Solution Overview & Team Lead Details

What is the name of your organization?

Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative

Is your organization registered as 501(c)(3) status with the IRS?


Where our solution team is headquartered or located:

Atlanta, GA, USA

Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?

  • Connecting small business owners and key stakeholders such as investors, local policymakers, and mentors with the relevant experience to improve coordination, collaboration, and knowledge bases within the small business ecosystem
  • Supporting and fostering growth to scale through comprehensive and relevant technical support assistance such as legal aid, fiscal management for sustainability, marketing, and procurement

What is the name of your solution?

1,000 Black Businesses in 1,000 Days Campaign

Provide a one-line summary of your solution.

Employing a community wealth building framework, Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative (AWBI) will bolster 1,000 Black businesses in 1,000 days.

What is your solution?

Informed by data from the AWBI-commissioned Prosperity Now Advancing Collective Prosperity report and our Community of Practice (CoP),  a collective created to provide community feedback to incorporate human-centered design, the 1,000 Black Businesses Campaign has four key components:

  1. Research/Data Sharing of the Small Business Landscape: To combat the lack of data available for Black-owned businesses, this campaign uses data collection technology and direct interviews with participating business owners, identifies existing gaps for Black-owned businesses, addresses new challenges created by COVID-19, and cultivates innovative solutions, including convening capital providers to develop new financial products to better support Black-owned businesses. 

  2. Growth and Scale: To ensure businesses are in a position to scale and hire additional employees, AWBI focuses on 1) development of equitable anchor institution procurement collaboratives, 2) creation of a shared services model, and 3) technical expertise to support growth, sustainability, and capital access..

  3. Workforce Development: By creating connectivity and training, AWBI’s workforce strategy works to create a pipeline of qualified employees with a focus on connecting neighborhood residents to new job opportunities within the communities where the businesses are located. 

  4. Retention and Anti-Displacement: To preserve community wealth, AWBI supports strategic advising, advocacy, back-office support, pro bono business succession and estate planning, creative land use and acquisition, affordable commercial space, and employee-owned transition models for legacy businesses, as well as scalable and established growth-stage businesses. AWBI is also focused on anti-displacement efforts of local Black-owned businesses and will partner with strategic partners to support equitable land development.

What specific problem are you solving?

Atlanta is the number two city for income inequality in America. A person born into poverty in Atlanta has just a 4% chance of escaping poverty in their lifetime. AWBI’s Prosperity Now report notes, 70% of Black families are liquid asset poor compared to 22% of White families. To overcome these disparities, AWBI has identified entrepreneurship as one of the many paths to community wealth building.  

The average Black-owned business in Atlanta is valued at $58,085 while the average value of a White business is $658,264. Historical and structural policies have impacted Black-owned businesses ability to leverage resources and financial and social capital to scale. These disparities have only been exacerbated by COVID. AWBI’s 1,000 Black Businesses in 1,000 Days Campaign is working to change this. 

Investing in Black-owned businesses advances the community as a whole. Over 96% of Black-owned businesses in Atlanta have no paid employees. Those that do hire are more likely to hire employees of color. Many give back to their communities by donating time, money, and services. Also, Black entrepreneurs play key leadership and mentorship roles for self-employment and business ownership. Building a healthy, thriving business is an asset improving the financial security of not just the entrepreneur, but serves as a platform for community wealth building.

AWBI’s 1,000 Black Businesses in 1,000 Days Campaign supports 1,000 Black-owned businesses to increase revenue and contracting opportunities, hire workers at a living wage, and avoid displacement.

Explain how the problem you are addressing, the solution you have designed, and the population you are serving align with the Challenge.

The Truist Foundation Inspire Awards Challenge aligns with the AWBI’s 1,000 Black Businesses in 1,000 Days Campaign by providing support to 1,000 Black-owned businesses in Atlanta and expanding the local ecosystem’s capacity to support Black-owned businesses. 

AWBI confronts the challenges faced by Black business owners head-on at the systems level, aligning with the challenge’s goal to identify innovative nonprofit-driven solutions that provide support to grow, develop, and sustain racially diverse small businesses in the United States. The three-year campaign will:

1) Increase revenues of Black-owned businesses through coordinated technical assistance, increased procurement opportunities and policy changes at anchor institutions

2) Increase access to capital to support Black-owned businesses in scaling

3) Increase living wages jobs at Black-owned businesses

4) Preserve affordable commercial space for Black-owned businesses, building community wealth

5) Increase personal and generational wealth for Black business owners through increasing business value, providing access to succession and estate planning services and supporting transition to employee ownership.

