Earn Your Leisure hosts and co-founders Rashad Bilal and Troy Millings returned for the second year with Invest Fest at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta from August 5-7 and turned the weekend into an uplifting festival that promoted financial empowerment and self-motivation.
Hosted by the financial literacy podcast in partnership with BET, Vibranium Network, Chase, and META, the summit, which was set on two stages, featured panel discussions full of heavy hitters, vendor stations, kiosks, food trucks, and live performances.
Invest Fest commenced with a VIP mixer on Friday night and included appearances by Terrence J., Kenny Burns, and T-Pain. Each day during the weekend included speakers who confidently led discussions around cryptocurrency, real estate, stocks, investments, student loans, business, budgeting, culture, and entertainment, all with the intention of dropping dimes to help the Black community flourish even further.
Now y’all know BET.com was in the building the entire weekend, so come along and check out some of the event highlights.
Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022
It was only right to kick off my time at Invest Fest by seeing who is really about their business, so there was no better place to start than the vendor market. I stepped into the main conference room in Building C and was surrounded by nothing but entrepreneurs, startups, creatives, self-published authors, and disruptors getting their hustle on. I mean, the main idea of the entire weekend was to be self-motivated and invest in yourself, right?
You name it: clothing lines, visual art, sunglasses, scented candles, VR experiences, juice bars, chess lessons, even sex toys. Each booth had something for everybody. The folks at Joyhouse Essentials (JHE) gave me a hand massage with their Soul Glo Oil topped with whipped shea butter. The fellas behind Blaque Bottle poured a few glasses of their decadent Blaque Chocolate giving those in reach a chance to experience a taste of their French Sparkling Chardonnay with hints of Belgium Chocolate.
The food truck village was on the outside and adjacent to the vendor market. It was just as jam-packed out there as it was in the main lobby. You could say that folks were really ‘bout that life. Both the BET and Vibranium Stages kept the conversations going with a “Black Men Ventures” pitch competition and panels covering topics like financial planning, preparing for a recession, and investing in stocks. Panelists included “Married to Real Estate” co-host Egypt Sherrod, "High Level Conversations" founder 19 Keys, and WallStreet Trapper.
Rapper Waka Flocka Flame came out to hype the crowd up with his turn-up anthems “No Hands,” “Grove St. Party,” and “Hard in the Paint” ahead of the main event.
That’s when pandemonium hit the audience, and everything got real. Steve Harvey, who co-produced Invest Fest under his Harvey Ventures brand, delivered the keynote address that afternoon. It felt more like a live interview with Bilal and Millings than a traditional keynote address and the results were even better. Just before their conversation, the duo announced there were 12,000 people in attendance, almost three times the number of last year’s crowd. I won’t hold you, but there were a lot of heads in there.
The stylish host of Family Feud, with his usual candor and Uncle Steve demeanor, dropped some inspirational vitamins like a Dalai Lama and threw in some funny stories, too: using the full 90 minutes from a set of comfy white sofas on stage, Harvey offered his takes on team building, work ethic, the value of haters, minimizing social media engagement, surviving industry politics, consistency, and repetition, paying success forward, and most importantly for Black folks, ownership.
“The hardest part about success is to start,” Harvey told the crowd. “Know who you are. If you let moments of adversity destroy you, you’re not available for the blessing or the lesson.”
Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022
The last day of Invest Fest started with a massive number of attendees unable to get inside the building and staging what appeared to be some kind of mini revolt. Inside, however, consisted of a day full of fireside chats that concentrated exclusively on women entrepreneurs, real estate, the entertainment industry, and the many challenges that come with ownership.
Filmmaker, producer, and billionaire media mogul Tyler Perry, just like Harvey the day prior, packed the house mid-afternoon around the BET sponsored stage. He spoke about his journey and how he disrupted the conventions of Hollywood to build his empire. Towards the end of the conversation, Harvey surprised the crowd and joined Perry onstage.
Offstage, several of the day’s guest speakers and panelists spent a few moments to speak with BET.com about what it takes to secure the bag and build equity.
