Press Release

Cisco Makes $5 Million Commitment To Empower The Next Generation Of Black Entrepreneurs

By Black Economic Alliance Foundation |
Cisco Makes $5 Million Commitment To Empower The Next Generation Of Black Entrepreneurs

Media Contacts

Stephanie Báez (BEA Foundation)

Jason Kello (Cisco)

Lydia Sermons (Spelman College)

Jasmine Gurley (Morehouse College)

Jolene Butts-Freeman (Clark Atlanta University)

The commitment will advance the Center for Black Entrepreneurship, housed at Spelman and Morehouse Colleges, and catalyze the Center’s graduate-level programming at Clark Atlanta University

WASHINGTON, D.C. – (September 12, 2022)  Today, the Black Economic Alliance Foundation (BEA Foundation), a national nonprofit organization that promotes generational wealth-building for the Black community, announced a funding partnership with Cisco, a leading systems technology company. The commitment includes over $4 million in grants and direct technical services toward the development of the Center for Black Entrepreneurship (CBE) and $1 million towards the BEA Entrepreneurs Fund. Cisco’s generous commitment advances the future development of the CBE’s graduate programming at Clark Atlanta University and expands current CBE programming at Spelman and Morehouse Colleges, supporting the next generation of Black entrepreneurial talent in the Atlanta area.

“The Center for Black Entrepreneurship and the BEA Entrepreneurs Fund are tangible solutions to advance work, wages, and wealth across the Black community,” said Samantha Tweedy, President of the Black Economic Alliance Foundation. “We’re thankful to Cisco for their generous support and strategic partnership in advancing the vision of the CBE and investing in Black entrepreneurs who will multiply prosperity for our community and, in so doing, grow the American economy.”

“Preserving the legacy and sustainability of Historically Black Colleges and Universities is a global, companywide priority for us,” said Fran Katsoudas, Chief People, Policy and Purpose Officer and Executive Vice President at Cisco. “By supporting the Center for Black Entrepreneurship launch and establishing the BEA Entrepreneurs Fund, Cisco hopes to inspire Black entrepreneurs of the future from three of our nation’s most prestigious HBCUs, putting our social justice beliefs into action. Today’s announcement is part of Cisco’s unique, sustaining commitment of over $150 million as part of our partnership with HBCU’s across the country, strengthening our workforce and providing access to education and technology.”

The Cisco grant evenly allots $3 million across endowed faculty positions for the expansion of CBE programming at Spelman College and Morehouse College and the establishment of CBE graduate-level programming at Clark Atlanta University—whose predecessor institution, Atlanta University, was the first in the nation to award graduate degrees to Black Americans. The investment also includes up to $1 million in financial contributions toward the BEA Entrepreneurs Fund. The Fund provides capital to Black entrepreneurs and small business owners, and a portion of it is earmarked for applicants who are graduates of the CBE. Cisco will also donate technology products and services valued at over $1 million to all three institutions.

“We’re proud to be a partner in launching the Center for Black Entrepreneurship, a collaborative effort that will help prepare tomorrow’s visionary entrepreneurial leaders,” said Helene Gayle, MD, MPH, President of Spelman College. “Black women have been the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs, and Spelman College has had a rich history of developing Black female entrepreneurs that are making their mark on the world. We are grateful for the commitment from Cisco that will continue to fuel our entrepreneurial legacy well into the future.”

“Just like Morehouse graduate Martin Luther King, Jr. articulated, Morehouse College continues to recognize that equity in our society must include economic empowerment,” said David A. Thomas, Ph.D., Morehouse College president. “Our collaboration with Cisco and our sister Atlanta University Center Consortium institutions will ensure that our faculty have the resources they need to instruct, inspire, and influence the next generation of entrepreneurs who will remake our global commercial system through innovation and drive, and that the entrepreneurs we assist have tools that will help them catapult their businesses into the mainstream. At the same time, we expect those businesses to be catalysts that help enhance prosperity and quality of life for the employees, investors, customers they engage.”

“We are elated to join hands with Morehouse, Spelman, and the BEA Foundation to expand the impact of the Center for Black Entrepreneurship through the introduction of graduate school programming,” said George T. French, Jr., Ph.D., President of Clark Atlanta University. “This new endeavor aligns with Clark Atlanta University’s legacy of higher education leadership by extending access to aspiring entrepreneurs who have already completed their bachelor’s degrees and are seeking to deepen their business knowledge and proficiencies.”