The campaign is meant to serve as a model that others can replicate and learn from. Best practice sharing and proximite leadership are at the core of AWBI’s work: our work is informed by community input leveraging data and learning from peers across the country. AWBI has already started sharing our early findings from the campaign to inform similar work in Richmond, Dallas, Chicago, Central and South Florida and will continue sharing learnings and advising peers in an effort to replicate and scale the work in other regions.

Who does your solution serve, including demographics, and how does the solution impact their lives?

The target population of the Campaign is Black-owned businesses with revenues between $100,000 to $1.5 million. AWBI has observed a gap in financial capital, social capital, and access to professional services expertise for businesses that are beyond the start-up phase but that are not yet at scale - what we call “the missing middle,” businesses with revenues ranging from $100,000 to $1.5 million. This group of businesses is underserved by other providers. 

Historically, Atlanta's west and south-side neighborhoods have suffered from severe economic isolation, with most of the high-paying jobs, high-performing schools, and quality housing being disproportionately located in North Atlanta. More than 80% of residents living in the city's southern neighborhoods are Black. The estimated income levels for the population served are as follows: 30% Low-income: 30-49.9% AMI; 50% moderate-income: 50-79.9% AMI; 20% Middle-income: 80-119.9% AMI.  The Atlanta BeltLine, expected to generate $20 billion in economic development and 40,000 permanent jobs, and rapidly changing market forces from new companies in the market put these neighborhoods at further risk of gentrification and displacement. AWBI’s geographic footprint includes many of Atlanta’s most disinvested neighborhoods including the Westside, Vine City, West End, Westview, Adair Park, Capital View, Mechanicsville, and Peoplestown. 

AWBI began in 2017 with 18 months of dedicated research, analysis and stakeholder discussions. After laying this groundwork, AWBI began working in 2019 to identify solutions to build Black entrepreneurship and support businesses as they build community wealth. This solution supports 1,000 Black businesses to hire their first employees and offer living wages to those already employed. The approach focuses on established and scalable Black-owned businesses operating in high-growth sectors, especially where the business is located and/or the owner lives in SE, SW, and NW Atlanta, as well as along the BeltLine overlay. 

Is the solution already being implemented in at least one of the Truist Foundation’s target geographies: North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Indiana, Texas, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., Delaware?


If your solution is already being implemented, list which of the above US state(s) you currently operate and include those states not listed


Is your organization’s mission to help launch small businesses and/or to sustain small businesses?

AWBI is an intermediary organization with a direct strategy and an ecosystem approach intentionally promoting the democratization of the economy and ownership of wealth through community wealth building strategies in Atlanta. The 1,000 Black Businesses in 1,000 Days Campaign focuses is an extension of AWBI’s mission to actively reimagine economic realities to produce an opportunity-rich future for all. The vision of AWBI, and in turn the Campaign, is an Atlanta where prosperity is shared. Accordingly, we help Black-owned small businesses sustain and thrive. 

We support the sustainability of Black-owned businesses by providing back-office support, technology, contract procurement, human resources, and other support services to help businesses open. Many Black-owned businesses also need support in hiring their first employee, as the business owner is often the only employee. The Campaign will help businesses hire their first employee and pay that employee(s) a living wage. 

What is your theory of change?

AWBI’s Theory of Change: Leveraging Ideas, people, and capital to close the racial wealth gap and achieve shared prosperity. AWBI will leverage these three critical components to make lasting change and build community wealth: 1) Ideas are advanced through thought leadership, 2) People are activated through movement-building, and 3) capital is deployed through strategic investments. 

AWBI aims to achieve large-scale, sustainable results: economic inclusion, equitable development, neighborhood revitalization, and narrowing racial wealth gaps. AWBI measures all programs against a set of organizational headline indicators to ensure each aspect of programming moves the organization’s mission forward to close the racial wealth gap. Top indicators include (1) growth of Black-owned businesses; (2) jobs and wages; (3) accessible and affordable commercial real estate; (4) stable and effective partnerships; (5) civic health indicators; (6) racial wealth gap indicators.

 Within each indicator, AWBI has identified metrics that will be used to measure success including, but not limited to: the percentage of Black-owned businesses with increased revenue, the percentage of Black-owned businesses with more than one employee, the number of scalable Black-owned businesses increase, the number of jobs paying livable wages, wealth by race, households with zero net worth, liquid assets poverty.

