Evana and Zoe Oli, owners of Beautiful Curly Me, are surprised to receive a $10,000 grant from Verizon presented to them by former Atlanta Hawks guard Lou Williams. Credit: Stan Washington

For a young company  like Atlanta-based Beautiful Curly Me any good publicity is vital to its continued growth. But when a seemingly routine TV interview turns into a surprised check presentation it then becomes a godsend. 

During an interview with the local TV show Atlanta & Company at the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs (RICE) (6/20), Evana and Zoe Oli,  mother and daughter business partners were caught totally off guard when former Atlanta Hawks guard Lou Williams showed up to present them a check from Verizon for $10,000. 

The mother/daughter duo looked as if they weren’t sure it was all real. The team at the Russell Center decided to surprise the two who are member stakeholders at the center. The check is from Verizon’s Small Business Digital Ready program and partner LISC. 

Zoe, the 11 year-old CEO said the grant is right on time. 

“I’m going to use every cent to expand my company, my social impact and expand the line of dolls this Christmas,” she said. 

Beautiful Curly Me owners Zoe Oli (check) and Evana Oli are surrounded by staff members of the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs (RICE) to celebrate the check presentation from Verizon. Photo by Stan Washington/The Atlanta Voice

Williams heard about the young CEO through his mother who was impressed after a brief meeting with her. The three-time NBA Sixth Man of the Year awardee said it’s important to support our youth and their dreams. 

“She’s a young entrepreneur, doing a lot of positive things. I think it’s important especially with young people to have a vision, to have goals that they want to accomplish in the future,” Williams said. “Any time that people like myself in the community can give a young person a hand I think that’s important.”

Zoe’s path into entrepreneurship began four years ago when she was seven years old. When she was six her mother bought her a black doll, “I loved that doll but it didn’t have curly hair like mine,” she said. 

After several failed shopping attempts to find a black doll with the desired hairdo, she decided to  make her own but not just for herself but for other girls who wanted the same thing. 

“We are all about instilling confidence in young black girls through beautiful black dolls like Bella, (the first doll),” she said.

According to Verizon communications officer Burnadette Brijlall, the telecom giant started their Digital Ready program two years ago because they recognized that many small businesses were having a difficult time competing in today’s digital economy. 

“We saw that small businesses had a need for influence marketing, tax support, how to get a website, etc., “ Brijall said. “All of these resources are so important to small businesses who need help getting into the digital economy. How do you take your business from being just brick and mortar to having an online presence.” 

The project is serving “tens of thousands” of small businesses, Brijall said.” With women and minority owned businesses we felt it was important to help these businesses thrive in the digital economy.”

“ It’s not just about the grants that the program offers, but learning how to make your business better. There is coaching, mentorships, meet-ups, guidance on the platform and we will be  holding sessions across the country this year,” she added. 

(This article is provided through a grant from RICE.)