CHARLOTTE – Five of North Carolina’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) will receive a combined more than $2 million to establish a new initiative that seeks to strengthen the future of entrepreneurship in the state.

The funding will come from the PNC Foundation, the financial institution announced on Tuesday, and will be known as the PNC North Carolina HBCU Initiative.

The grants will be distributed over three years and will be made to Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, Johnson C. Smith University, North Carolina Central University and Winston-Salem State University.

How grant funding will be used

“The most important aspect of our existing program is our students and the opportunities we can provide for them—inside and outside the classroom—to rigorously apply what they have learned at JCSU to their entrepreneurial dream in order to maximize the chances for success,” said Sherri D. Belfield, the director of university communications and marketing at Johnson C. Smith University, in an interview with WRAL TechWire.

A portion of the funding received by J.C. Smith University, said Belfield, will be used to upgrade a physical space that students can use to launch their businesses and to pay for faculty oversight of the program.

“The majority of the grant, however, will go to the students in the form of funding to start and/or expand their businesses,” said Belfield.

According to a statement from PNC, these are “institutions that play an integral role in cultivating Black business leaders and fostering wealth creation in Black communities.”

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Also about talent

Another expected aim of the new program is bolstering the state’s talent pool, PNC’s statement noted.  WRAL TechWire reported last year that corporate entities appeared to be increasing recruitment efforts on campus and in virtual settings to attract students who attend HBCUs.

Apple, for one, made a pledge to recruiting a diverse workforce as a part of the deal that brought the company to select the Triangle as the site of the company’s east coast hub that will eventually employ some 3,000 people.

“HBCU graduates contribute significantly to the talent pipeline that is fueling North Carolina’s economy, and these institutions are foundational to shaping the workforce North Carolina needs to remain competitive in business,” said Weston Andress, PNC regional president for Western Carolinas in a statement.

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The grant recipients will use the funding as follows, according to PNC’s statement (appears below, verbatim):

  • Elizabeth City State University: The university will broaden the scope of its current business program portfolio to expand the Entrepreneur Lab, which offers resources and development opportunities for students interested in launching and marketing a business. Additionally, the funding will establish the PNC Entrepreneurship Fellow Program and support Viking Shark Entrepreneurship Week, which provides the opportunity for teams from North Carolina HBCUs to practice pitching their business ideas in front of judges.
  • Fayetteville State University: Funding will support the buildout of the Fayetteville State University Entrepreneurship Lab (E-Lab), an action learning opportunity designed to help students accelerate new ideas and product development. Student entrepreneur teams creating or growing their own ventures may compete for E-Lab funding to help fuel their projects. Additionally, the E-Lab will offer business and economic development support for community members and foster self-employment opportunities.
  • Johnson C. Smith University: The university will launch the PNC Entrepreneurship Hub, which will provide selected student-entrepreneurs – PNC Fellows – with space that is conducive to developing and launching new businesses. In addition to incubator space, the hub will equip PNC Fellows with access to technology, seed funding and mentorship to help them launch new businesses or take existing businesses to the next level.
  • North Carolina Central University: Grant funding will help establish the North Carolina Central University Center for Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (CEED), a university-based program that will provide CEED Student Fellows with entrepreneurial and community economic development education and comprehensive small business finance training, with the encouragement to become community development investors.
  • Winston-Salem State University: The grant will fund the development of the PNC Entrepreneurial Fellows Program, which will help selected student fellows learn critical aspects of new venture creation by participating in nationally certified programs, workshops, research and one-on-one mentoring with successful North Carolina entrepreneurs.

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