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RICE participants at recent graduation ceremony. Photo Courtesy of Disney Parks.
RICE participants at recent graduation ceremony. Photo Courtesy of Disney Parks.

Disney World has created an accelerator program for Black entrepreneurs

The goal is to see more diversity in businesses within 15-20 years.

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The Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs (RICE), an Atlanta-based nonprofit organization helping to create an accelerated program for Black entrepreneurs, is partnering with Disney World for a two-day event.

The initiative called, The Supply Chain Accelerator Programme, started its pilot with the idea of giving small businesses the tools they need to ensure success. A total of 35 companies owned by Black entrepreneurs were included.

Through its partnership, Disney provided RICE members with open panel discussions, workshops, and other networking opportunities. They also gave them the chance to speak with other members of Disney.

Ralph Sagaille, director of supply diversity and sustainability at Disney, said that the company has devoted a large portion of its money to invest in BIPOC-owned businesses.

“Disney has a huge goal,” said Sagaille. “When it comes to supplier diversity, we’ve committed by 2024 to spend US$1bn dollars in direct spending with diverse companies.”

He also stated that Disney is hoping to add more entrepreneurs who can help make their company grow.

“Disney found it really important to sponsor the RICE accelerator programme because we’re in a process of growth and we’re looking for entrepreneurs and small businesses to help us accelerate our growth for the next 15-20 years.”

President and CEO of RICE, Jay Bailey, is delighted to announce the launch of the program and has expressed excitement about the partnership with Disney. 

“We’re in the most magical place on earth with a room full of dreamers,” said Bailey. He added. “What better place to see RICE and Disney come together to help individual business innovators, dreamers, understand how to tell their story and do business with one of the most reputable brands in the world.”

One of the small business owners involved in the pilot program is mother and daughter duo Zoe and Evana Oli, co-founders of Beautiful Curly Me.

“I didn’t like my hair and I wished it was straight like my classmates,” said Zoe. “I found a need for black dolls that looked like me. When we went to the stores and couldn't find any, I decided I wanted to make my own business and do something about it.”

Disney and RICE are hoping to invite 50 businesses to their second event next year. They also want to add more workshops to its curriculum.

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