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 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


UPS & Walmart Executives visit RICE to connect with RICE stakeholder companies

Culture, community, curriculum, commerce.

RICE is building a comprehensive supply chain and retail management learning experience that will change the trajectory of Black entrepreneurs being exposed to new business opportunities.

On January 19, over 40 Senior Executives from Walmart and UPS  visited the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs for Walmart’s Business Leadership Experience (BLX).  Several RICE stakeholders in the retail product space were invited to connect with Walmart & UPS executives to discuss their business and how to prepare to work with large corporations. Deep transformation is happening at RICE and we’re excited to develop meaningful relationships that help raise awareness on the importance of Black entrepreneurship and economic development. Stakeholders that took part in the intimate conversations included:

Walmart’s BLX program immerses its next generation leaders in experiences that build cohesion, invests in Walmart’s culture, and prepares participants to lead the company through the opportunities and challenges of the future​. Principally, BLX is intended to target Walmart’s most critical senior talent and focus their mindsets and competencies to support business transformation. Through a series of immersive learning experiences focused on the company’s strategy, this program serves to enable participants’ to be a part of current and emerging challenges, while still being forward leaning on where the company is to go in the future.

Over the course of three days, the BLX program physically and virtually immersed itself into various types of communities in the Atlanta area to help its future leaders imagine – and in some cases, reimagine – community. Along with other ventures, the participants partnered with UPS and RICE to understand community and small business investment. This included understanding how inequity and disparity can be created in the mere designing of cities and communities, and how the inverse is true when thoughtful consideration is given to human experience wherever we commune. Additionally, participants were afforded an opportunity to sit with Black entrepreneurs from RICE to give business insights and create lasting relationships.

“It’s a movement, not a moment” were sentiments shared by the participants as they reflected on their time spent in Atlanta, and how they envision future investments into community. Each walked away with challenged schemas, illuminated perspectives and a deeper appreciation of why community matters now and into the future.


We are grateful for our corporate partners like UPS for making this connection with Walmart — these types of collaborations are so meaningful in helping RICE stakeholders to feel seen, heard, valued and supported. Learn more about how you can become a stakeholder and build connections and community by registering for our upcoming Stakeholder Info Sessions on Feb.21st or Feb 24th here .

Russell Center Collaborates with Disney on Supply Chain Accelerator

Since 2019, the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs (RICE) has been supporting Atlanta’s Black small business community with connections, programming, and resources that help facilitate their business growth at scale. Through an innovative partnership with the Disney Corporation, 35 RICE-supported businesses, and 60+ stakeholders and their business affiliates got an insider’s look at the inner-workings of the supply-chain and how best to prepare as a potential vendor for corporate partners.

As part of Disney’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, the corporation has made a goal of spending $1 billion annually with diverse suppliers by 2024. This inaugural accelerator program will help RICE stakeholders become competitive with their offer and bids, hopefully resulting in contracts being executed and opportunity expanded. Collaborations like these from socially aware and responsible corporations, like Disney, help close the opportunity gap experienced by many women and minority-owned small businesses.


The collaboration with RICE is part of Disney’s Future Storytellers, an initiative that empowers the next generation of creators and innovators. RICE stakeholders had a chance to experience the Disney magic up-close and in-through a series of panels, networking opportunities, and exclusive behind-the-scenes tours.


During the two-day experience, two of RICE Stakeholders M-T Strickland, CEO of Metric Mate and Dr. Bianca Kiovanni, CEO of Simplicity Beverage Company had an opportunity to talk about their business in front of some of Disney’s Supply Chain team and fellow RICE stakeholders. RICE’s youngest CEO, 10-year old Zoe Oli also wowed participants with her company, Beautiful Curly Me.


“The RICE Supply Chain Accelerator program delivers the necessary expertise and insight for entrepreneurs to take the next step and we are grateful for Disney’s sponsorship,” says Jay Bailey, President and CEO of the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs. “This partnership is exceptionally meaningful during a time when equitable opportunities have never been more important.”

We are excited to announce that Disney and RICE have agreed to extend the partnership with even more RICE stakeholders, expanded programming, and a greater fast-track to entrepreneurial success and more “happily ever after”s.