Celebratory events surrounding the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington began a little over a week ago as leaders in the entrepreneurial and investment communities gathered for Kingonomics in Washington DC hosted by Dr. Rodney Sampson. Dr. Sampson, author of Kingnomics: Twelve Innovative Currencies for Transforming Your Business and Life, took the vision from his book inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. and translated it into a conference that would promote business growth and spur encouragement to all communities towards closing the wealth gap. With less than 3% of venture capital going towards women owned and operated enterprises and less than 1% invested in African American businesses, Dr. Sampson saw a need for action to help minority owned business to thrive. Though civil rights have progressed dramatically in 50 years, there still remains a heavy agenda to educate minorities and promote an innovative movement.
The Kingonomics events started with a book signing including “March” by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin and Bob Adelman’s “I Have a Dream” photo journal capturing one of the most iconic images taken when Dr. King made his famous speech. The evening began as VIP attendees such as the Congressional leader of the Black Caucus and the producer of ABC’s Shark Tank gathered in their best attire. Devin Thorpe of Forbes hosted the black tie gala where John Lewis gave a captivating speech followed by Rodney Sampson’s inspirational message to attendees. Several influential leaders were honored including celebrity life coach and speaker Ron Kardashian. The gala ended with several photos taken and business cards exchanged before many retired to prepare for the Kingonomics conference the next day. Though the gala had concluded, Kingonomics stayed alive and well throughout the night as budding entrepreneurs lined up outside of the convention center hoping to be one of the first to pitch ABC’s Shark Tank at the open casting call the next morning.
As conference panelists and attendees arrived to the Kingonomics conference the next morning, they were greeted with a Shark Tank casting call line that wrapped around the building. Inside, Leverage PR prepared Dr. Rodney Sampson to be personally greeted with press including Black Enterprise, Washington Post, ABC News, Politico and many other web, TV and radio outlets. Shortly after several interviews, Dr. Sampson kicked things off and invited a financial expert panel to open the day’s educational tips and insights. Presenters included Judy Robinett, board advisor to several funds including Illuminate VC, Pereg VC, and a mentor for organizations such as the Pipeline Foundation and Goldman Sachs 1000 startups and Chris Tyrell Managing Director of Nehemiah Investments. Judy Robinett gave some great advice on how fear can prevent entrepreneurs from taking a leap of faith towards success.
As the panel concluded, attendees were encouraged to choose a bootcamp where celebrity guest Mark Cuban joined Invest.Up along with Alon Goren of InvestedIn. Social media response exploded with many thanking Cuban for his sound advice. In addition to Invest.Up, Crowd.Up was heavily attended featuring Joy Schoffler of Leverage PR and Sang Lee of Return on Change. Joy Schoffler emphasized the importance of engaging with your connections when preparing for a crowdfunding campaign. She also encouraged attendees to begin preparing for Title 3. After of session of Q&A, the bootcamps concluded and everyone prepared for the powerful closing ceremony ahead.
A standing ovation began the closing ceremony as Trayvon Martin’s parents joined Rodney Sampson for a captivating interview. Sabrina Fulton shared her dreams for her son and talked about his entrepreneurial spirit. Dr. Sampson wrapped up the interview with the highly influential quote, “It is our greatest pain that leads to the greatest innovation.” FUBU Founder and Shark Tank investor Daymond John was welcomed onto the stage next sharing his entrepreneurial story and leaving the audience with great sources of inspiration like “Be pro black but not anti anyone else.” Crowdfunding pioneer David Weild also joined the stage to speak on capital markets before the last panel featuring Mark Cuban conversing over modern civil rights.
Those that were lucky enough to join the conference in DC that day or had the opportunity to live stream the event left feeling inspired, motivated and empowered. The success of the conference rapidly illustrated itself as over 800 attendees participated, 400 Shark Tank auditions were conducted, business deals were facilitated, and 30 media hits accumulated mentioning Kingonomics and the 50thanniversary of the March on Washington. With these powerful events modeled after Dr. King’s own heart, it is evident that entrepreneurs across the nation will continue to innovate and improve the world we live in.