RICE, led by two Black women, is now the largest entrepreneurial hub in the U.S.

Abu Mubarik June 05, 2024
SHAWN M. GRAHAM, CPA, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT AND CHIEF ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER, RICE AND MONICA DELORES HOOKS, MBA, EDP, AS CHIEF EXPERIENCE OFFICER, RICE. Photo credit: RICE

Black women have historically been underrepresented and underpaid in the global economy. Those who want to become entrepreneurs and be their own boss are often faced with challenges regarding raising money to start their businesses or scale them up.

This led to the birth of the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs (RICE) to empower black business owners. Described as “Atlanta’s home for Black entrepreneurs”, it was created as a business incubator to generate support for local African-American business owners as they grow, scale and create jobs through their endeavors, according to Essence. The company was inspired by the legacy of Herman J. Russell, one of the most successful Black entrepreneurs and civic leaders in Atlanta.

Today, RICE has grown to become the largest entrepreneurial hub in the United States and it is led by black women. First established in 2018, one of RICE’s marquee offerings is its Supply Chain Accelerator. The program focuses on contract readiness and connection with government contract opportunities, according to Essence.

RICE recently announced the appointment of Shawn M. Graham, CPA, as Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer along with Monica Delores Hooks, MBA, EDP, as Chief Experience Officer.

“Atlanta instills a profound sense of pride and responsibility,” said Delores Hooks in a statement. “At RICE, we’re building a community that provides founders with the comprehensive support I once only dreamed of. It’s an honor to contribute to the narrative of Black excellence and innovation in the city that shaped me.”

“I’m thrilled to lend my skills to RICE’s empowering mission,” Graham said. “Our goal is to provide a solid platform for Black entrepreneurs to excel, reshaping the business landscape with innovative and sustainable strategies.”

Delores Hooks, with deep Atlanta roots, brings an impressive background marked by transformative leadership in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, most notably with the Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative (WEI) while Graham comes to RICE with a wealth of experience in finance, strategy, and community engagement, the statement said.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: June 5, 2024

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