Invest Fest Empowers Over 20,000 People of Color in Atlanta with Financial Education
Thousands flocked to Atlanta late last month to attend Invest Fest, a three-day financial empowerment festival geared toward Black and brown communities. The annual summit showcased an array of world-class experts, celebrities, entrepreneurs, executives, and influencers who spoke on a wide variety of topics about entrepreneurship and finance. It also featured keynote fireside chats with business titans Sean “Diddy” Combs, Robert F. Smith, and Steve Harvey, in addition to live performances from entrepreneurial rap stars Jeezy, Ja Rule, and Jim Jones.
Event organizers say more than 20,000 people attended Invest Fest, which took place Aug. 25–27 at the Georgia World Congress Center, while the VIP Night kickoff was held at Guardian Works in downtown Atlanta. Now in its third year, the festival was created by Rashad Bilal and Troy Millings, the co-founders of the popular financial education podcast and multimedia platform Earn Your Leisure (EYL), to equip millennials of color with wealth-building strategies and tools.
“We created Earn Your Leisure and now Invest Fest to marry culture and commerce,” said the co-founders in a joint statement. “We know that information and resources about financial literacy, investing, entrepreneurship, and building generational wealth have traditionally been inaccessible for our culture. Our goal with Invest Fest is to make this information available for our communities, and to do it in a way that is entertaining and enriching.”
During a candid keynote fireside chat, Combs opened up about his career journey, business hardships, and the importance of Black ownership. The music mogul also spoke frankly about the racial discrimination lawsuit he filed in June against multinational spirits conglomerate Diageo, which owns Don Julio, Casamigos, Smirnoff, and other alcohol brands. According to Combs, Diageo treated their joint venture, DeLeón Tequila, unfairly by not producing agave plants to create the tequila. The suit also claims that Diageo stigmatized DeLeon as a “Black brand” and “urban.”
“The situation is in the courts now, so I’m going to share with you all what I can,” said the legendary producer on stage. “I had to send my people down to Mexico—this is what the fight is about. They went down to Mexico, and when they got down there, they found out that there was zero agave planted for DeLeon. There was no plan for it to be successful. There was no equal treatment. The other brands, they had agave planted.”
The hip-hop billionaire says his mission to disrupt the spirits industry and dismantle racial boundaries moved him to file the suit.
“No one is coming to save us,” Combs said. “Out of all the business revenue in America, only 1% goes to Black businesses. But then it’s an accountability from us because we have $1.8 trillion in buying power, and only 2% of that recirculates. So, we can’t complain. We know what it is. It’s time to change the call. We have to unify our dollars, or nothing will change.”
Diageo has dispelled Combs’ claims, arguing that the agave plants grown on its farm in Jalisco, Mexico, are used to supply all Diageo liquor brands.
Following the conversation, Combs presented Bilal and Millings with a huge $1 million check issued to the Earn Your Leisure Fund to provide Black investors and business owners with educational tools and resources. According to a statement obtained by People, the funds will go toward financial literacy efforts, “[putting] the investment strategies discussed on EYL into action” and “providing a practical model for economic empowerment.”
“I’m thrilled to join forces with Earn Your Leisure. We’re going beyond discussing finances and taking action to demystify the world of investing for our community,” said Combs in a press release. He added that proceeds will be allocated toward his three Capital Preparatory charter schools in New York and Connecticut.
Smith’s one-on-one conversation with Harvey was another highlight of the summit. During their chat, Smith talked about the fundamental principles of succeeding in a capitalist society, giving a nod to Black Enterprise Magazine.
“There was a magazine called Black Enterprise that actually presented a number of…Black folks on Wall Street, and I started to understand that experience from reading [about] the difference between labor and capital,” said the billionaire investor. “America is built on capitalism, and I was a good laborer in a capitalist system. I was a professional [with] a chemical engineering degree,” he continued. “But, the value of labor was very different than the value that is placed on capital. And, in fact, in this society, there is an exponential opportunity if you utilize capital efficiently — more efficiently than utilizing labor.”
At another point during the conference, Monique Rodriguez, the founder and CEO of haircare giant Mielle Organics, opened about the historic $100 million investment she received in 2021 from Berkshire Partners, a private equity firm, making her the first Black woman entrepreneur to receive a nine-figure business investment. Rodriquez also addressed the backlash she received from online critics in the Black community who accused her of “selling out” after it was announced in January that Procter & Gamble acquired Mielle.
“I don’t look at it as a sellout; I look at it as we’re selling up because when we’re able to sell our businesses, that allows us to do more and to make a bigger impact for the community,” she said, adding that she did not want Mielle to be “pigeonholed” as just a “Black brand,” but rather a company for multicultural consumers with textured hair. “[Black businesses are] going to stay behind if we don’t sell our companies.”
Other speakers at the summit included sports marketing guru Maverick Carter; actress, entrepreneur, and vegan advocate Tabitha Brown; actress and entrepreneur LaLa Anthony; legendary producer and entrepreneur Jermaine Dupri; famed sports agent and founder Rich Paul; NFL star Cam Newton; mega investor Cathie Wood; thought leader 19 Keys; and celebrity host and real estate investor Terrence J.
“When we think about Invest Fest, we think about Black economic empowerment,” civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump told BE after speaking on a panel about reparations. “Who’s going to build the 21st century Black Wall Street? Well, it’s going to happen from the individuals that come to the Invest Fest festival.”
Hip-hop legend and Atlanta native Jeezy closed the 2023 festival with a fireside chat focused on his budding real estate portfolio and rap career, followed by a live performance of his top hits.
“Witnessing over 20,000 individuals come together underscores the urgency to create platforms that uplift and educate, which is why Invest Fest was created – to transform lives, spark conversations, and drive change,” said Millings in a press release sent to BE.
“There’s no place that you can be around 20,000 plus people of a positive mindset [and] like-minded goals, and receive information and receive inspiration,” Bilal told BE, encouraging those who missed the experience to attend next year. “There’s a variety of different reasons why you should come. But I think [for] anybody that’s serious about improving their life, it would be beneficial.”