Changing the Trajectory: Best of 2022

Audio Description

Tune in to our best of 2022: a roundup of inspiring conversations and powerful advice from many of the great minds we featured this year.


This transcript has been generated by an A.I. tool. Please excuse any typos.

00:05 - 00:11

This is Changing the Trajectory. I'm your host, James Seth Thompson, Bernstein's Head of Diverse Market Strategy.

00:11 - 00:39

And I'm Maci Philitas, the Emerging Wealth Strategist here at Bernstein. Thanks for joining us. As 2022 comes to a close, we are thrilled to share a highlight reel from many of the inspiring, thought-provoking conversations we've had on the show this year. As always, our goal is to inform and engage people of color and emerging wealth creators to better understand how we can change the trajectory of our wealth, impact, influence and most important, our communities.

00:39 - 00:52

I'm still buzzing from these awesome conversations. In 2022, we feature so many incredible changemakers who are all motivating forces, enlightening us with the work they do. As we strive for a better tomorrow.

00:52 - 01:33

If you missed any of the episodes, be sure to go back and listen. But for now, let's jump into our best of 2022 year end recap. I will always remember and also be thankful for joining this podcast as the co-host this year and January to kick off the New Year. I had the privilege of interviewing James Thompson, my co-host. He thoughtfully shared what drives his intentionality to advance communities of color. Here's what our fearless thought leader had to say about why he sought to create this platform in the first place.

01:36 - 02:25

My passion isn't about helping rich people get richer. It's about helping people who have those means have access to the same resources so they can have the same outcomes. It was important for me to kind of build the right type of rapport with communities of color to make sure that we had a resonant voice in helping to close the gaps that many people of color might have. You know, in the investing and wealth management space, really just a recognition that, you know, for the most part there are gaps in our experiences and our education and what we have historically been exposed to. So I thought there was no better way to be able to help address those known unknowns, but to have a podcast and great guests and great partners like you, to be able to bring that message forward.

02:25 - 02:34

Yeah. And James, something else that I noticed about your career is when you have a seat at the table, you've been sure to create another seat.

02:35 - 02:36

For someone who is a person of color or from an underrepresented background.

02:40 - 03:07

Oh, absolutely. I don't know what the seas look like, but I always get folding chairs to pull up to the table. I feel like that's a responsibility. I think that's what true sponsorship and advocacy is. And even when other people aren't at the same tables, that advocacy to speak as if they were present, although they're not, I think is one of the strongest things everyone could do to help kind of change the narrative of the access we all have, whether it's wealth or professional or personal lives.

03:08 - 03:47

For Black History Month, we featured the legendary Jotaka Eaddy. Jotaka is an advocate, a connector, and the founder and CEO of Full Circle Strategies LLC. Before Boulder successful move into the tech industry to take his career was with the NAACP. You know, you you've mentioned before that there's a need for us to redefine and restructure our relationship with money and the importance of that for our communities and being comfortable in doing so. How about you just share a little bit about that, about how you think about changing the narrative that we have to be part of this struggle to be part of the movement?

03:48 - 04:28

James That's really powerful. That's why you're my cousin. You know, I think as a society, as a people, our relationship with money has always been a very strained relationship. I thought that money was bad. I thought that working in corporate America was being a sellout. I felt the only way that you could really do good was if you were in the struggle, in the movement, working for a nonprofit or civil rights or social justice organization, or if you were an elected official, you were running for office and you were representing the people.

04:29 - 05:15

And I think that we have to change the dynamic in terms of how we think about not only our relationship to money. Not all money is good money. I'm certainly not a believer of that. But I do think that it is important for us to. Teach our children that it is okay to desire wealth. To want to build wealth. That that is a goal. To leave your family and your children with wealth. And we have, I believe, as a people. And so without that, we don't even have conversations about building wealth.

05:15 - 05:37

And I think that it is by design, because what it does, it continues to keep our communities so far behind. And I think that it is incredibly important for us to shift and change the narrative that we should teach our children about what it means to build wealth and to be okay with that.

