Expanding RICE’s Impact to Build Black Business: Announcing Truist’s $2M Investment

The Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs (RICE) is thrilled to announce a $2 million grant awarded by Truist Foundation and two Truist Trusteed Foundations to advance RICE’s expansion efforts and elevate Atlanta-based Black entrepreneurs both within the RICE community and beyond. The generous support from Truist will continue to increase mentorship, deliver essential business resources, and expand access to valuable opportunities for capital and financial education for RICE Stakeholders.


The partnership officially kicked off at RICE today with a formal announcement from Katie Saez, Georgia regional president, Truist, followed by a panel discussion themed: “Demystifying Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs: Strategies for Success.” The panel was moderated by Lynette Bell, President, Truist Foundation and featured Terri-Nichelle Bradley, Founding 100 RICE Stakeholder, and founder and CEO of Brown Toy Box; Alphonza Gibbs, financial and business advisor, Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs (ACE); and Gayle Cabrera, director of small business, Truist as panelists. Some key takeaways from the panel included:

·               Practice your pitch, demonstrate a solid team, business model and financial projections, and be prepared to answer tough questions when seeking funding.

·               Entrepreneurs should intentionally build relationships with traditional banks, CDFIs, and private investors by networking within the investment community.

·               Most importantly, business owners must be persistent and resilient in the face of rejection; with each “no” they will be more prepared for finally getting to a “yes.”


Following the panel, RICE Stakeholders were able to mingle with leaders in attendance to gain expert advice on funding opportunities and avenues for growth and investment that empower small businesses to realize their full potential. This level of opportunity, access, and exposure to Fortune 500 leaders is a trademark example of the major benefits Black entrepreneurs enjoy in the RICE community.


“RICE is honored to receive this investment from Truist Foundation and the Truist Trusteed Foundations, which will significantly bolster our mission to support Black entrepreneurs in unprecedented ways,” said Jay Bailey, president and CEO of RICE. “Through this collaboration, we are poised to drive economic impact and growth.”

By partnering, RICE and Truist are reshaping collaboration and empowerment in the entrepreneurial realm. This joint endeavor underscores the importance of initiatives that transcend conventional boundaries to foster a more inclusive and dynamic entrepreneurial ecosystem. RICE is beyond grateful to have phenomenal partners supporting our efforts to eradicate the wealth gap.


Learn more about RICE, Truist Foundation’s $2M investment and the panel at The Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Terri-Nichelle Bradley

Terri-Nichelle Bradley is the Founder and CEO of Play at Brown Toy Box. Bradley believes that Black children should see themselves positively represented in every space the experience regularly, starting with their toybox and the toy aisle. Bradley, an equity in play advocate, is on a mission to disrupt the $27B toy industry by creating a brand that reflects the world we live in today. Launched in 2017 as a STEAM kit, Brown Toy Box evolved into a full-scale educational toy company producing and curating STEAM toys, media, and experiences for centering and celebrating Black children in a manner all children can enjoy, learn, and have fun. Prior to starting Brown Toy Box, Bradley led a communications consultancy working with Fortune 500 companies in campaigns designed to connect with the African American community. Prior to that, Bradley served as the VP of Corporate, Crisis, and Public Affairs for the world’s largest global PR agency. Bradley has been awarded the Civic Impact Award, was recognized as a 2019 Atlanta’s Top 100 Businesswomen of Influence by the Atlanta Business League, acknowledged on the 2020 Who’s Who in Black Atlanta list of influential leaders and most recently named to Inc. Magazine’s 2020 Female Founders 100 list. Brown Toy Box is sold in Target stores nationwide, with Amazon, over 30 museums including the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture, as well as other independent specialty toy stores and retailers. Learn more at browntoybox.com

Stefan Miller

Stefan Miller is the Co-Founder and CMO for Young King Hair Care, which launched in December 2019. Young King Hair Care is a multicultural grooming and lifestyle brand company with tailored offerings catering to specific needs of young men of color. Stefan is a marketing professional with 15+ years of experience across marketing, sales and consulting in the CPG and tech industries. At Young King, Stefan has been featured in over 75+ national publications, was recognized by Mintel as one of the top US brand innovations of 2021, partnered with Disney and Marvel Studios for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and was a participant on Season 13 of ABC’s Shark Tank. Currently Young King Hair Care is available in multiple retail partners, including Target, Walmart, and CVS, selling in over 3,000 stores across the US. Prior to founding Young King Hair Care, he led business strategy and marketing communications, while launching innovations across multiple billion-dollar brands and categories at IBM, Johnson & Johnson, General Mills, Coca-Cola, and Red Bull. Stefan L. Miller Bio Stefan holds an MBA from Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University with concentrations in Brand Marketing, Media Management and Management in Organizations, and is a proud HBCU alum of Morehouse College with a BA in Business Administration. He currently lives with his wife and co-founder Cora and 2 kids, Kade and Cree in Atlanta, Georgia. Learn more at youngkinghaircare.com

Ceata E. Lash

Ceata E. Lash, CEO and founder of PuffCuff has emerged as a pioneering figure in the natural hair accessory industry, holding the distinction of being the first African-American woman to secure four US patents in this domain. Her journey to entrepreneurship was built upon a 30-year career as a graphic designer, which laid the foundation for launching PuffCuff in 2013. Ceata’s innovative leadership has earned her prestigious accolades, including the President’s Innovation Award from Sally Beauty and the New Voices + Barefoot Wine Beauty Business Grant. These achievements have placed her among the top female founders featured in Inc. Magazine. Committed to lifelong learning and growth, Ceata has completed the Goldman Sachs 10K Small Businesses National Cohort and was part of the inaugural Amazon Black Business Accelerator Cohort. Her recent completion of the “Building a Successful Diverse Business” program at Tuck Executive Education, Dartmouth, further underscores her dedication to continuous improvement and leadership in the business world. Learn more at thepuffcuff.com