Morehouse College received a major boost this week for its efforts to help Black entrepreneurs.
JPMorgan Chase awarded the Morehouse Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center (MIEC) a $1 million grant over the next two years to conduct new research on metro Atlanta’s business assistance ecosystem and expand a certificate program for small businesses.
With this grant, JPMorgan has now given $2.6 million to the MIEC since 2017.
“In particular, the gift to MIEC is one that allows for us to build upon the relationship and the work that we have been able to do in partnership with Morehouse over a period of time,” said Alicia Wilson, the bank’s managing director of global philanthropy for the North America Region. Wilson added that the grant also allows the financial giant to engage in research with real-world applications.
The MIEC, which was founded in 2004, is one of many organizations in metro Atlanta with a mission to help entrepreneurs build businesses. But finding out what entities exactly are helping and what assistance they provide isn’t always clear.
“What we’ve heard from businesses is that the landscape, the ecosystem has gotten very noisy, very busy. And there’s a sense of, ‘I don’t know who is doing what to whom,’” said Tiffany Bussey, Executive Director of the MIEC.
Bussey said she hopes to provide clarity on that who and what. Half of the JPMorgan funding will go to new research on organizations that assist businesses. It is the first research that the Morehouse center has done since its founding.
“I think there is a huge gap in the literature and what we know about what works specifically for Black businesses,” Bussey said.
Credit: Morehouse College
Credit: Morehouse College
One of the goals of the research is to map the organizations that help business owners, what types of assistance the groups provide and what sorts of businesses they help.
For example, the MIEC is focused on scalable businesses, which Bussey described as companies with usually greater than $1 million in revenue that have been in business about three to five years and have more than 10 employees. Other organizations may be focused on startups or sole proprietors.
With this grant, the MIEC will be hiring three new positions to help with the research — a data analyst, a key lead researcher and a program manager — and the center is establishing the Atlanta Small Business Ecosystem Hub.
On Tuesday, the hub held its inaugural event with eight other organizations in Atlanta that help businesses, including the Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative, the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs and the Village Micro Fund. They participated in a four-hour business assistance roundtable with the MIEC and representatives from JPMorgan.
Ultimately, changing an ecosystem can’t be forced into a two-year grant timeline. But both Bussey and Wilson say progress can be made.
“I think of the work that’s being done as a journey, rather than sort of a destination,” Wilson said. “What I would love to see is progress.”
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