05:37 - 06:30

When I went into tech, I was in my mid to late thirties. I had never negotiated equity options before in my life. I didn't know what that was. The only thing that I knew to negotiate was good vacation and salary and health benefits. That was it. I didn't know anything about equity. I didn't know anything about a cliff. I didn't know anything about a chat table. I didn't have the benefit of being taught that. And so I think it's important for our children in our communities to begin to understand this lingo, this language, this world. Because without it, we will consistently be behind, because it is through wealth and it is through capital that we're able, I believe, firmly to fund our own freedom. Amen.

06:30 - 07:23

We always love to celebrate women on this show. And this year, we punctuated Women's History Month by speaking with the ever inspiring Ireland. HAMILTON Ireland built backstage capital from the ground up, literally out of her car after puzzling over the fact that 90% of venture deals go to white men. Since then, Backstage Capital has raised roughly $20 million and invested in nearly 200 startups led by underrepresented founders. Ireland's journey is so inspiring from homelessness to the cover of Fast Company magazine. And can you tell us a little bit about that first? Yes, you received and you know what it was like to receive that. Yes. From your first LP investor and kind of how you take that energy and have taken that energy through to your practice as an investor.

07:23 - 07:24


07:24 - 08:09

So Susan Kimberlin, I'll say her name for the rest of my life. She put in $25,000 and then another $25,000 a few days later. And so in this context, she was the first yes to to the the fund backstage capital that is now invested in 200 companies. With her first investment, I was able to make my first investment and gone on to raise millions and millions of dollars since then. But I'll never forget that. I'll never forget her belief, her conviction, her conviction, I might add, without needing other people to be around and say that it was the right thing. That's oftentimes missed in the story because there's a colleague of mine who says it's a confidence check.

08:09 - 08:09


08:10 - 08:44

You know, and so many founders who we look up to and who we admire and who have been successful have these stories of somebody came in and gave them a leg up. It's not necessarily something they look down on, say, Oh, look at your privilege and how you used it. I actually think, okay, great, let's emulate that. Let's make that possible for others. So that's why every single day I think about how do I say yes? Where can I make that happen? Of course, you can't say it all the time. It's just not how the world works. But we can certainly say it more than we do.

08:44 - 09:10

Our next conversation was enlightening, to say the least. Zain Asher, the host of CNN's prime time global news show One World with Zain Asher, joined us to discuss a bestselling memoir where the children take us. Zain divulge her mother's many unconventional, yet highly productive parenting strategies and the determination she had to raise her children to be extremely successful and confident. There are way too many takeaways from this episode to note.

09:11 - 09:23

Zain, let's first of all, just acknowledge that you're an overachiever. And what I really appreciate about your book is the fact that you kind of break down how we too, can be overachievers, too, and you make it a little bit more accessible.

09:23 - 09:23

So I think.

09:24 - 09:41

You have described uplift there as people of similar backgrounds who can open our minds to new possibilities. How do your mother's introduction of uplift? There's influence your perception of what it meant to be black and of course, what kind of heights you could reach as a black woman.

09:41 - 10:28

I got it was everything. Because my mom, not only did she, she cut out images of black success from newspaper. But the best one she kept in a white binder. And it was just a binder that needed a full bed. You know, like a bedtime story. She would read through these articles of black people, especially if they were West African, just who had done amazing things with their lives. And she would talk to us about them at the dinner table. We would see articles of black success on our walls. They say that the only thing that can hold a person back in life is the perception that they have a home. And this was my mother's way of just changing that perception to make sure that the perception we had of ourselves was very, very, very positive in terms of what we could achieve.

10:28 - 11:02

And that obviously gave me so much confidence, especially when it came to applying to a place like Oxford University. I felt as though I deserve to go to Oxford University. I deserved it, and my mother felt that way too. That's why she was willing to fight, because she'd seen so many images of Nigerians, of black people who had done fantastic things with their lives. And so her whole point was that, listen, these people are no different from you. If you work hard like they've worked hard, you could have what they have. It's as simple as that. There's no discussion, there's no argument, there's no debate. That is a fact.

