-performing Black business builder.

Are you up for the challenge? Join now and be a part of the celebration for National Black Business Month, The RICE Way! Register today at www.TheRICEWAY.org. Let’s come together and make a difference in supporting and uplifting black-owned businesses!


Black Business Talks Launches in Honor of National Black Business Month

Black Business Talks: Celebrating Black Entrepreneurs During National Black Business Month

In honor of National Black Business Month, the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs (RICE) is thrilled to launch an exhilarating limited series called Black Business Talks. This captivating series aims to highlight the achievements of RICE Stakeholders and provide valuable business advice that inspires small business owners on their entrepreneurial journey. Created by the talented Micheal Cortez, a long-standing volunteer and employee at RICE, and produced by Just Eldredge Media, Black Business Talks promises to be an engaging and insightful experience.

Hosted by RICE Internal Communications Manager, Ashley Scott, and the brilliant Micheal Cortez, the Black Business Talks interviews offers a diverse range of perspectives and experiences from RICE Stakeholders specific to their industry. Tune in weekdays at 8 PM on the Russell Center YouTube channel to catch these encouraging conversations.

Black Business Talks has already featured some incredible RICE Stakeholders including David Hailey of Countifi, Chef Chrissy of Epic Flavors, MT Strikland of Metric Mate, and Caiseen Ward of Aesthetic Engineering. Stay tuned for upcoming episodes featuring Tracie Powell of the Pivot Fund, Kyra Solomon of Solomon & Solomon Construction, and Ellakisha O’Kelley of Scire De Jure Legal Firm, and more inspiring Stakeholder stories.

To ensure you never miss an episode, make sure to subscribe to the Russell Center YouTube channel and turn on notifications. By doing so, you’ll be the first to know when new episodes are released. We encourage you to engage with the content by liking, commenting, and sharing these positive stories and images of Black entrepreneurs with your entire network. Let’s come together to amplify the businesses and brands that RICE supports.

Not able to catch the full episodes? Don’t worry! We’ve got you covered. We’ll be sharing bite-sized insights and valuable Black business tips from each episode on our social media platforms. Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to stay updated and gain valuable advice that can help you on your own entrepreneurial journey.

Join us in celebrating National Black Business Month by immersing yourself in the inspiring world of Black Business Talks.

Sunday Conversations on Smooth Jazz 101/100 features RICE Stakeholders Weekly at 11 AM

Join RICE Internal Communications Manager Ashley Scott every Sunday morning at 11 AM for an uplifting and inspiring radio show, Sunday Conversations, on Smooth Jazz 101 – Smooth Jazz 100. In partnership with Davis Broadcasting Inc., this show brings you the incredible stories of RICE Stakeholders who are making waves in their respective industries. Tune in to hear firsthand accounts of their journeys, challenges, and successes as entrepreneurs.

Episode Highlights:

The first episode of Sunday Conversations aired on July 30th and featured Brian Davis, the founder of Stealth Tech Services. Brian shared his experiences as an entrepreneur and provided valuable insights into the world of technology services. Listeners were captivated by his story and inspired by his determination to help veterans and minorities enter the competitive landscape of IT Services.

In the upcoming episode, we have the pleasure of highlighting another remarkable RICE Stakeholder, Skylar Whitehead, the visionary behind Hedonism & Debauchery. Skylar’s unique perspective on the entertainment industry promises to be an engaging and thought-provoking conversation around sex positivity. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to gain valuable insights from Skylar’s journey.

How to Get Featured:

If you’re a RICE Stakeholder and would like to share your story on Sunday Conversations, we encourage you to complete the Stakeholder Submissions form at tinyurl.com/RICESubmissions. Our team carefully reviews each submission and selects individuals who have compelling stories and valuable insights to offer. Don’t miss your chance to be featured and inspire others with your journey.


Sunday Conversations on Smooth Jazz 101 – Smooth Jazz 100 is a platform that celebrates the achievements and experiences of RICE Stakeholders. By tuning in every Sunday at 11 AM, online or on your radio, you’ll have the opportunity to hear inspiring stories, gain valuable insights, and connect with fellow entrepreneurs. Join us as we continue to showcase the incredible talent within the RICE community.

Announcing Black Biz Bus Tour & Black Friday

We are thrilled to announce a new partnership with RICE Stakeholder company ATL Tours, owned and operated by Dwight McQueen.  The Black Biz Bus Tour is an exciting initiative that aims to showcase some incredible Black-owned businesses in Atlanta. Launching during Black Friday, on August 4th,2023 the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs will be the first stop on the Black Biz Bus Tour, starting at 5:00 PM and will return to the Russell Center as the final stop.

The Black Biz Bus Tour is not only a fantastic way to discover hidden gems within Atlanta’s vibrant business community, but it also provides a platform for Black business owners to connect and collaborate. By participating in this tour, you will be contributing to the growth and success of some remarkable businesses when you spend your dollars locally. #ShopBlack #ShopLocal

Don’t miss out on this awesome opportunity to explore Atlanta’s thriving black-owned businesses and network with like-minded individuals. Secure your spot on the Black Biz Bus Tour today!

“Book Your Tour Now”

We’re Celebrating National Black Business Month the RICE Way!

