Kerby Pierre, Austin Webster, and Jermail Shelton after a short course.

At Goizueta Business School, it’s not uncommon to see departments, centers, and programs working together for the benefit of students or the local community.

The Diverse Founders Executive Learning Program is an example of the interdisciplinary and collaborative environment of Goizueta, bringing together the resources and teams from Emory’s Executive Education, the Business & Society Institute, Start:ME Accelerator, and The Roberto C. Goizueta Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation.

After being awarded $20,000 through the Goizueta Creativity and Innovation Fund, these groups worked with community partners, Goodie Nation and the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs (RICE), to offer short courses to diverse small-business owners in the Atlanta area.

“The Emory Executive Education short courses provide a deep understanding on topics ranging from finance and strategy to innovation and leadership,” says Tammie Long, director of open enrollment for Goizueta’s Executive Education.

We believe we can be an impactful onramp for diverse-led startup founders in Atlanta to have access to high-quality, targeted business education.

Long

Breaking Down Barriers for Diverse Entrepreneurs

The idea for this project actually began in the early 2000s, when a similar program was offered at Goizueta with the help of the Georgia Center for Nonprofits. Since then, the Business & Society Institute has heard from dozens of startup business leaders interested in accessing the top-notch education that Goizueta offers through the institute’s work with local startups in the Start:ME Accelerator.

“We have a really great resource of practical teaching that from a market-rate standpoint might be out of reach for some entrepreneurs. This program is a way for us to create a very accessible touchpoint for entrepreneurs,” says Brian Goebel, managing director of Goizueta’s Business & Society Institute.

Under the leadership of Interim Dean Karen Sedatole and with the financial support of the Dean’s Innovation Fund, the program launched a pilot in 2021. The pilot was a phase of a larger study that was analyzing the support of Black entrepreneurs and Black students at Goizueta, meant to identify areas for deeper engagement and support.  

“The Improving Goizueta’s Support of Black Entrepreneurs and Black Students Study helped inform the Diverse Executive Education Fellows proposal,” explains Goebel. “One of study’s recommendations was for Goizueta to provide more access to educational resources broadly in the local community to diverse entrepreneurs.”

Joey Womack
Joey Womack of Goodie Nation

That proposal became the Diverse Founders Executive Learning Program. For the purpose of this program, diverse founders are people of color and/or women who own a startup in Atlanta.

Joey Womack, founder and CEO of Goodie Nation, explains that all-too-often there are gaps prevalent in the startup community, specifically with relationships and information access. Individuals who come from top companies or universities have networks to tap into for advice and guidance on their startup journey. They’re connected.

Without those relationships, small business owners have a more difficult time raising capital, overcoming hurdles, attracting top talent, and accessing professional growth, explains Womack. For example, diverse founders receive less than 3% of U.S. venture capital investments, according to research by Deloitte.  

The diverse founders who participate in our programs realize process improvement, gain innovative ideas for their career and business, and learn enhanced strategies for growth and success. A more diverse classroom also expands the experience and brings in new perspectives that enhance everyone’s learning.

Long

In Fall 2022, 28 diverse founders participated in the program. Fifty-seven percent of the participants identified as female.

Since the pilot partnership between Executive Education and Start:ME launched in Fall 2021, a total of 40 diverse founders have benefited from the program.

Goizueta leaned on the expertise and connections of partners like Goodie Nation to help quickly identify participants, explains Goebel. Goodie Nation even sent a staff member to attend a course first to better assess which entrepreneurs from their organization would benefit the most from which courses. This initial detective work helped the organization “increase the likelihood that the diverse founder would get the most from the class,” says Womack.

“The course was packed with great and very valuable information. I thought the instructor was really personable and effective, and the class also provided a great networking opportunity,” says Jen Price, founder of both Crafted for Action and the Atlanta Beer Boutique. “I had a basic understanding of budgeting and forecasting, but it was mostly self-taught. The class strengthened my skills by equipping me with a true knowledge of accounting tools and techniques.”

Maria Peck, president of SheLends Consulting and the Start:ME Clarkston Program Lead, also attended the Finance and Accounting for Non-Financial Managers course with Price. Peck describes the course as “very dynamic with interactive learning.”

She continues: “I have a basic understanding of financial statements, but there are infinite ways we can use the numbers to tell the financial story of a business. I can find many ways to apply these concepts in my own business and with my clients.”

Goizueta graduate students from The Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation helped participants with registration and enrollment. Keena Pierre 23EMBA, who’s also a CEI Fellow and Goodie Nation liaison, says, “What was impactful for me was how valuable these diverse founders’ knowledge would be to the classroom as so many MBA students actually aspire to do what they are successfully accomplishing.”

Back to Class

In addition to this finance and accounting course, program participants could take other short courses, including Executive Communication and Leadership; Design Thinking for Business; Disrupting Your Business Strategy; AI & Machine Learning; Leading and Inspiring Change; and Executive Decision Making.

The short courses are designed with the working professional in mind: Their time is valuable, so each in-person class is only a two-day session, which means fast learning but lasting impact and networking.

For Rob Boyd, who was nominated by Goodie Nation and attended the course Disrupting Your Business Strategy, the short course “illuminated several blind spots in my company” with his mission, strategy, and innovation efforts.

“I have proficiency in strategy as a trained consultant, but the nuances of strategy as an executive were unknown and untapped… I previously assumed mission was a static thing,” says Boyd, the vice president of business development and content strategy for Empify. “This course allowed me to step back from the current thinking and create a holistic approach to enhancing our growth strategy.”

Other participants commented on the value of learning from different departments within the school, the safe space to test their ideas, and the impact of networking with other entrepreneurs in the area. As Womack sees it, this program bridges those relationship and information gaps prevalent in startup communities.

“This is an opportunity for Goizueta to serve as a leader in this space,” he says. “This is another way of engagement for diverse founders, in particular, who may not have had access to this type of information.”

We’re leading the charge with a model that other schools and communities can follow.

Womack

Goizueta Business School strives to be the leader among business schools as a place for thriving and growth for every person, even members of our local community. We endeavor to equip members of our community to be principled leaders in a diverse society. Learn more about our DEI initiatives.

Emory’s Executive Education short courses boost your leadership and business acumen with new approaches, skills, and tools in as little as three days. To see all the Executive Education courses offered at Goizueta, head here.

Alexandra Shimalla
Alexandra Shimalla is a Communications Specialist for Emory University's Goizueta Business School.