BEA, Spelman, Morehouse to Open Center for Black Entrepreneurship

plans for the establishment of the Center for Black Entrepreneurship
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Photo: BEA

The Black Economic Alliance Foundation, Spelman College, and Morehouse College have unveiled plans for the establishment of the Center for Black Entrepreneurship (CBE), the first-ever academic center of its kind to produce, train, and support a new generation 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 site within a new facility on campus.

The CBE seeks to eliminate the access barrier between Black entrepreneurs, professional investors, and business builders by leveraging education, mentorship, access to capital, and opportunity. By building on a strong existing culture of entrepreneurship at Spelman and Morehouse, the CBE will grow the pipeline of Black business talent and innovation and help bridge the divide between the business and technology sectors and the next generation of Black entrepreneurs.

The launch of 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, and co-curricular programming. The CBE has attracted funding and support from businesses across industries, leading investors, and the most successful entrepreneurs to support the CBE with capital, networks, and mentorship.

“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.”

“In order to support Black entrepreneurship, we need to support Black educational institutions and centers of excellence. The Center for Black Entrepreneurship will provide a pathway for budding Black entrepreneurs to learn how to build and launch businesses and secure capital from a diverse range of sources,” said Tony Coles, Co-Chair of the Black Economic Alliance; CEO of Cerevel Therapeutics. “The Center for Black Entrepreneurship can serve as an invaluable hub for access to capital, technology innovation, and as a national model to create a pipeline for more jobs for more Black Americans.”

“Access to a solid network is just as important as access to capital. The Center for Black Entrepreneurship will be a dynamic academic center that fosters and develops the next generation of Black entrepreneurs and business leaders,” said Charles Phillips, Co-Chair of the Black Economic Alliance; Managing Partner and Co-Founder of Recognize; Former CEO of Infor. “The Center for Black Entrepreneurship allows us to invest in our greatest resource – Black talent. Spelman and Morehouse are two of America's premier learning institutions, and the right place to start this unique endeavor to help cultivate talent and guide the next generation of leaders.”

“Now more than ever, we need collaborative avenues that will provide education and support to young Black women and men who desire to take on leadership roles in business and entrepreneurship,” said Tia Breakley, BEA Board Member and Managing Director at Blackstone. “The Center for Black Entrepreneurship will help mobilize important resources, networks, and expertise to foster the next generation of Black talent. I couldn't think of more fitting partners to launch the Center than Morehouse and Spelman Colleges. Their quality education, programs, and unparalleled history will help set a foundation of success for the CBE, and the generous gift from Bank of America will help bring it to life.”

“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,” said Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D., president of Spelman College. “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 institutions that affirm identity, history and culture in developing the next generation of Black entrepreneurs.”

“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 Dr. David A. Thomas, president of Morehouse College. “The Center for 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 Bank of America to educate and strengthen the entrepreneurs who will lead change.”

“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 provide break-through opportunities to prepare more successful Black entrepreneurs that will fuel social and economic mobility in Atlanta and beyond.”

“Morehouse and Spelman are two of the nation’s leading liberal arts colleges primarily serving the Black community and have some of the highest social mobility rates in the country,” said Wendy Stewart, Atlanta market president for Bank of America. “Partnering with these historic institutions will be instrumental in supporting our next generation of entrepreneurs that will ultimately create economic opportunity and generate jobs in Atlanta.”

“The Center for Black Entrepreneurship is a gamechanger for aspiring Black entrepreneurs,” said Kneeland Youngblood, BEA Advisory Board Member; and Founding Partner and Chairman of Pharos Capital Group. “Spelman and Morehouse are cornerstone HBCUs that will help develop a national blueprint to train and support the next generation of Black business leaders and executives in the boardroom. The center will provide dynamic programming that will help aspiring Black entrepreneurs navigate corporate America and learn how to forge their own successful path.”

“The Center for Black Entrepreneurship is an investment in the future of our young Black professionals,” said   BEA Board Member, Founder of Sundial Brands, New Voices Fund for Women of Color, and Executive Chairman of Essence Ventures. “This center fills a critical need by establishing a direct pipeline to resources, mentorship, and funding streams to help foster Black enterprise. The Center for Black Entrepreneurship's footprint will change the lives of many young Black entrepreneurs looking to gain traction in business and entrepreneurship.”

“I’m proud to support this generational commitment towards advancing the next Black innovators, technologists, and global leaders as a bridge between an empowered group of students interested in the world of start-ups and venture capital. The Black community continues to redefine how our culture and ideas work together to remix the world, and the CBE’s academic programming will help scale our entrepreneurial excellence in every field,” said Chris Lyons, BEA Advisory Board Member; Managing Partner, Andreessen Horowitz, Cultural Leadership Fund and Global Advisor to Verizon Media.”

The Center for Black Entrepreneurship

The CBE builds on Spelman and Morehouse Colleges’ long history of innovative programming, two of the highest-ranking historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the United States. In addition to the students of Spelman and Morehouse, the CBE curriculum will also be available to students from Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse School of Medicine; and online portable certificate programs will be available to students from any school and even non-student entrepreneurs.

Specifically, the CBE aims to teach students how to:

  • Create a business
  • Launch a start-up
  • Evolve and translate a business concept
  • Acquire an existing business and/or reposition a business
  • Scale promising innovations into commercially viable products or services
  • Connect with potential investors, including venture capital and other sources of funding

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 with prominent national models such as Babson College and Stanford University to provide co-curricular programming. As part of its holistic programming, the CBE will invite successful entrepreneurs and leaders from venture capital, private equity, tech, 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 ninth-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.

For more information about the CBE or the Black Economic Alliance Foundation, please visit foundation.blackeconomicalliance.org/cbe/.

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