It’s National Black Business Month at the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs starting this August 1st, 2023! This marks the beginning of a month-long celebration dedicated to empowering and uplifting RICE Stakeholders and Atlanta’s Black business owners. When we say we’re Celebrating Black Business the RICE Way this is what we mean:

  • Intentionally spending with RICE Stakeholders (with over $19M circulated so far)
  • Meeting every entrepreneur where they are with educational resources
  • Providing resources for Black entrepreneurs whether they are Stakeholders or not
  • Intentionally creating a unique environment concentrating the best resources available to entrepreneurs and growing businesses
  • Creating a space of belonging and nurturing entrepreneurial confidence for Black entrepreneurs

At the Russell Innovation Center, we believe in the power of entrepreneurship and the immense potential it holds for OUR community. As part of our commitment to fostering growth and success for our Stakeholders, we have curated a limited YouTube series called Black Business Talks, a new partnership with Davis Broadcasting, Inc. on Smooth Jazz 101/100 Sundays at 11, along with events and networking opportunities throughout the month of August.

First, we are kicking the month off with our biggest Black Friday yet! We will have over 30 vendors, games, prizes, and live music from Erica Dawson Exclusive. Invite your friends, family, colleagues and customers to bring out their lawn chairs to enjoy a fun time on August 4th at 5 PM. Register to attend Black Friday here.

Second, show your RICE pride and say Happy National Black Business Month to the world with a custom social media profile frame. We’ve created a custom design in Canva for you to update your Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn profile photos. Get your frame at tinyurl.com/RICENBBMFrame

Finally, watch and share the new limited series “Black Business Talks” produced by Just Eldridge, hosted by Ashley Scott & Mike Cortez on the RICE YouTube channel. Be sure to subscribe and turn on notifications so that you can be the first to know when a new episode drops each day during August for National Black Business Month. Subscribe and watch here

We’re excited for you to join us in “Celebrating Black Business the RICE Way!”

Meet Zoe Oli—RICE’s Youngest Stakeholder & CEO of Beautiful Curly Me

Zoe Oli earned six figures in her business by the fourth grade! She shares that her time as a Stakeholder at the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs helped grow her business. “When we first became RICE Stakeholders, it felt amazing, they were giving us resources… it has really helped us scale to the next steps of our business,” says Zoe Oli, CEO of Beautiful Curly Me

Evana and Zoe Oli are the co-Founders of Beautiful Curly Me a brand that encourages young girls to love and be confident in themselves. According to a recent study, 6 out of 10 girls do not like their natural curly hair, so to solve the problem this dynamic mother-daughter is taking the toy industry by storm! The founders have created a line of dolls with curly, natural hair to empower young girls to feel beautiful in their own reflection. The two have expanded their collection, adding books, hair care accessories, clothing, face masks and sleeping caps. In line with the Beautiful Curly Me mission, for every doll purchased, one is given to a young girl in need, because every girl deserves a doll, she can see herself in and feel beautiful inside and out. Toys affect the way children see themselves and the early years are critical for self-awareness, esteem building and development.

We are so happy to have Zoe and Evana as RICE Stakeholders and look forward to continuing to support this powerhouse team through our eco- system for Atlanta’s Black entrepreneurs. At last, you can go above and beyond to assist this girl boss by helping Zoe to win a $60,000 Business Grant from Barclay’s Small Business Big Wins Competition. We are asking each Stakeholder and our extended RICE community to votefor Beautiful Curly Me every day from April 1st until April 10th at bit.ly/bcm60kgrant to help girls feel more confident!

Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth Announces $950K Grant to RICE During Spring 2023 Stakeholder Information Session 

A $950,000 investment from the Mastercard Impact Fund over a three-year period will support RICE’s Big IDEAS curriculum, with Mastercard providing RICE stakeholder companies with pro bono education, technical and financial assistance. The announcement was made during RICE’s Spring 2023 stakeholder information session by Marc Jackson, Vice-President, In Solidarity. The announcement was met with thunderous applause by hopeful stakeholders, current stakeholders, and RICE Staff. The grant is made in furtherance of Mastercard’s In Solidarity initiative, a $500 million pledge to help close the racial wealth and opportunity gap for Black communities and businesses across America. 

“The Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs is taking a truly innovative and targeted approach to supporting Black business owners in Atlanta, and we are thrilled to have this opportunity to help advance their mission,” said Salah Goss, Senior Vice President of Social Impact for North America at the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth. “This collaboration epitomizes the kind of model we believe can make a difference for people, their communities, and our society, and we look forward to making an impact in Atlanta together.”


<Marc Jackson, VP in Solidarity, Mastercard delivers speech and announcement of $950K partnership at RICE 2023 Spring Stakeholder Session on Feb 21, 2023 to a round of thunderous applause.> 


Forging pathways to equitable opportunities that help create and accelerate Black-owned businesses is at the forefront of RICE’s mission to amplify, advocate and activate Black economic empowerment through entrepreneurship. “We are proud to partner with Mastercard In Solidarity to develop Black entrepreneurs’ business acumen,” President, and CEO of RICE. “It is our mission to create meaningful partnerships with companies like Mastercard and Live Oak Bank to create a collaborative community of support for the companies we serve and help overcome the unique barriers they face.”

The Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs is the place to be for access, opportunity, and exposure for Black business owners at any stage. Investments from our partners like Mastercard, LiveOak, Disney, and UPS allow us to provide cutting edge resources, services, and information to our stakeholders. Learn more about what RICE has to offer by visiting