Real estate mogul and billionaire R. Donahue Peebles participated in a fireside chat with that was hosted by Co-Founder of Invest Fest and EYL University (Earn Your Leisure’s online platform) Matt “MG” Garland. Showing off his grayish blue Santoni leather shoes, Peebles shared details about two proposed multibillion-dollar projects; the 900-ft tall Angels Landing in Los Angeles and 1663-ft tall Affirmation Tower in New York City. He addressed systemic challenges like access to capital that continue to stifle aspiring Black entrepreneurs from reaching the next level. The chairman of the Peebles Corporation emphasized that it takes a village and self-sufficiency in the Black community to help business owners sustain and grow their vision.
“We need to share information,” Peebles said exclusively to BET.com. “We’re in it together, but we all have the same challenges and face obstacles. It’s not just one person; it’s a system that we’re operating in, but even as unfair as it is, we can still win.”
Garland also believes there is a void to fill in what is being taught about financial literacy communities of color.
“Our goal with Invest Fest was to become the premier festival for financial literacy by impacting and empowering people not just locally, but all over the world,” he explained. “We are taking Invest Fest on the road with the first stop in London on October 31 for Invest Fest Euro and we are in the process of planning other countries as well. If the pandemic taught us one thing it was that regardless of what is going on in the world it’s the most opportune time to create wealth.”
We can never forget the sister who continuously hold it down. The Breakfast Club co-host Angela Yee joined Milano Di Rouge founder Milan Harris and Slutty Vegan founder and CEO Pinky Cole to offer a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to be a successful, Black woman, entrepreneur during the “Women in Business” panel. The ladies also spoke about how they’ve pivoted their brands across other areas. Yee, who also owns several locations of her juice bars, Juices for Life, believes women with side hustles should never be afraid to discuss other endeavors they’re involved with or would like to pursue.
“Sometimes, as women, it’s hard for us to really talk about our accomplishments because we think it’s not a big deal or we downplay it,” Yee told BET.com. “I love being in a space where we can celebrate the accomplishments and talk about how we got there.”
Vibranium Network co-founder Derek Ferguson dropped some knowledge about cryptocurrency and blockchain technology on an early panel on the Vibranium Stage the day prior. The former COO of Combs Enterprises insisted that the new form of digital commerce combined with technology creates a new economy that allows Black owners to set prices and monetize their influence.
One suggestion that Ferguson made for entrepreneurs or those interested in blockchain technology is to make sure they keep a close eye on the current generation of innovators and influencers. “Keep some young guns around you because they know what’s going on, and they’re closer to the problem and the solution,” Ferguson said.
The last roundtable on the BET Stage on Sunday focused on the “Business of Entertainment.” Moderated by Personal Finance Expert Ash Cash the panel included Dame Dash and DJ Envy. Dash, the co-founder of Roc-a-Fella Records, shared a trailer for his metaverse-based museum, Dash NFT Gallery, and spoke extensively about the wealth of projects he’s developing and releasing under his production company, Dame Dash Studios.
Wearing a mouth full of grills and accompanied by his French bulldog, Governor, the Harlem native, prides himself on having a formidable career in business that is becoming more of a labor of love than a money grab. “I just do what inspires me,” Dash told BET.com. “Once I do something, I don’t want to do it so many times. I want to do new things. Things that I’m thinking about or dreaming become tangible. It’s not about the bread or reinvention. It’s about inspiration.”
The summit ended on a high note with rapper Rick Ross in a custom Recession Proof throwback basketball jersey cranking out some of his high-octane classics such as “B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast),” “Aston Martin Music,” and “Nobody,” along with his features on Meek Mill’s “Ima Boss,” Usher’s “New Flame,” and French Montana’s “Pop That” before he made it rain from the ceiling.
For the creators of Earn Your Leisure, bringing Invest Fest to over 12,000 people this year will likely inspire so many people to become the next business leader to persevere, take action, and pursue the things they’ve always wanted, all while keeping a simple message at hand.
“Realize that anything is possible,” said Bilal, who was impeccably dressed in a custom white and pink cardigan sweater with matching kicks. “The power of relationships and being around the right people at the right time are important. Be willing to figure it out as you go. Troy and I never had all of the answers, but we weren’t afraid to take the first step.”
Christopher A. Daniel is an Atlanta based journalist.