Bank of America helps launch first academic center to empower Black entrepreneurs with $10 million grant

Bank of America helps launch first academic center to empower Black entrepreneurs with $10 million grant

The academic initiative is led by Morehouse College, Spelman College, and the Black Economic Alliance Foundation

BCN Staff – Feb. 23, 2021 — Bank of America, the Black Economic Alliance Foundation, Morehouse College, and Spelman College today announced the development of the Center for Black Entrepreneurship (CBE), the first-ever academic center of its kind to assemble, educate and empower a new class of Black entrepreneurial talent.

The CBE will be located on the campuses of Spelman College and Morehouse College in southwest Atlanta. Spelman plans to house the CBE in its new academic facility, the Center for Innovation & the Arts, and Morehouse will house its CBE within a new facility on campus.

Morehouse and Spelman colleges are two of the highest ranking historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the U.S. Funding for the development of the CBE comes from Bank of America as part of its $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.

“As an alumna of Spelman College, I know firsthand the lasting and meaningful impact the institution can make on its students and surrounding community,” said Cynthia Bowman, chief diversity & inclusion and talent acquisition officer for Bank of America. “This collective partnership will work to eliminate existing barriers by providing unique opportunities to Black entrepreneurs, ultimately fueling Black innovation and economic mobility within the next generation.”

According to Bank of America, the CBE will seek to eliminate the access barriers among Black entrepreneurs, professional investors, and business builders by leveraging education, mentorship, access to capital and opportunity. By building on an existing culture of strong entrepreneurship programs at both Morehouse and Spelman, the CBE will help expand the ecosystem, grow the pipeline of Black innovation, and bridge the divide between the business and tech communities and next generation of Black entrepreneurs.

“The Center for Black Entrepreneurship will help close the opportunity gaps among industry, the investment community and Black entrepreneurs. The CBE will harness the multiplier effect of education, exposure, mentorship, access to capital and opportunity,” said David Clunie, executive director of the Black Economic Alliance. “The Black Economic Alliance is proud to partner with Spelman and Morehouse to bring this unique initiative to fruition, and we appreciate the anchor funding from Bank of America enabling us to launch the program. Together, we will grow a strong pipeline of Black innovators and create a robust ecosystem of entrepreneurial excellence in Atlanta and beyond.”

“Morehouse’s priority is empowering leaders to impact society, including entrepreneurs of color who produce new business models, create new industries, and disrupt the status quo as innovators, inventors, and paradigm shifters,” said Morehouse President Dr. David Thomas. “The Center for Black Entrepreneurship adds important capacity to support our work with minority-owned businesses and current or future entrepreneurs who are gaining access to capital, creating jobs, leveraging technology and developing the products and services that enhance the standard of living for us all. We are proud to partner with Spelman College, the Black Economic Alliance and Bank of America to educate and strengthen the entrepreneurs who will lead change.”

“Bank of America’s gift to Spelman and Morehouse enables our institutions to create a dynamic academic experience for aspiring Black entrepreneurs. Our students will learn to build strong businesses and create wealth for their families and their communities, all while obtaining a first-rate liberal arts education,” added Spelman College President Mary Schmidt Campbell. “We’ll hire top tier faculty, support our students 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. We appreciate Bank of America for its investment in institutions that affirm identity, history and culture in developing the next generation of Black entrepreneurs.”

The Center for Black Entrepreneurship

The CBE is powered by $10 million in anchor funding from Bank of America, which will support the development of an academic curriculum, faculty recruitment, co-curricular programming, modernize existing facilities and the development of new physical space. In addition to the students of Spelman and Morehouse, students from Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse School of Medicine will also be able to benefit from CBE programming.

Specifically, the CBE aims to teach students how to:

  • Create a business
  • Launch a start-up
  • Evolve and translate a business concept
  • Acquire and/or reposition an existing business
  • Scale promising innovations into commercially viable products or services
  • Connect with venture capital firms

In addition to a traditional academic curriculum, the CBE will include online courses to make parts of the curriculum accessible to a global audience to offer upskilling training to a broader adult audience. The CBE will also provide certifications in project management, data science, coding, and cybersecurity to empower Black entrepreneurs with the technological tools they need to succeed.

The CBE will also explore partnerships with Atlanta-based higher education programs, the broader HBCU community and schools that have prominent national models to provide co-curricular programming. As part of its holistic programming, the CBE will invite successful entrepreneurs and leaders from venture capital, private equity and other industries as guest lecturers and mentors, helping to create a stronger ecosystem among the investment community, emerging Black talent, and some of the most successful entrepreneurs in America.

The Atlanta metro area is home to 57 colleges and universities and over 100,000 Black-owned businesses, making it a hub for Black students and entrepreneurs. Despite being the 9th largest metro area in the country, there is a significant disconnect between venture capital firms, which are traditionally West Coast-based, and emerging Black student entrepreneurs who are disproportionately located on the East Coast and in the South.

Bank of America recently announced it is investing $150 million in 40 private funds focused on minority entrepreneurs as part of its efforts to address the persistent gap in access to growth capital for minority-led businesses, which included Fearless Fund, based in Atlanta.

Other recent Bank of America announcements focused on racial equality, diversity and inclusion and economic opportunity include:

  • Announced Investments in 40 Private Funds Focused on Minority Entrepreneurs for Approximately $150 Million
  • Directed More Than $13 Million to Native American Communities Hardest Hit by the Coronavirus in 2020
  • Joined CVS Health to Fund and Deliver Free Flu Vaccine Vouchers
  • 21 Higher Education Institutions receive $1 Million Each as Part of $25 Million Jobs Initiative
  • Ten Completed Equity Investments in Minority Depository Institutions and Community Development Financial Institution Banks
  • $2 billion Equality Progress Sustainability Bond.
  • Universal ESG Reporting; International Business Council of World Economic Forum.
  • Top Global Bank on Fortune “Change the World” List.
  • Increasing representation of diverse asset managers across the industry.
  • Expanding support of Boys & Girls Clubs of America with $1 million grant to support educational programs.
  • Committing $100,000 to Athena Alliance to support underrepresented women.
  • Partnership with iHeartMedia to bring first-of-its-kind national audio news service to the Black community.
  • Smithsonian announces “Race, Community and Our Shared Future” initiative, Bank of America commits $25 million.
  • $1 Billion, four-year commitment to support economic opportunity initiatives.
  • Committing $250 million in capital and $10 million in philanthropic grants to CDFIs.

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