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Disney Parks and RICE Bring Diverse Small Business Owners and Entrepreneurs to Walt Disney World Resort as part of Innovative New Supply Chain Program
[November 28, 2022]

Disney Parks and RICE Bring Diverse Small Business Owners and Entrepreneurs to Walt Disney World Resort as part of Innovative New Supply Chain Program

Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Sponsors Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs (RICE) Supply Chain Accelerator Program focused on transforming diverse entrepreneurs and small businesses

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Nov. 28, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- 10-year-old Zoe Oli of Atlanta arrived at Walt Disney World for the first time a few days ago, not on vacation but as CEO of her start-up business, Beautiful Curly Me, aimed at creating dolls who look like her.

Oli and 58 other Black entrepreneurs got a two-day peek behind the Disney curtain as part of their journey with the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs' (RICE) Supply Chain Accelerator Program sponsored by Disney Parks, Experiences and Products. RICE, a non-profit organization based in Atlanta, is a business generator designed to inspire and support Black entrepreneurs.

Throughout the two days of workshops, panel discussions and networking sessions led by Disney, RICE stakeholders learned best practices from various Disney leaders and the Disney Institute about how to grow their businesses. Participants engaged in sessions focused on storytelling, leadership, customer service, and supplier diversity.

"Disney understands the importance of diversity in business and is helping us create and accelerate opportunities for Black business owners – expanding the possibilities during a time when equitable opportunities have never been more important," said Jay Bailey, President and CEO, Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs.

The Supply Chain Accelerator Program delivers an immersive learning experience aimed at preparing and positioning diverse entrepreneurs and small businesses for long-term success. The pilot includes 35 companies owned by Black entrepreneurs, 66% of whom are women-owned and featured companies from industries such as consulting, food and beverage, IT and software, media, transportation and retail.

In Oli's case, her company, Beautiful Curly Me, started when she was six years old. "I did not like my hair and I wished it was straight like my classmates. I found a need for black dolls that looked like me. When we went to the stores and couldn't find any, I decided I wanted to make my own business and do something about it," shared Oli.

Oli is proud to say that Beautiful Curly Me is a brand on a mission to empower and inspire young black and brown girls to love and be confident in who they are, and for every doll purchased, one is given to an underserved girl. About her experience at Walt Disney World, Oli stated, "Walt's vision has shown me the power of teamwork and one dream," shared Oli. "If Walt can do it, I can too." 

M-T Strickland, co-founder and CEO of Metric Mate, also is part of RICE's Supply Accelerator program. "The magic that you feel at Walt Disney World is energizing, and having a group of 60 entrepreneurs here that share that energy just magnified it," shared Strickland, co-founder and CEO of Metric Mate. "Beyond the curriculum and relationships we built, being able to take a little piece of the magic back home is going to be amazing. Without a shadow of a doubt, every conversation I have from now on will have that twinkling of Disney in the back of my mind letting me know that I can achieve and I can do what I believe." 

Disney's sponsorship of RICE's program is part of its commitment to invest in communities by sharing knowledge and creating opportunities for entrepreneurs and small businesses. In fiscal year 2021, Disney set a goal to spend at least $1 billion annually with diverse suppliers by 2024, placing the company among the top in spending with diverse suppliers and impacting the communities by creating jobs and opportunities.

"We recognize that supporting suppliers of all backgrounds, sizes and industries makes a profound impact in the community," said Ralph Sagaille, Director, Supplier Diversity and Sustainability, The Walt Disney Company. "We believe in the power of possibilities and the collaboration with RICE is part of our commitment to invest in supplier diversity while encouraging entrepreneurs, creators, and innovators to dream."

The second year of the program will expand to 50 participating businesses and an enhanced curriculum. We look forward to continuing to share more stories about our work with RICE. To learn more about Disney's Supplier Diversity efforts, visit

Additional Resources:
Graduation Clips/ Interviews

About Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs (RICE)
RICE is a business generator serving metro Atlanta, created to support Black entrepreneurs in overcoming the unique barriers they face in building thriving businesses. At 54,000 square feet, RICE is the largest center of its kind in the United States. Our BIG IDEAS model meets every business owner where they are on their journey, fortifying them with a community of support, increasing access and exposure, focused on transformational change. RICE honors the legacy and visionary leadership of one the greatest entrepreneurs the city of Atlanta ever produced, the late great Herman J. Russell

About Disney Parks, Experiences and Products
Disney Parks, Experiences and Products brings the magic of The Walt Disney Company's powerful brands and franchises — including Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, ESPN, 20th Century Studios and National Geographic — into the daily lives of families and fans around the world to create magical memories that last a lifetime.

When Walt Disney opened Disneyland in Anaheim, California, on July 17, 1955, he created a unique destination built around storytelling and immersive experiences, ushering in a new era of family entertainment. More than 65 years later, Disney has grown into one of the world's leading providers of family travel and leisure experiences, with iconic businesses including six resort destinations with 12 theme parks and 52 resorts in the United States, Europe and Asia; a top-rated cruise line with five ships and plans for two more; a luxurious family beach resort in Hawai'i; a popular vacation ownership program; and an award-winning guided family adventure business. Disney's global consumer products operations include the world's leading licensing business; the world's largest children's publishing brands; one of the world's largest licensors of games across all platforms; Disney store locations around the world; and the shopDisney e-commerce platform.

These experiences are created by Disney Imagineers, the creative force behind experiences found in Disney theme parks, resort hotels, cruise ships and consumer products — including books, games and merchandise.

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SOURCE Disney Parks, Experiences and Products

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