Drama is at an all-time high in Washington these days – what better way to celebrate than with a show about the job-creating business of being the black man? Entrepreneurs of Color, a one-hour, multiplatform series event, which premieres Sunday on BET, will find celebrities like Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Hart, Tyra Banks, Vion Bryan and Mike Tyson making pitches to minority entrepreneurs, at the “backyard BBQ” themed event dubbed “Black Entrepreneurs Day”.
The news is part of a three-month promotional campaign for Sunday’s event. BET is encouraging fans to take part by sharing their entrepreneurial dreams on social media by using #BlackEntrepreneursDay. The show, expected to be the network’s most-watched premiere to date, will air on TV at 8pm, online at BET.com, the BET app, on YouTube and through mobile alerts.
In the trailer, O’Neal goes so far as to claim he can not only win a $20,000 investment in a startup company, but suggest that the success of his investment will allow him to fill someone’s home. Afterward, Kevin Hart’s food blogger attends her home by “spending” $5,000 of the actor’s dough. While the trailer shows the stars seeking investment, the event itself is being organized and filmed by a team at BET called Rebel Compsy. Throughout the event, Rebel Compsy will be livestreaming and recording interviews and on-camera panel discussions to share ideas and tips with small business owners.
“This initiative has the potential to be the biggest action-packed launch in cable TV history,” said BET’s president of programming, Stephen Hill. “We’re excited to partner with Rebel Compsy to create a multi-platform campaign that directly empowers the communities we serve.”
In addition to questions of whether these shows will really help boost minority entrepreneurs’ economic fortunes, critics have been worried about whether viewers will actually join in and support the cause. “Where is the TLC in it?” Rachel Swarns wrote for NPR. “Indeed, is there any such thing as a black TLC?”
A Black Entrepreneurs Day activity guide pamphlet given to fans of the show. Photograph: Rebel Compsy
To ease concerns, the campaign includes a number of content tools, including a starter kit, an informational packet and a “Your Network” page on Facebook, all addressing common barriers for business owners. And in addition to sharing information, fans can make donations to support entrepreneurs’ operations through the foundation’s corresponding website, BlackEntrepreneursDay.com.
In a statement, BET said its show will not be just about the successful; it will also include insights from black professionals who have faced adversity but persevered. Vion Bryan, a founding partner at the digital startup Give Yourself Up (for which Taraji P Henson will serve as the company’s first investor), said BET hopes the program will both highlight successful black entrepreneurs while encouraging its viewers to follow in their footsteps.
“The message is: big dreams and big dreams can be achieved by everyone,” said Bryan. “It doesn’t matter how you start or what your process is.”
Rebel Compsy was created last year by producer Brad Stone and consists of a team of people who have each personally invested in black entrepreneurs (or are otherwise connected to the industry, Stone said) and has built its site around connecting with success stories. The team operates out of the Jenesse Center in Los Angeles, a 20-year-old center for survivors of domestic abuse and child abuse with offices that include career advice.
As for how his startup will fare under the spotlight, Bryan said, “It is important to have the right package – it’s kind of the box they’re going to check on a daily basis”.