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.