The 4th annual Invest Fest, which will be held in Atlanta, Georgia, is set to take place on Aug. 23-25. The event is a three-day conference where attendees can learn from experts of cryptocurrency, stocks, real estate, taxes, and more. You can expect to be surrounded by successful entrepreneurs and investors who can share their wisdom with anyone ready to take that next step for themselves in business or finance. This year’s lineup includes Steve Harvey, Don Peebles, Daymond John, Stephen A. Smith, 50 Cent and Pinky Cole, to name a few.

Outside of the discussions, Invest Fest is an opportunity for people to connect with industry trailblazers, network with other business owners, and even pitch their business ideas for a cash prize. The program is sticking to its mission by committing to entrepreneurship and supporting an inspiring business owner with the Nipsey Hussle Business Grant. In partnership with Microsoft and The Marathon, one lucky winner could receive $100,000 toward scaling their business.

REVOLT sat down and spoke with Rashad Bilal, CEO of Earn Your Leisure, where he shared more about the business grant, his hopes for what this means for other brands, and advice for young entrepreneurs out there. Check out the exclusive conversation below.

How did the partnership with The Marathon come about?

We kept in communication with Nipsey’s brother, Blacc Sam, ever since we interviewed him on the show [in 2023]. That was a big episode for us. So, you know, when we were putting together the Invest Fest lineup, I definitely wanted The Marathon to be a part of it in some capacity. The first idea was to have The Marathon as a pop-up shop. But Sam wanted to do something more impactful than just have merch there. So, I just thought we should have a pitch competition. I proposed it to The Marathon team, and they liked it. After that, we spoke with Microsoft, and they also agreed to provide some funding for it. So that was helpful.

How does The Marathon align with Earn Your Leisure’s mission and the goals for events like Invest Fest?

It's like a direct correlation. Nip was a big inspiration for us. He was somebody that we wanted to talk to when we first started Earn Your Leisure. Obviously, we never got a chance to do it. But everything that he embodied as far as entrepreneurship and independence, he believed in starting from the bottom and building it up brick by brick. That's like what The Marathon embodies to this day. Entrepreneurship, being self-made, and having ownership are all principles that are very important to our allegiance to Invest Fest. So, I felt like they were a perfect brand to be represented.

Will you tell us more about the pitch competition?

The competition is open now until Aug. 1. Anybody with an Invest Fest ticket can apply, as we have an online submission. We also have a social media campaign running. We're probably going to pick around 100 to 150 people. A hundred of them we will pick online, and then around 50 walk-ins. Almost 200 people will get a chance to audition for us in person like it’s “American Idol” on that Friday. We'll break it up into different rooms, and they'll get a minute or two minutes to pitch their business and sell themselves. The winning four will move on to Saturday, where they will present on the main stage to us and The Marathon team. The winner out of those four will be presented with the grant.

What are the rules attendees must follow to win the Nipsey Hussle business grant?

They must have a ticket, fill out the online submission form, and make an Instagram video. Other than that, there are not too many more rules. We encourage everybody to be prepared to have a PowerPoint presentation. You don't have to have the presentation in your Instagram post or anything like that. But if you make it to the final round or something, that's a requirement that you're going to have to have, like a visual. So that's important, but other than that, we don't want to put too many rules into it. It's open.

After the lucky person wins the competition, will their business receive mentorship or additional support from the sponsors? If so, what kind?

Perhaps. But we're still working on that. We will be in contact with them. And I'm sure they'll probably end up on an episode of Earn Your Leisure to talk about their experience. That'll help them grow their brand off the exposure. But yeah, I'm working on what ongoing mentorship looks like after that.

Does the business have to be in a particular industry?

We didn't really have the competition area specific. It could be a technology company, an apparel company, or a nonprofit organization. We opened it up. We wanted to have as many businesses and entrepreneurs included as possible.

Does the business have to be active for a certain amount of time, or does it have to prove any profit it has made?

Nope. There are no requirements for that at all.

Do you think this grant will help with the current state of VC funding for Black businesses?

Hopefully. That's one of the things that, you know, we definitely need more of. This grant is one thing, but just being able to put your business on a big scale and have it in front of thousands of people at Invest Fest will create more media coverage. This could lead to other types of pitch competitions and other people having different ideas, sparking a new way of funding for entrepreneurs.

Is there hope that this partnership encourages other brands and companies to support Black entrepreneurs?

I think it's important to fund Black businesses and work with entrepreneurs. This can lead to not only other big brands working with entrepreneurs but smaller companies as well, right? I mean, someone who can give a $5,000 or a $10,000 grant. Everything helps an entrepreneur who's trying to start their business.

What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs taking that leap and putting their ideas out there?

You have to have your idea fully thought out. Being able to communicate the business to others is important. A lot of times, people think about ideas, but they don't actually have a business plan. They haven’t tested it or put it on the market yet. So, having an idea is one thing, but formulating it and packaging it is another. So, I definitely would encourage everybody to take the time to put together a business plan and see how much capital you think it will really cost. Who would you need to hire? What are the challenges? Who's your competition? Put together all of those things, and then I think you'll have a more realistic idea and understand the possibilities of your business.