11:02 - 11:53

And it had a real practical influence on me, too, because I remember turning on the TV and there was a woman named Femi Och, who was hosting a BBC show in the late nineties. And then a few years later, I moved to America and I saw Femi Oke presenting the news on CNN. I was so impressed by her that I immediately sent her an email. I tried to figure out the formula for the CNN emails and I eventually figured it out and instead of email them. And not only did she respond, she actually gave me her phone number. I said, listen, I'm always happy to help people. Call me anytime. I was a student at the time. I was a journalism student. And so I called her up so nervous. But she gave me just invaluable advice about making it in journalism, making it in a newsroom as a woman person of color. You know, just it was priceless.

11:53 - 12:32

And then years later, when I actually applied to CNN, I gave her a call. She'd invited me to her radio station just to go through anchoring with me and helping me practice. And so when I when I got the job, I realized, my goodness, this woman, you know, I refer to her as an uplift. In the book, this woman who was. Yes. Key for me, it just in terms of being a role model and inspiring me. But beyond that, just seeing her on TV all those years ago, seeing this Nigerian woman do so well on television, literally changed my entire life. I got my job at CNN because of me, you know, and that is the power of representation.

12:33 - 13:13

Percy Miller, also known as Master P, is a self-made multimillionaire rapper, record executive, businessman, philanthropist, former NBA player. For those of you who didn't. No, I didn't. And the mastermind behind No Limit Records, one of the biggest independent labels of all time. When our sister podcast, The Big Stage, welcomed Percy onto their show. His message was so clearly aligned with ours that we knew we had to share his voice and story with you. Today, Percy's focus is on economic empowerment for black communities through the creation of products and brands. Listen up.

13:14 - 14:00

So with the music industry in your rearview, your focus now is creating brands and products like Soulja Snacks. How are these brands really working towards your overall mission of promoting economic empowerment? Because I know you're a firm believer that product outweighs talent. Yeah. So when you look at the music industry like that got into the music industry for the diversity. It was a lack of African-American owners in the music industry. Same thing in the grocery stores. I feel like for us to build economic empowerment is going to have to be more African-Americans in more Latinos. MO Minority owners of a product. And my motto is, The more we make, the more we give and we're going to build economic empowerment, then we have to have some ownership of products in these grocery stores.

14:01 - 14:30

I feel like I'm the next Kellogg's in Soulja Snacks was built on my grandfather, Claude Miller Selassie size, and he fought in the Vietnam War and he fed everybody, came back home to the community, fed people, and he started deep fried what we call now pork rinds of pork skins. But he was taking bacon, deep frying it and making snacks for the community. And I'm just thankful and grateful that I could live his legacy live.

14:30 - 14:55

So so just let's go to so this next outcome. Make a difference with us and be a part of the movement. And Percy you've said that if you can't create other millionaires in your mind, you're not successful. That's such an inspiring mindset, educating the next generation and making a difference. This is obviously a huge priority of yours. So what lessons are you most trying to drive home or what do you want your legacy to be?

14:55 - 15:55

To be a good teacher. You have to be a good student. And so when you look at everybody that come to my university, no limit university, you look at like Snoop Dogg. The reason why Snoop Dogg is is a great boss because he was able to be a great student at the same time. And my thing is, when you're successful, you measure your success by what you give, not by what you have and the people that you are able to create. And that's why I say it's so important to me to know that if I'm creating other millionaires, then I'm on the right track of being a great boss. Is all education. Education is so important. I don't pray for money. I pray for wisdom, knowledge and information. When you educate yourself, the money will come in and I realize when you help others, the blessings will continue coming to you. I always say that you measure a person's success by what they give. My whole thing is given a blueprint, given again to our culture to help people.