AWBI is engaging a third-party evaluator to work hand in hand with AWBI staff to formalize the evaluation process and metrics to ensure AWBI is effectively measuring the impact and value of its work. AWBI’s evaluation framework and implementation plan will include the following components: 

1) Design: to include multiple stakeholders backed by reliable data; 

2) Stakeholder Engagement: to focus primarily on the AWBI Stakeholder table and voices to further ignite a strong ecosystem; 

3) Racial Equity: to explicitly improve the conditions and outcomes of African Americans in Atlanta; 

4) Ongoing Analysis: to embed evaluation as a resource for ongoing improvements, tracking progress, and public accountability.

Our solution's stage of development:

Pilot: a product, service, or business model that is in the process of being built and tested with a small number of beneficiaries or working to gain traction.

Film your elevator pitch.

What is your organization’s stage of development?

Growth: A registered 501(c)(3) with an established product, service, or business model in one or several communities, which is poised for further growth. Organizations should have a proven track record with an annual operating budget.
More About Your Solution

How many small businesses does your solution currently serve? How many will it serve in one year? In five years?

In 2021, AWBI served over 400 Black-owned businesses in Atlanta through facilitating access to technical assistance, technical experts and direct coaching, equitable procurement opportunities, grants, and capital access. In 2023, we project we will serve more than 300 Black-owned businesses and provide more than 4,000 hours of technical assistance. The goal of the campaign is to serve 1,000 Black-owned businesses by March 2024. 

To ensure the work has broader reach beyond AWBI and the three-year campaign for greater community impact, AWBI is actively building the capacity of other nonprofits, who are trusted community voices with aligned audiences and missions to carry out this work through training, coaching and strategic capacity investments.

Taking the learnings from the 3-year campaign, this work, along with other AWBI strategies, will launch nationally in 2025. AWBI has already begun advising cities throughout the South on how to execute our campaign strategy in their communities. Given the multiplier effect of our work thus far, we anticipate exponential growth in the number of businesses served in the next 5 years based on this strategic approach.

How do you define the community you serve, and who are its stakeholders?

As an intermediary, AWBI is a community of investors, advocates, and activists who work to transform systems and structures to create opportunities for Black people in Atlanta. We serve as an umbrella organization and hub in the ecosystem as a think tank, community convener, funder, philanthropic and community development advisor, and data engine to support historically excluded Black-owned businesses and residents.

AWBI’s Community of Practice (CoP), a multi-sector coalition representing more than forty-five community-based nonprofits, government, quasi-government, and philanthropic organizations, is committed to systemic, collective intervention that guides our movement building efforts to strengthen Black entrepreneurship and address wide-scale racial wealth inequality. The businesses we serve and our CoP influence our organization's strategy to ensure our work remains grounded for maximum community impact. AWBI also works with anchor institutions like Emory University’s 9 colleges and 11 healthcare centers to ensure its procurement processes are equitable and increase the institution’s overall spend with Black-owned businesses. 

How do you work with the community and your stakeholders to create community-based and place-based solutions?

AWBI’s work is grounded in community and stakeholder input. Before hiring staff, our board of directors spent 18 months convening Atlanta stakeholders to determine what great racial wealth equity work was already happening throughout the ecosystem and identify the needs of the community to move Atlanta forward to close the racial wealth gap. Coupled with commissioning a comprehensive Prosperity Now ecosystem study, this group of stakeholders ultimately decided they wanted an umbrella organization that could serve at 30,000 feet to identify gaps, provide resources, minimize silos, encourage complimentary work, and coordinate grassroots, grasstops, corporate and government systems all while remaining grounded in community to provide access, agency and lift the community’s voice at each level. This group of stakeholders has grown into our current Community of Practice (CoP), which provides an ongoing outlet for community input to encourage movement building and power sharing in addition to convening focus groups and town halls to inform more nuanced aspects of the work.  

AWBI strives to support community wealth building in a way that does not just extract from community to build individual wealth, but instead has a responsibility to promote engagement and investment for the stabilization, growth, and economic security of the community as a whole. Supporting the growth and sustainability of Black-owned businesses is a key driver to create shared prosperity throughout Atlanta. We carry out our mission by providing professional services, training, and financial support to Black-owned businesses and working directly with capital providers to reduce barriers to capital access for the businesses we serve. 

AWBI listens to the needs of its target population and our stakeholders through community outreach and disaggregating data by race, as illustrated by our leadership in convening, developing and promoting 1) the 2017 Prosperity Now Advancing Collective Prosperity Report, 2) the AWBI 2020 Small Business COVID-19 Impact Survey, and 3) the 2021 Atlanta Equitable Entrepreneurial Capital Ecosystem Assessment to mobilize and coordinate resources to close the racial wealth gap.

