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February 17 2015

Wells Fargo and Operation HOPE bring Small Business Empowerment Program to Birmingham to help entrepreneurs

Wells Fargo announces $50,000 contribution towards the initiative at a reception at Red Mountain Theatre Company Cabaret; bank also sponsors Mandela play

BIRMINGHAM, February 17, 2015 – To equip and empower aspiring entrepreneurs from low-income neighborhoods across the Birmingham, Wells Fargo is joining with Operation HOPE to launch the first Small Business Empowerment Program in Alabama.

The program will provide early stage entrepreneurs, in classes of 35, with training, financial counseling and loan opportunities through a 12-week program.“Those in underserved neighborhoods often face difficulty in obtaining start-up funding for their businesses, due in part to poor credit, lack of capital and limited access to bank services,” said John Hope Bryant, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE.  “This program addresses these issues and provides the resources and support to help them overcome these hurdles, turning business dreamers into business owners.” 

The program exists in other states, but this is the first time Operation HOPE has brought the initiative to Alabama.  The program has been very successful in other cities, including Atlanta, New Orleans, Harlem and more.

“We need something like this in Birmingham,” said Leigh Collier, Wells Fargo’s Mid-South region president.  “We told Operation HOPE that we would help get this started in Alabama.  We can’t wait to see local business owners achieve their dreams of obtaining financial independence by creating and sustaining small businesses that create jobs and improve our city’s economy.” 

Local business owners or aspiring entrepreneurs must apply to take part in the program. Birmingham’s first 12-week course will take place sometime this spring. Those interested can visit their local HOPE center or go to

Wells Fargo and Operation HOPE announced the initiative at a reception and networking event Tuesday evening at the Red Mountain Theatre Company Cabaret, where Wells Fargo, a longtime supporter of other Operation HOPE programs, presented Bryant with a $50,000 check. 

To help launch the small business program and to celebrate Black History month, after the reception, participants attended a performance of Mandela, an original work that explores the life of the legendary humanitarian, Nelson Mandela, through spoken word, music and video, courtesy of Wells Fargo. 

Wells Fargo was the proud supporting sponsor of the Red Mountain Theatre Company production, which ran from February 5-8.

Wells Fargo’s $35,000 sponsorship also supported Red Mountain Theatre Company’s Mandela tour into schools across the state, which will reach 13,000 children in Birmingham city schools alone.

“During this important month, we want to honor the heroes of the past who helped us make great strides in equality over the past 50 years,” said Richard Busby, senior community development officer for Wells Fargo.  “Nelson Mandela is one of those heroes, and we are proud to sponsor Red Mountain Theatre’s moving account of his life and accomplishments.”

About Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) is a nationwide, diversified, community-based financial services company with $1.7 trillion in assets. Founded in 1852 and headquartered in San Francisco, Wells Fargo provides banking, insurance, investments, mortgage, and consumer and commercial finance through more than 8,700 locations, 12,500 ATMs, and the internet (, and has offices in 36 countries to support customers who conduct business in the global economy. With approximately 265,000 team members, Wells Fargo serves one in three households in the United States. Wells Fargo & Company was ranked No. 29 on Fortune’s 2014 rankings of America’s largest corporations. Wells Fargo’s vision is to satisfy all our customers’ financial needs and help them succeed financially. Wells Fargo perspectives are also available at Wells Fargo Blogs and Wells Fargo Stories.

About Operation HOPE

Founded in 1992 and headquartered in Los Angeles, Operation HOPE promotes financial dignity through the delivery of financial inclusion and education tools to underserved communities. Through its core divisions, the organization has provided youth and adult financial literacy, economic preparedness, digital empowerment, promoted home ownership, and assisted with foreclosure prevention to more than 2.2 million individuals, families, and small business owners. HOPE is currently focused on Project 5117, a multi-year initiative that will track and increase business role models for youth, boost credit scores for adults, and empower underserved communities. To learn how you can join Project 5117, go to 

About Red Mountain Theatre Company

Red Mountain Theatre Company is a nonprofit organization committed to enriching the cultural landscape of Birmingham and beyond through unique, high quality professional theatre and performing arts education. Utilizing a diverse mix of local and national talent, RMTC works to inspire connection both for the building of community and the advancement of the arts.