15:55 - 16:19

How can we democratize? Who can support black plays and creators? Well, venture capitalist and founder of Rock Star Foundation, Gaylor Jennings and Burn joined us with Tony, award winning producer and CEO of Simon Says Entertainment Ron Simmons to share their key answers. The Rock Star Foundation empowers everyday people to support the amplification of diverse voices on Broadway and beyond.

16:19 - 17:00

What's so significant about what he was doing is it now gives an option for people who say and there are people who want to support the arts through donation. They want to make a charitable contribution. And that's what Ella has enabled so that we now can invite people to the table who may not be interested so much in the investment. We're happy to write a check for $50,000, which is one of the things that happened with the colored girls. They did not want to invest, but they said We are more than happy to donate to the cause and support the kind of stories that you're doing, which is immense and amazing and just gives more options for us to be able to support our own stories.

17:00 - 17:52

Yeah, and I think the other side of this is that there's such a empowering feeling, you know, as a community. Bipoc communities are some of the most charitable communities out there, whether it be tithing through their church, whether it be through their alma mater or through the social programs that they support. We're very giving charitable giving community. But we typically have not been is a. Charitable and those forms of the type of art that Ron is talking about. And so when we share this with people and there's a lot of education that we still need to do, people get very excited and empowered that they now can support the stories that they their children can go and see in a very different way, as opposed to always having to be consumers of these products that are put out there.

17:52 - 18:24

Conceptually, and when you think about community and social impact and equity and equality. Again, I just want to commend you guys for thinking about ways to allow, in many instances, the common person, not necessarily a huge entity or organization, to be able to help amplify the voices. I feel that that is a very ingenious way just to allow people to put their money to work.

18:24 - 19:24

It's beautiful, right? And we all have that cousin Jojo and Aunt Cheryl. And, you know, now she can be like, baby, baby, you doing such a good job? Your mother tells me about it all the time. Here's $30. You know, take this and do good. Well, guess what? Aunt Cheryl now has a way to put that $30 to work. Her $30 are helping pay one of those actresses. That $30 is going to somebody's rent because trying to be in New York and be on Broadway is not cheap. So, yeah, that's that's what the empowerment looks like, Right. And so when we start to get black churches, we start to get black colleges to support creatives. You're going to see really good quality stories being told. Ron's play for Colored Girls was nominated for seven Tony. Amazing. I mean, we talk about the quality of the work that he and his team are putting on stage. Bar none. It's some of the best. We have a way to support and make more of those come out.

19:24 - 20:06

This next episode is near and dear to my heart. We loved our conversation with Brandon Andrews, the entrepreneur, investor and leader of a nationwide casting tour for ABC's Shark Tank. If you've seen a person of color in the tank, they were likely cast by Brandon. Brandon passionately empowers people of color to believe in their ability to start and grow a business, have the capital and resources necessary to take their ideas forward and create generational wealth, which is what we are all about here at changing that trajectory. He generously offered detailed insider tips on how to successfully pitch a business no matter the venue. Have a listen.

20:07 - 20:14

You know, Brandon, with with you having a front row seat to people's entrepreneurial dreams, we think the audience will benefit.

20:14 - 20:16

From you.

20:16 - 20:23

Sharing a list of the do's and don'ts with respect to putting themselves in position to be successful.

20:23 - 20:50

Yes. So when it comes to pitching of business, here's what I'm always looking for. And I think these pieces apply. Whether you're pitching your business on a TV show like Shark Tank or Bet on Black or you're pitching in a pitch competition, or even if you're just sharing your company with a group of potential consumers. So the first thing I'm always looking for is passion. Looking for passionate entrepreneurs.

20:50 - 21:42

So passion can come out in two ways. I think one way is how you physically present yourself, your tone of voice, your intonation. You know, people come on TV shows and do backflips and cartwheels and they bring live animals on that coupon set and all kinds of stuff to try to differentiate themselves from everybody else. But passion can also just be the story that you tell. It can be, Hey, I had this issue. I had this problem growing up. Now, as an adult, I found a solution to this problem. And now I want to grow this business to help other people who were similarly affected by whatever this issue was. The second thing is, you got to tell us what the problem is or either how you are improving someone's life. If you have a cupcake business, maybe you're not solving a critical global issue, but you're delivering happiness, you're improving people's lives.