AWBI facilitates anchor collaboratives to strengthen the local economic ecosystem by intentionally aligning and leveraging local anchor institutions' significant everyday business activities.  These activities include local hiring and procurement, place-based investing, community wealth-building practices, and galvanizing community investments to address systemic inequities.  

AWBI creates a local network of anchor institutions, funders, and community partners, including hospitals, universities, Fortune 500 companies, community foundations, and government, to consciously drive resources supporting a local and inclusive economy.  AWBI works intimately with anchor institutions to reimagine policies and create pathways to promote equitable procurement and vendor diversification. 

AWBI builds anchor collaboratives and redesigns procurement practices redirecting resources of local institutions to improve and benefit their local neighborhoods and communities. We do this by creating a network of locally rooted anchor institutions, funders, and community partners, such as hospitals, universities, and the government, to work collaboratively to drive equitable development, access, and opportunity. AWBI works with Emory University’s nine colleges and eleven healthcare centers to help them reimagine and build on existing procurement processes and policies to ensure Black-owned businesses have equitable opportunities to participate in the institution’s overall spend beyond existing supplier diversity initiatives.

AWBI has been leading community wealth building conversations in Atlanta since its inception.  In March 2021, AWBI hosted a national Community Wealth Building Virtual Forum followed by a bi-monthly Community Wealth Building Commitment Series in an effort to bring awareness to the ways in which community wealth building can close the racial wealth gap. Bringing together prominent local and national speakers, the events elevated thoughtful and provocative ideas and conversations on the future of community wealth building in Atlanta. Our 2022 convenings, for example, will include gatherings dedicated to capital providers, introducing worker-owned models in partnership with Project Equity and local community leaders, entrepreneurs, Atlanta Small Business Landscape Analysis report data insights, as well as dedicated training for our CoP to support increased agency and power shifting.

How do you build trust within the community your organization serves and among small business owners?

AWBI builds trust in the community by receiving feedback directly from stakeholders. Based on feedback from AWBI’s 45 member Community of Practice (CoP) and Black-owned small businesses, AWBI adjusts programming and crafts rapid responses. Because AWBI has formed these connections and regularly listens to the needs of their stakeholders, AWBI’s partners trust us to advocate on their behalf and openly discuss systemic barriers impeding their success with AWBI leadership.  We have also formed feedback groups from small businesses participating in 1,000 Black Businesses campaign to evaluate our work and future strategies. 

We believe that receiving direct feedback from our community stakeholders is the best way to stay grounded in our mission and build trust in the community by implementing their suggestions. This method is the best way to let our community know they have been heard. 

What are your impact goals for the next year and the next five years, and -- importantly -- how will you achieve them?

Annual goals of the 1,000 Black Businesses Campaign:

  • At least 350 Black-owned businesses in underserved communities served will have access to technical assistance and shared professional services

  • Coordination of at least 4,000 technical assistance hours for Black-owned businesses

  • At least 10 Black-owned businesses at risk of being displaced from will remain in place

  • At least 8 Black-owned businesses will have access to commercial space

  • At least 25 Black-owned businesses experience an increase in revenue gained from procurement opportunities

  • Increase contract funding allocated to Black-owned businesses by at least 15>#/p###

  • At least 20 Black-owned businesses will hire their first employee or convert an existing employee and pay them a living wage

Long term goals (5 years)

  • At least 300 Black-owned businesses will report maintaining long-term economic growth as a result of being connected to a strong Black ecosystem. 

  • At least 100 Black-owned businesses owners feel the resources provided promoted more equitable neighborhood revitalization and mitigated commercial displacement.

  • At least 50 Black-owned businesses owners remain engaged in long-term procurement opportunities.

  • At least 20 businesses will convert to a worker-owner model

  • At least 100 residents will be connected to high-growth sector living wage jobs

  • Campaign is replicated in other cities

  • Local service providers are trained to execute campaign work

These goals will be accomplished by the following activities: 

  • Support Building a Black Business Ecosystem, Convening Thought Leadership, and Creating Partnerships

  • Connecting Black-Owned Businesses to Procurement Opportunities, Technical Assistance and Professional Services

  • Community Engagement

  • Support Holistic, Culturally-relevant Workforce Development Strategies

More About Your Team

Why are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

The AWBI team is excellently positioned to deliver this solution. 

Courtney Collins, Chief Operating Officer, has 15+ years of experience leading operations.  She has expertise in strategic planning, operational planning, financial planning, post-merger integration, policy development, compliance, human resources, and people management, and manages budgets up to $35M. 

