Imagine being able to get meaningful advice from some of the most thoughtful African American minds in business today — for free. That’s the concept behind the first ever Black Entrepreneurs Day, a live-streamed event scheduled on Saturday, Oct 24, for aspiring Black business leaders around the world.
Presented by Chase for Business and featuring one-on-one interviews with Gabrielle Union, Jamie Foxx, LL Cool J, and other high-profile cultural figures, this once-in-a-lifetime experience is the creation of Daymond John, the Founder and CEO of FUBU and co-host of ABC’s Shark Tank. Viewers at home can join in during the livestream thanks to a partnership with the conversational multimedia tool Yappa, which will enable viewers to connect and ask their most pressing questions.
John’s goal with Black Entrepreneurs Day is to donate $25,000 to nine different businesses to help with their growth, but also he wants to empower the next generation of Black business leaders to achieve greatness. In an interview with BET.com, John explains how the event came together and why he's committed to helping others achieve the same level of success he has enjoyed over the years.
BET.com: What inspired you to create Black Entrepreneurs Day?
Daymond John: I was out there looking around at all the people that were frustrated and angry of all colors. And then I was seeing that a lot of people who did not have enough information on how they could empower themselves were burning businesses instead of building them. I knew that I had a great Rolodex of friends and people who are very inspiring. I also realized that I had a great Rolodex of companies and corporations who were willing to support something like this. I put it all together and it came out better than I ever thought. And now we're going to have millions of people who will watch and nine companies who are going to win $25,000 grants. They're going to hopefully go out and be able to scale their businesses and empower even more people.
BET.com: How long did it take to pull an event of this magnitude together?
Daymond John: Approximately two months. Things like this usually don't happen that fast but I think that it did because it was such a great cause and a lot of people really wanted to get behind this to help create change.
BET.com: What do you want people to take away from Black Entrepreneurs Day when it's over?
Daymond John: A couple of things. If you're looking at me interviewing Gabrielle Union or LL Cool J, I want you to take a deeper look into how they managed to become so successful, where they have failed and how they overcame that failure. And what are they doing now in the middle of the pandemic to prepare themselves for the future.
I want you to learn from the people who are going to be pitching, who are going to win $25,000 a piece for their business. In total, we’re giving away $225,000. That's nine people who, as of yesterday, did not have the money and they’ll be able to craft the pitch, present it in a very good way, and get that free money. And I want people at home who have an idea or have a business to be able to understand how to craft their pitch better so they can win the next time there's an opportunity like this. It's going to be just so many amazing things that people are going to learn, have fun, and hopefully go out there and improve their business or even start a new one.
BET.com: How would you define Black entrepreneurship?
Daymond John: It is a desire and need to solve a problem that you think is not being solved or addressing a community that you think you have some added value to. You get beat up a lot — a lot more than your counterparts who may not be of color. And you have to be scrappy. You have to also try to find other resources that come harder to you than they do to others. It's a crazy journey, but it's also rewarding. When you make it and you get a level of success, you realize that you're inspiring other people. You're a pillar in the community and that other people want to be like you. You're showing people that there are other ways to succeed.
BET.com: What drives your entrepreneurial spirit?
Daymond John: Challenging myself and knowing that I'm also delivering a product, service, or something to people where I'm adding value. Knowing that I'm inspiring people and that I'm in charge of my own destiny. And that if I fail, it was purely because I did not do something right or I didn't educate myself well enough on it.
BET.com: All sorts of new technology has emerged since you came to prominence in the 1990s. How would you compare the entrepreneurial landscape of 2020 to back in the day?
Daymond John: It is a great time to be an entrepreneur. You can get to an entire world with your fingertips due to technology. If you wanted to go around and pitch a bunch of people, you don't have to get on a plane anymore. You can go and pitch people on Zoom. You can talk directly to your customer and know who they are. You're no longer hindered by the fact that you don't own a television station or billboards. You can just get right out there on any social media platform or website and get your information out there. However, everybody in the world can do that, so that means that your competition has quadrupled. You're going to need to know the fundamentals of business no matter what so that you're able to apply what you know on today's platforms.
BET.com: What are some suggestions for Black entrepreneurs to get through this difficult time in our economy?
Daymond John: Look at what you have that you are in charge of. Did you work with people? Are you a veteran? Are you a mompreneur? And do you know people who used to have a job and are they now able to mentor and help you or maybe partner with you? Get financial intelligence. This is not only about being a person of color as an entrepreneur. You need financial intelligence. You need to know how money works because that's what you're in business for. A transactional business means you're either going to make money or you're going to lose money. And just keep educating yourself on everything. Whether it's a digital platform, advertising, manufacturing or accounting — always keep educating yourself. I do it too and I don't know anybody who doesn't have any level of success that is not currently, and always, seeking a higher level of education.
BET.com: What do you think the future of Black entrepreneurship will look like?
Daymond John: It’s very bright. The world has gotten a spotlight on the challenges that we face. The systemic matters, for instance. A lot of people just did not understand, but now they do. Good people of all colors want to get behind people of color and say, ‘How can I help?’ and ‘How can I do something meaningful?’
You're looking at these large companies that are putting up billions of dollars over the course of the next decades to fight some of these inequalities. These kinds of programs are going to really help a lot of people of color, but no matter who you are, if you're an entrepreneur, you need to have all your stuff together too in order to take advantage of these opportunities because you want to make sure that you know that you're adding value. So, really everything starts first with you.
Photo by Paul Archuleta/Getty Images