21:42 - 22:19

Next is the solution. So tell us what it is that you're actually creating, what it is that you're actually delivering to market. And the next thing is the market opportunity. So how big do you think this community is of people that may be interested in this thing that you are creating? How have you reached them to date? How do you plan to reach them in the future? And how many of them do you think you can reach, especially if you are looking for capital? If you get that capital, how many of these people do you think you're going to be able to reach? And what does that mean in terms of your business model? What does that mean in terms of what you're going to be able to generate in terms of revenue for the company?

22:19 - 23:07

Traction is the next thing, and that's simply the story of how you got from where you started with the. Idea to where we're at today, whatever their story is, fractured can come out in multiple ways. And the next thing is the ask and believe it or not to ask is one of the biggest issues that we have at casting calls for any of the shows that I've worked on. People will come in, they'll be passionate, they'll talk about the problem, the solution, the market opportunity, how they're reaching people, their business model, and they'll talk about the traction, so how they got to where they are today. But then they'll try to leave the room without making an ask when the whole point is for entrepreneurs to put themselves in a position to get resources from potential investors or from a potential capital resource.

23:07 - 23:35

And so don't forget to ask and make sure that you have an ask that's appropriate for whatever audience you're in front of as you're thinking about your asks. And though sometimes people have an issue assigning a value to something that they've created, you got to look yourself in the mirror and say, Hey, I'm valuable, whatever I'm creating is valuable. And so when I'm pitching my business, I'm trading value for value with either these customers, with these business partners, with these potential investors. And I think if you do that, it'll set you up on a path for success.

23:35 - 23:56

We were thrilled to connect with Ebonie Simpson, the co-executive director of the Lower East Side Girls Club. Ebonie proudly refers to the Girls Club as a dream incubator. And from the sounds of it, that's very accurate. Through Access and Opportunity, this disruptive nonprofit is changing the trajectory of historically disenfranchised lives each and every day.

23:57 - 24:12

Upon visiting Ebonie at the Lower East Side Girls Club, I quickly learned that it's not your average community center. But for our listeners who are not familiar with the organization and what you do, can you provide us a little overview of your service and the club and how it operates?

24:13 - 24:41

Yes, the Lower East Side Girls Club is an independent nonprofit founded in 1986 by a group of moms who recognized there was a dramatic lack of services for young women on the Lower East Side and decided to do something about it. There are three boys club in the Lower East Side, and so, like I said, there was nothing for girls. And the community is rich with incredibly talented brown and black young people and they decided, let's do something about that.

24:41 - 25:25

So 25 years later, we're now globally recognized as a nonprofit that is providing innovative services for young women to the expense of youth of color. All across New York City, we have a 35,000 square foot facility that our founders built from the ground up, literally advocated for six empty lots of land on the Lower East Side to be developed to build this incredible facility. So it's incredibly unique and it's a safe haven. And what I like to call and make you better, that allows our young women to really recognize and realize all other potential and have access to all the resources to really discover their passions and really make a change in the world.

25:25 - 25:58

We have a planetarium, which is probably our homeless element is a 30 foot dome planetarium that features everything that the museum in Natural History of Planetarium has. We offer those services for free to mass effect girls, but to the entire community of schools and students. And we have a rooftop garden. We call it a farm because it truly is a farm where the cultivate and grow all types of plants. And then we have a full culinary kitchen that allows them to really explore healthy eating and nutrition hands on.

