Closing the gap for Black business owners

Burunda Prince 83 realized early in her career that she was excluded from key discussions at work, despite having a title and a nice office and credentials such as a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from MIT, and an MBA from Harvard Business School.After a meeting on Prince's project, her male colleagues continued their conversation as they entered the men's bathroom. Prince laughs and says that I followed them in. I stated that I was determined advocate for my position. If this was where the conversation was taking places, then so be it.COURTESY PHOTOPrince said that although more people of color and women are now able to sit at the table for strategic decisions, these groups are often excluded from informal networks where funding and investment deals are made. Because entrepreneurship is essential to wealth building, it is important that this barrier is overcome. She points out that business ownership is the greatest equalizer in wealth disparity between white America, and people of colour.Prince, who is chief operating officer of the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs in Atlanta, works with her team to create the infrastructure necessary to help Black entrepreneurs build their businesses.RICE is a hybrid incubator, accelerator, and maker space. It was founded in 2019 by the descendants Herman J. Russell, an Atlanta-based businessman, philanthropist and civil rights advocate. It provides training, capital access, business advice, and networking opportunities for more than 500 Black-owned small businesses and startups. It offered assistance in obtaining loans under the Paycheck Protection Program to local businesses that were affected by the pandemic.A business can take many years to develop and grow. Prince says that I had to provide other metrics than sales and capital. Key touch points (how often the center staff interacts with entrepreneurs) are the best indicators of success. This also indicates that RICE is committed to the long-term with its members, funders and supporters.Prince joined RICE after serving as a managing director at Farm, Comcast NBCUniversals' tech accelerator. She says that as COO, I have been able leverage all of my previous career experiences, from consulting to corporate leadership to leading roles at non-profit civic organizations. I am privileged to support Black entrepreneurs in ways that impact individual lives as well as communities.