LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Bellarmine University’s Rubel School of Business has partnered with a business incubator in Louisville’s Russell neighborhood to help women of color entrepreneurs succeed.
Under the agreement, the Rubel School gives priority registration to its new Women of Color Entrepreneurs—Leadership Certificate program to two members of the AMPED Russell Technology Business Incubator (RTBI). In exchange, the incubator guarantees placement in its one-year program for the winner and runner-up of the Leadership Certificate program’s business plan pitch competition.
The business incubator opened in February 2021 at The Village of West Jefferson, 1219 W. Jefferson St. It was founded by David Christopher, the executive director of AMPED, the Academy of Music Production Education and Development, a free music program for youth in Louisville.
The AMPED Russell Technology Business Incubator pairs Black entrepreneurs with mentors and provides seed money for their businesses, because banks are less likely to approve loans for Black entrepreneurs, according to Christopher.
In fact, only about 2% of businesses in Louisville Metro are Black-owned, while Black residents make up 24% of the population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“The AMPED Russell Technology Business Incubator was created to break down barriers of systematic racism that for centuries have kept Black businesses from being successful and able to create generational wealth for their families and the Black community,” Christopher said. “AMPED has always believed in a ‘village’ model, and we recognize that no one is an island unto themselves. The partnership with Bellarmine is important in bringing about diversity, equity and inclusion in successful Black business ownership.”
The Rubel School’s Women of Color Entrepreneurs—Leadership Certificate program, which began this year, is a six-month program taught by women faculty from the Rubel School; minority women entrepreneurs; and senior leaders from the business and non-profit communities. Each participant is assigned a mentor.
The program consists of five modules—Leadership, Financial Acuity, Marketing, Social Media, and Communication and Negotiation—that are each taught in one four-hour session per month, and a capstone project in which each participant develops a business model to present to a panel of mentors and business leaders.
The Women of Color Entrepreneurs program is intended for aspiring entrepreneurs with less than two years of experience in their new venture, and priority is given to businesses located or serving communities in the Western and Southern neighborhoods of Louisville. Classes will include no fewer than five and no more than 10 participants.
The inaugural class of 10 includes two entrepreneurs from the AMPED Russell Technology Business Incubator—TaMeka Bland, founder and CEO of LimitLess Global, and Jaelah Wilson, founder of She Can Cosmetics, a line of all-natural body care products.
Bland, a hairstylist for 20 years, developed her pickup-and-delivery-service app during the pandemic. The platform is similar to Uber Eats or DoorDash, she said, but the target markets for LimitLess are Black-owned businesses and underserved customers, particularly those who don’t have ready access to things like fresh produce.
The Women of Color Entrepreneurs program is helping her to refine her knowledge of all the aspects of starting a business, she said.
“You learn so much, from the instructors and from other people’s questions and the information they are dishing out. My notebook is halfway full just from the first two sessions,” she said. “I am all about learning and continuing to grow. This program will help alongside the RTBI to succeed in my business and in my life in all aspects.”