RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Tech giant Lenovo’s efforts to boost small businesses is adding a star to its lineup of ambassadors: Queen Latifah.

“I understand the hardships small businesses face and how much more challenging those hardships can be for businesses owned by women and minorities. Knowing how the support I received back when I got started helped me get to where I am today – I’m excited to pay it forward and help others along the way through this partnership with Lenovo’s Evolve Small initiative,” she said in a statement.

Lenovo announced Latifah’s role Thursday, describing her as a “Grammy and Emmy Award-winning and Oscar nominated, actress, producer, recording artist, label president and entrepreneur.”

The program focuses primarily on minority and woman-owned businesses, Lenovo says.

Lenovo and partner Microsoft offer a contest open to businesses with fewer than 100 employees that includes three top prize winners. Those include a mentorship session with Latifah, a $30,000 cash grant and $10,000 in technology upgrades.

“It is such an honor to have Queen Latifah as our Evolve Small ambassador this year,” said Gerald Youngblood, chief marketing officer, Lenovo North America, in the announcement. “Given our mission to help small businesses evolve, finding a partner who exemplified smart business acumen and an affinity for philanthropy was paramount to making sure this initiative would truly make an impact. Small businesses are the lifeblood of our communities and with Queen Latifah as our partner, we look forward to supporting small businesses across North America.”

Lenovo launched the program in 2021.

Lenovo operates global headquarters in the Triangle and Beijing.