As back-to-school season commences, Durham’s North Carolina Central University (NCCU) has a mission to provide even more students with the education, training and support to become entrepreneurs who can foster wealth creation in Black communities.
The first step? Expand the university’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (CEED).
The CEED Program, which just received a boost from more than $700,000 from an overall $2 million grant from the PNC Foundation as part of the PNC North Carolina HBCU Initiative, provides student fellows with entrepreneurial and community economic development education and comprehensive small business finance training.
It encourages students to become “community development investors,” ultimately lifting their communities by generating and sharing wealth and expertise.
Anthony Nelson, the Dean of NCCU’s School of Business, said the university has been founded on a bedrock of innovation, creativity and community service, so the CEED program is an extension of that.
“This allows North Carolina Central University to really expand on its service to the community and also its promise to the students so that we can provide them with more opportunities and more enhanced careers,” Nelson said. “So we’re going to be able to fulfill what we call the ‘Eagle promise’ to our students.”
This was alongside PNC’s goal as well, as the bank has invested $88 billion in a Community Benefits Plan, which includes a commitment for more than $1 billion to support the economic empowerment of Black and low-income communities.
NCCU students will also have the opportunity to participate in the PNC Pitch Competition as the grants are distributed over a three-year period at Central as well as Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, Johnson C. Smith University and Winston-Salem State University.
Jim Hansen, PNC’s regional president, said PNC aims to foster and grow Black entrepreneurs across the North Carolina ecosystem. By helping the CEED program evolve, it was a natural extension of their broader community mission.
“Our conversation was, ‘O.K., you have this, and it’s here. Well, how do you get it here? And what do you need to make this get exponentially larger? How can we put fuel on the fire to grow it?’” Hansen said.
Over the next few months, NCCU plans to put on several events and programs to help students launch community businesses, including an accelerated pitch competition.
Historically, wealth has been generated from business formation, Hansen said. And entrepreneurs often have been sparked to take that risk by the right ecosystem or parental support.
By fostering more Black entrepreneurs, there will be a continuing generational effect, he added.
“Our clients and our team need to look like our community,” Hansen said. “So we truly want as many diverse types of businesses and business owners and business wealth creation going on in our community as possible, because we’ll be a better place for it.”