25:58 - 26:46

And the space also has an incredible lab for art studios, for sound studio, for music production, podcasting and deejaying. They also have our own TV show. We also have a full sewing and design studio, Astrophotography Studio Lab for Entrepreneurship and Design product development, and they also have their own store where they sell a lot of their handmade natural products. There's so much more in the space and the girls literally get to explore every single avenue. And what's also really cool about the Girls Club is we really are big on collaborations, partnerships. And so we have partnerships not only across the city but across the country and even internationally. So I guess I got really amazing opportunities to explore social justice and art and activism.

26:46 - 26:59

I am a hashtag girl dad, so I really appreciate the intentionality that's given to black and brown girls so they can be amazing women.

26:59 - 27:58

We certainly finish 2022 with a bang last month with our conversation with Lanny Smith, the founder of Actively Black. Not only is Lanny’s premium athleisure brand outfitting a movement, Lanny himself is also a master Manifester Trust me, I'm still taking notes. You've created more than an apparel brand. It really is a call to action. It's a movement. It's. It's a. Form of protest in some ways, right, in that you're kind of breaking the barriers and the moulds that we've been fit into as a people and saying, this is who we are and this is our table. And that's that's so inspiring. And I heard that actively, Black is projected to have over $10 million in sales this year, which is incredible. Congratulations. But beyond that, you have major fans like Daymond John. Michelle Obama posted a picture in your apparel on Instagram. Barack was seen wearing your watch. I mean, I don't know if you can get much bigger than that.

27:59 - 27:59


27:59 - 28:20

After running actively black for, you know, a couple of years now and seeing your brand take off with these major not just influencers but icons in our culture. What has it been like for you to see something that you started basically in your mother's garage and is now featured on the global stage?

28:20 - 28:45

I go back and forth between these being surreal moments that are hard to truly grasp and also knowing that. This is what I expected and this is what I planned for and this is what I envisioned. Because as crazy as it sounds, everything that you have that you have mentioned, I actually wrote down before.

28:45 - 29:35

And so during that ideation phase, when I was trying to figure out, okay, you know, you do some of those things when you're trying to figure out your business plan and all that kind of stuff, like who is your target audience? You know, how do you plan to reach them? You know, for me, it was, you know, looking at who did I want to get actively black to If I could choose the perfect brand ambassadors for Actively black, who would those people be? And I wrote Barack and Michelle Obama down on this notepad. You know, I mean, I wrote down Daymond John on his notepad. I wrote these things down. So I veer back and forth between like, Man, I can't believe this is happening and this is what was written. This is what is supposed to happen. And walking in that manifestation and walking in that faith, I'm walking in this vision that was given to me.

29:36 - 30:10

So it shouldn't be surprising, but it's still humbling. It's still so very humbling. I got an opportunity to meet President Barack Obama a couple of weeks ago and to be able to shake his hand and for him to. It specifically mentioned the brand. Right. And that he was proud to see what actually Black was doing. That was a crazy moment. Is still humbling to know that this is actually happening. You know what I mean? And that people on all into the spectrum are interacting with and being impacted by this brand.

30:11 - 30:15

And that's a wrap. We hope you enjoy this special year and recap.

30:15 - 30:37

We'd love to hear from you, so please email your thoughts, questions, or any feedback to diverse markets at Bernstein dot com. Be sure to share, subscribe and rate us on Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts and check us out on Twitter at Bernstein. IWM There's much more in store for you in 2023. So until then, happy Holidays and Happy New Year.

The information presented and opinions expressed are solely the views of the podcast host commentator and their guest speaker(s). AllianceBernstein L.P. or its affiliates makes no representations or warranties concerning the accuracy of any data. There is no guarantee that any projection, forecast or opinion in this material will be realized. Past performance does not guarantee future results. The views expressed here may change at any time after the date of this podcast. This podcast is for informational purposes only and does not constitute investment advice. AllianceBernstein L.P. does not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. It does not take an investor’s personal investment objectives or financial situation into account; investors should discuss their individual circumstances with appropriate professionals before making any decisions. This information should not be construed as sales or marketing material or an offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any financial instrument, product or service sponsored by AllianceBernstein or its affiliates.

Related Insights