For the past three years, thousands of investors, entrepreneurs, and entertainers have flocked to Atlanta in hopes of connecting with the biggest in Black business at InvestFest. Here’s a breakdown of this year’s programming.
The What & Why of InvestFest 2023
In 2017, a Prosperity Now study predicted the median household wealth for Black Americans would reach $0 by 2053 while the wealth of White Americans would grow to over $137,000. This decrease is attributed to the lack of access to homeownership, higher education, and wealth building resources for low-income families.
Created by the financial media platform, Earn Your Leisure and its founders Rashad Bilal and Troy Millings, InvestFest brings leaders together to advocate for a better reality. This year’s event welcomed over 20,000 visitors, hundreds of vendors, and top names in business including multi-hyphenate entrepreneur Tabitha Brown, billionaire Robert Smith, artist and businessman Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, and television host Steve Harvey.
Photo: Rashiid Marcell Photography
Commerce Is the Heart of Generational Wealth
InvestFest hosted more than 400 Black-owned businesses across a variety of industries. What stood out the most was the amount of young business owners in attendance. Thirteen-year-old Kennedi Harris from Atlanta joined the marketplace with her health and wellness business, K-Lock Products. She was inspired to help fight childhood obesity with healthy food seasonings and vegan friendly children’s vitamins.
Harris’ ambition for business is exactly what Vista Equity Partners CEO Robert Smith preached during his fireside chat with businessman and comedian, Steve Harvey. Smith focused on teaching the importance of building good habits and skills while making the best use of available capital. In his opinion, the most effective investment Black investors can make is in their own business.
“Your next best use of capital is in your own business because you understand it, hopefully, you can control it, and you have the ability to create a higher return than investing passively in the public markets.” – Robert Smith
When it comes to building sustainable wealth in the Black community, commerce lays the foundation. It provides the necessary flow of money throughout the community while creating much-needed jobs and training for future generations to carry on the good fight for wealth equality.
The Power of Financial Literacy
In Jay “Jeezy” Jenkins’ session, financial literacy was a topic that hit close to home for many. As Jenkins shared his struggle with finances, he explained how his rise to fame sent him spiraling into depression after watching his hard-earned money vanish despite topping the charts. His biggest regret was not asking for help sooner.
Photo: Rashiid Marcell Photography
The TIAA Institute’s Personal Finance Index (P-Fin Index) is a test that measures knowledge and understanding of personal finance in adults in the U.S. It determines how well a person can make financial decisions and effectively manage personal finances. African Americans, on average, scored 38 percent on this test. This demonstrates the need for more financial education to help boost the income and overall wealth of the community as a whole.
Access to Educational Funding is a Necessity
In 2019, philanthropist Robert Smith paid $34 million dollars to clear the student loan debt of the graduating class at Morehouse University. His goal was to provide “liberation” to more students so they could make bigger contributions to the Black community. He’s taken that fight to the next level by making educational funding more accessible without the added hassle.
Based on the nearly $110 billion parent PLUS loan debt, Smith founded the Student Freedom Initiative, a self-sustaining educational fund for student debt. This fund provides low-interest, income-contingent loans to students who attend HBCUs. Once borrowers graduate and pay back their loans, the money goes back into the fund to continue supporting more students.
When Black students gain access to a quality education, without the burden of crippling debt, it creates an opportunity for them to become problem solvers for the community. They’re able to give back more knowledge, financial resources, and opportunities to the next generation.
Investing in Us
InvestFest is one major step in creating sustainable wealth within the Black community. Making financial literacy accessible to those who may need it while providing Black businesses with unmatched opportunities to grow is the highlight of this production. When there are people who are willing to pool their resources for the greater good of the community, it becomes a quality investment with unlimited potential.
Featured image: Rashiid Marcell Photography