Jason Hudgins, AWBI’s inaugural Director of Strategic Programs and team lead for the campaign joins AWBI from IHG Hotels and Resorts where he led various parts of the training organization for 10 years. Jason is a former President of the Westview Community Organization and Chairman of Atlanta Neighborhood Planning Unit T. 

Marjorie King, AWBI’s inaugural Growth and Scale Manager joins AWBI from TechStars, one of the world's top business accelerators and Zane Venture Fund, a budding and vital $25 million fund focused on investing in diverse and underrepresented technology founders in the Southeast. Her career in business consulting began at Accenture, working at some of the largest Fortune 500s, including Coca-Cola and Cox Communications. 

Together, Jason and Marjorie make a dynamic program duo with rich experience working with community-based organizations, emerging businesses and large corporations that make them the perfect pair for coordinating technical assistance for small businesses.

AWBI also plans to hire two additional program managers, a data architect and a procurement consultant to support this work.

Partnership & Award Funding Opportunities

Why are you applying to Truist Foundation Inspire Awards?

AWBI was founded with the charge to advance bold ideas and disrupt current systems to close the racial wealth gap. One of our greatest barriers to the success of AWBI is the lack of information on Black-owned businesses. The monitoring and evaluation tract will help us measure the success of our solutions by using the metrics described previously. 

After the funds and extensive resources provided by the Truist Foundation Inspire Award, Black businesses will benefit by seeing increased revenue and increased contract funding allocated to Black-owned businesses because of the connections made during the program. The number of new jobs provided by Black-owned businesses will increase and it will increase the number of current employees making a living wage.

Another challenge AWBI faces is that the highly competitive job market makes hiring talent and capacity needed to complete the work. Hiring takes much longer and salaries keep increasing to meet the demands of the market. 

Partnering with the Truist Foundation and its host of resources, will help us equip businesses to meet the needs of today’s competitive job market and pay employees and living and competitive wages. 

These are expected qualitative outcomes if we were to receive the Truist funding and mentorship support: Increased capacity of local small business service providers and increased social and integrated capital among Black-owned businesses. Our solution, with your help, will promote more equitable neighborhood revitalization and mitigate commercial displacement and increase Black-owned businesses’ access to professional services.

In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?

  • Human Capital (e.g. sourcing talent, board development, etc.)
  • Business model (e.g. product-market fit, strategy & development)
  • Public Relations (e.g. branding/marketing strategy, social and national media)
  • Monitoring & Evaluation (e.g. collecting/using data, measuring impact)
  • Technology (e.g. software or hardware, web development/design, data analysis, etc.)

If you selected Other, please use the space provided here:


Please explain in more detail here.

AWBI would benefit from the following support and partnerships:

  1. A search firm to help us in recruiting for two new program managers and a data manager to support the campaign

  2. Facilitation training to improve the facilitation skills of the team

  3. A marketing firm to support storytelling efforts that bring awareness to the barriers and capital gaps faced by Black-owned businesses and the actions capital providers and corporations can take to address these gaps, as well as boldly sharing data, case studies, and success stories for AWBI and the ecosystem and partners we serve.

  4. An economist with experience in racial equity work to provide a contextual overlay against our current data and help model trends

  5. Data and evaluation support to more effectively measure AWBI’s impact against community trends, conduct year-over-year trend analysis and calculate return on investment.

What organizations (or types of organizations) would you like to partner with, and how would you like to partner with them?

As an intermediary, AWBI coordinates and directs services with a wide variety of cross-sector partners. As part of the Campaign, AWBI 1) convenes its Community of Practice members to collect community intelligence and coordinate a spectrum of culturally appropriate and accessible technical assistance offerings aimed at increasing business revenues and supporting workforce development; 2) works with capital providers to address exclusionary lending practices and reconfigure capital stacks to better support the ecosystem of Black-owned businesses; 3) partners with anchor institutions to expand revenue opportunities for Black-owned businesses; 4) collaborates with community partners to conduct outreach to reduce displacement, preserve affordable commercial space and expand adoption of employee ownership models.

AWBI is expanding programmatic partnerships with the following organizations to support the increase in revenues, livable wage employment and the ability of Black-owned businesses to age in place: Emory University and Emory Healthcare, Atlanta Beltline,  Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Business Center, Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship (formerly RCIE), Village Market, The Ke’nekt, Village Micro Fund, Historic District Development Corporation (HDDC), Atlanta Career Rise, Invest Atlanta, Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, GA Heirs, Georgia Center for Employee Ownership, Project Equity, Democracy at Work Institute, First Step, Atlanta Technical College, and LISC.

Solution Team

  • Latresa McLawhorn Ryan Executive Director, Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative
to Top