The announcement comes on the heels of a special event held on the campuses of Spelman College and Morehouse College, which included “demo day” presentations of compelling business concepts by students in Spelman’s Innovation Lab and a roundtable discussion in the Ray Charles Center on Morehouse’s campus. The conversation, moderated by BEA co-founders Dr. Tony Coles and Charles Phillips, included Dr. David Thomas, Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell (Former President, Spelman College), Melissa Bradley (Interim Director of the CBE; Founder, 1863 Ventures), Aaron Holiday (Co-Founder and Managing Partner, 645 Ventures) and Alfred McRae, (President, Bank of America Atlanta).


About the Black Economic Alliance Foundation

The Black Economic Alliance Foundation is the nation’s leading organization harnessing the collective expertise and influence of Black business leaders to build economic prosperity for the Black community. We partner with leaders across the public, private, and social sectors to champion policy reimagination, develop investment and philanthropic programs, commission research, and elevate national understanding of the inextricable link between the health of the Black economy and the entire American economy. The BEA Foundation is the 501(c)(3) non-profit affiliate of the Black Economic Alliance, a nonpartisan coalition of Black business leaders and aligned advocates committed to advancing work, wages, and wealth in the Black community. Learn more about the BEA Foundation at

About Morehouse College
Morehouse College is the only historically Black college dedicated to educating men. Founded in 1867, Morehouse is a private, liberal arts institution and the nation’s top producer of Black men who go on to receive doctorates. The College is the top producer of Rhodes Scholars among HBCUs and was named to the list of U.S. institutions that produced the most Fulbright Scholars in 2019-2020. As the epicenter for thought leadership on civil rights, Morehouse is committed to helping the nation address the inequities caused by institutional racism, which has created social and economic disparities for people of African descent. Prominent Morehouse alumni include Martin Luther King Jr., Nobel Peace Prize Laureate; Dr. David Satcher, former U.S. Surgeon General; Shelton “Spike” Lee, Academy Award-winning American filmmaker; Maynard H. Jackson, the first African American mayor of Atlanta; Jeh Johnson, former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security; Louis W. Sullivan, former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services; Bakari Sellers, attorney and CNN political analyst; Randall Woodfin, elected as the youngest mayor of Birmingham in 120 years; and U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock, Georgia’s first Black U.S. Senator. For more information, visit

About Spelman College
Founded in 1881, Spelman College is a leading liberal arts college widely recognized as the global leader in the education of women of African descent. Located in Atlanta, the College’s picturesque campus is home to 2,100 students. Spelman is the country’s leading producer of Black women who complete Ph.D.s in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The College’s status is confirmed by U.S. News & World Report, which ranked Spelman No. 54 among all liberal arts colleges, No. 19 for undergraduate teaching, No. 4 for social mobility among liberal arts colleges, and No. 1 for the 14th year among historically Black colleges and universities. The Wall Street Journal ranked the College No. 3, nationally, in terms of student satisfaction. Recent initiatives include a designation by the Department of Defense as a Center of Excellence for Minority Women in STEM, a Gender and Sexuality Studies Institute, the first endowed queer studies chair at an HBCU, and a program to increase the number of Black women Ph.D.s in economics. New majors have been added, including documentary filmmaking and photography, and partnerships have been established with MIT’s Media Lab, the Broad Institute and the Army Research Lab for artificial intelligence and machine learning. Outstanding alumnae include Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, Starbucks Group President and COO Rosalind Brewer, political leader Stacey Abrams, former Acting Surgeon General and Spelman’s first alumna president Audrey Forbes Manley, actress and producer Latanya Richardson Jackson, global bioinformatics geneticist Janina Jeff and authors Pearl Cleage and Tayari Jones. For more information, visit

About Clark Atlanta University
Established in 1988 by the historic consolidation of Atlanta University (1865) and Clark College (1869). Clark Atlanta University continues a 150-year legacy rooted in African American tradition and focused on the future. Through global innovation, transformative educational experiences, and high-value engagement. CAU cultivates lifted lives that transform the world. Notable alumni include: James Weldon Johnson; American civil rights activist, poet, and songwriter (Lift Every Voice and Sing “The Black National Anthem”; Ralph David Abernathy Sr., American civil rights activist; Congressman Hank Johnson, Georgia District 4; Kenya Barris, American award-winning television and movie producer; Kenny Leon, Tony Award-winning Broadway Director; Jacque Reid, Emmy Award-winning Television Personality and Journalist; Brandon Thompson, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion for NASCAR; Valeisha Butterfield Jones, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at the Recording Academy. To learn more about Clark Atlanta University, visit