Alabama Business Incubators Partner to Provide New Resources and Connections for Entrepreneurs 


Theresa M. Welbourne
Alabama Entrepreneurship Institute

TUSCALOOSA, Al — Growing and supporting the entrepreneurial community within the state of Alabama is the goal of a new initiative spearheaded by the Alabama Entrepreneurship Institute (AEI) at The University of Alabama. Via a partnership with AEI, The EDGE, Tuscaloosa’s business incubator and accelerator, and UA’s Culverhouse College of Business, the first entrepreneur resource groups, or ERGs, are being launched in the state with two other incubators, Innovation Depot in Birmingham and Innovation Portal in Mobile. These resource groups will bring together members of three different cities to support a diverse group of entrepreneurs across the state in growing businesses of their own.

The entrepreneur resource group model mirrors the industry-proven employee resource group concept, which stretches back to the 1960s. Sometimes called affinity groups, network groups, and business resource groups, these organizational groups have helped significantly improve diversity, equity, and inclusion as well as driving innovation and business growth in the hosting organizations where they are employed. In addition, they positively contribute to the communities where their companies do business.

The intention behind using the ERG concept in Alabama incubators is to allow all startups to share ideas and build relationships with a diverse group of individuals, with the goal of sharing in broad-based successes.

Dr. Theresa M. Welbourne, executive director of the Alabama Entrepreneurship Institute and The EDGE, has run a large-scale research program and annual conference with corporate ERG leaders, said, “Evidence shows that within larger and smaller companies, ERGs make work a better place for everyone, with members helping each other learn and succeed.”

“I expect the same from our new entrepreneur resource groups and am excited to bring this new initiative to our Alabama incubators.”

The other founding partners in the program articulated their support for the statewide effort.

Brooke Gillis, CEO of Innovation Depot in Birmingham, said, “We are thrilled to be part of this groundbreaking initiative to help entrepreneurs in Alabama succeed. Entrepreneurs require support and resources to help them start, mature as companies, and thrive. By forming these entrepreneur resource groups, we are creating an environment of mutual support and collaboration that will help entrepreneurs from all backgrounds.”

Similarly, Todd Greer, Executive Director of Innovation Portal in Mobile, commented on how the initiative can help entrepreneurs, “Lowering the barrier to entry for entrepreneurship has been a vital focus for Innovation Portal, and we believe that a focus on building community and access for under-represented founders is vital, especially now with our partners across the state.”

March 7, 2023 Kickoff Meeting at The EDGE 

On March 7, from 5 to 7: p.m., the EDGE in Tuscaloosa will host the first kickoff meeting of three separate ERGs for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, Black/African Americans, and women.

People who want to be part of these groups, allies, supporters, and mentors of these groups, and anyone interested in learning more are invited to attend the kickoff meeting.

Dean Kay Palan of the Culverhouse College of Business, said, “Culverhouse and The University of Alabama are committed to creating opportunities for everyone. Diverse teams lead to more and different types of innovation, and we are excited to see how these initiatives at The EDGE and across the state can help our students, faculty, staff, and community come together and drive innovation and business growth.”

Anyone wanting to learn more can attend the kickoff event on March 7 at The EDGE at 2627 10th Ave, Tuscaloosa, AL 35401 or by or contacting Dr. Welbourne directly at

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