Friday September 17th, 2021 11:40AM

Colleges to house new center that trains Black entrepreneurs

By The Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) — A new center for training Black entrepreneurs will be opening in Atlanta as part of a collaboration announced Monday between Spelman College, Morehouse College and an advocacy organization made up of business leaders.

The Center for Black Entrepreneurship is expected to start operating for the fall 2021 semester. Details of the collaboration were shared with The Associated Press ahead of the announcement.

“In 2020 we saw an acknowledgement from many in the investor community that there needs to be a change, that we need to take a look at these barriers and how they are preventing talented aspiring Black entrepreneurs from reaching their full potential,” said David Clunie, executive director of the Black Economic Alliance, the advocacy group involved. “We need to give them the education, resources and opportunities they need to really succeed.”

The center will be housed in Spelman's new Center for Innovation & the Arts as well as a new building at Morehouse. It will include a core curriculum on business development, speakers, mentorship opportunities and chances to connect with investors for the historically Black colleges and universities that make up the Atlanta University Center Consortium: Spelman College, Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine and Clark Atlanta University.

Spelman is a private women’s liberal arts college with 2,097 students, and Morehouse is a private men’s liberal arts college with 2,200 students, according to the colleges' websites.

In addition to the in-person instruction for students at these HBCUs, an online program also will be available to the general public and provide certifications in project management, cybersecurity and other business-related topics.

Morehouse President David A. Thomas said the new center builds on a long history of entrepreneurial spirit at these HBCUs and continues the schools' legacies of providing opportunities for economic and social mobility for their students. He said he hopes the center will serve as a model for other HBCUs.

“What I envision is for other historically Black colleges to join the CBE network so that these entrepreneurship centers are developed and connected across the country," he said. “Collaboration makes these programs stronger.”

James Johnson Jr., a professor of strategy and entrepreneurship in the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, said a well-planned entrepreneurship center can be a first step toward addressing the systemic barriers Black entrepreneurs face. Johnson said Black entrepreneurs face reduced access to capital, networking opportunities and generational wealth that could allow them to take the risks often necessary in starting a business. They also face racism when applying for loans or finding investors, he said.

These are the kinds of inequities Spelman President Mary Schmidt Campbell and others behind the Spelman and Morehouse center hope the facility will help address through its mission of supporting Black entrepreneurs and working to close the wealth gap between Black and white Americans.

“These barriers have existed for decades," Campbell said. "You're asking Black entrepreneurs to start a mile back from the starting line. What we intend to do with the center is to propel them forward.”

But Johnson said there’s more work to do, especially in supporting older entrepreneurs who may not have the same access to university-based centers.

“I’m happy to see these centers, but we can’t stop there,” he said. “The center has to be within a larger ecosystem that supports Black business for these entrepreneurs to thrive.”

It's an opportune time to launch the center given the increased interest in Black-owned businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused many to close, and the recent racial reckoning, Clunie said.

“You see more urgency within the investment community to support Black businesses during this time and to counteract decades of systemic racism that has been highlighted last year through the pandemic,” he said. “This conversation is way overdue, but it’s the perfect time to have it.”

The center will be funded in part by a $10 million grant from Bank of America to support curriculum development, faculty recruitment and co-curricular programming as part of its $1 billion racial equity fund. Ebony Thomas, a Bank of America racial equity executive, agreed the pandemic “has highlighted and magnified the dire need for work like this.”

“For America to thrive, we need to support Black businesses and entrepreneurship. And we need to do it now,” said Thomas, a graduate of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, an HBCU.

“At a center like this, a student’s dreams can be realized,” she continued. “They can find a community behind them to empower them and give them the support they need. The impact is immediate. And then years from now, that new business owner will be able to reinvest in their community and continue that legacy.”


Fernando is a member of The Associated Press’ Race and Ethnicity team. Follow her on Twitter at

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Business, AP Business - Careers, AP Online - Georgia News, AP Online Headlines - Georgia News
© Copyright 2021
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Scotland vaccinations lead to sharp drop in hospitalizations
Scotland’s COVID-19 vaccination program has led to a sharp drop in hospitalizations, researchers said Monday, boosting hopes that the shots will work as well in the real world as they have in carefully controlled studies
9:33AM ( 5 minutes ago )
Colleges to house new center that trains Black entrepreneurs
A new center for training Black entrepreneurs will be opening in Atlanta as part of a collaboration announced Monday between Spelman College, Morehouse College and an advocacy organization made up of business leaders
9:33AM ( 5 minutes ago )
In 'Minari,' harvesting an American dream
Lee Isaac Chung's “Minari" wasn’t a large production
9:25AM ( 13 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
UN to rich nations: Don't undermine COVAX vaccine program
The head of the World Health Organization is pleading with rich countries to check before ordering additional COVID-19 vaccine shots for themselves whether that undermines efforts to get vaccines to poorer nations
8:26AM ( 1 hour ago )
National Spelling Bee to return in mostly virtual format
The Scripps National Spelling Bee will return this year in a mostly virtual format
8:05AM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Hard-hit French region faces weekend lockdowns
A region in southeast France is adding daytime weekend lockdowns to the 12-hour nightly curfew already in place seven days a week to slow a surge in coronavirus infections that is straining hospital resources
7:23AM ( 2 hours ago )
AP National News
Goodyear acquires Cooper in all-American stock deal
Two of the biggest remaining American-owned and based tire manufacturers are joining forces
8:13AM ( 1 hour ago )
Collins says she'll vote against Biden budget nominee Tanden
Moderate Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine says she'll vote against confirming President Joe Biden’s nomination of Neera Tanden to lead the White House Office of Management and Budget
8:13AM ( 1 hour ago )
EXPLAINER: Iran restricts UN atomic agency to pressure West
Iran will begin restricting the ability of United Nations nuclear inspectors to monitor Tehran’s nuclear program
8:11AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Business
Tennessee races to repair broken water mains in storm's wake
Workers in Tennessee are racing to fix water mains that failed in freezing temperatures as the South carries on with efforts to recover from the winter weather that paralyzed parts of the nation
1:00PM ( 20 hours ago )
After losing a company to COVID, owners seek the next gig
As the coronavirus outbreak forced businesses to shut permanently over the past year, owners have had to figure out what to do next
12:41PM ( 20 hours ago )
The Latest: Drug companies start pregnancy vaccine study
Drugmaker Pfizer and German parterner BioNTech have started a nine-country study of their COVID-19 vaccine in pregnant women
3:02PM ( 3 days ago )
AP Business - Careers
In 'Minari,' harvesting an American dream
Lee Isaac Chung's “Minari" wasn’t a large production
9:25AM ( 13 minutes ago )
Garland to focus on civil rights, political independence
President Joe Biden’s nominee for attorney general is set for his confirmation hearing vowing to prioritize civil rights, combat extremist attacks and ensure the Justice Department remains politically independent
9:21AM ( 17 minutes ago )
Netflix doc to examine man behind college admissions scandal
Netflix says it will release a documentary on the college admissions scandal that sent actors Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman to prison in March
9:02AM ( 36 minutes ago )
Goodyear acquires Cooper in all-American tire deal
Two of the biggest remaining American-owned and based tire manufacturers are joining forces
9:01AM ( 37 minutes ago )
The Latest: Sanofi to produce 12M vaccines for rival company
Sanofi is going to produce as many as 12 million coronavirus vaccine doses per month for rival Johnson & Johnson
8:49AM ( 49 minutes ago )