Pharrell’s Mighty Dream Forum

Reflections on Pharrell Williams’ Mighty Dream Forum promoting minority entrepreneurship
Photo Courtesy of Jemal Countess/Getty Image

Something in the Water is returning to Virginia Beach,” announced Pharrell Williams on the main stage of his Mighty Dream Forum that took place in Norfolk over three days this past November. What was a quiet and focused audience just a moment before transformed into an enraptured, loud and lively crowd, cheering about the return of the multi-day entertainment festival. The news made major headlines within seconds and Mighty Dream ticket holders learned that they will also be receiving a free pass.

Despite the excitement surrounding the announcement, the Grammy-winning producer, entrepreneur and Virginia Beach native actually brought the Mighty Dream Forum to Norfolk to provide networking opportunities and address major topics to help uplift and support entrepreneurs from marginalized communities. The event was hosted by Edelman and Williams’ advocacy agency Black Ambition, which also featured “Pull Up & Pitch” contests sponsored by UPS in which entrepreneurs could pitch their business ideas for the chance to win monetary awards.

A total of $2.5 million was awarded throughout the week to various minority entrepreneurs. On the final evening of the forum, Williams and Black Ambition’s CEO Felicia Hatcher hosted “Dinner with a Purpose,” taking the stage to announce the top three award recipients. Pound Cake Cosmetics, an all-inclusive lipstick brand, won the grand prize of $1 million. The second-place prize winner was SkiiMoo Tech, a research, science, technology and engineering firm focused on niche markets, and the social app The Move was the official HBCU Grand Prize Winner.

However, money wasn’t the only thing changing lives that week. Some of the biggest names in business and entertainment, like Pusha T, Maverick Carter, Hannibal Burress, Lewis Hamilton and Leland Melvin, connected with business owners to strengthen the contributions of minority entrepreneurs for current and future generations. Major topics like education, buying Black, Black innovation in tech, racial and financial equity and much more were addressed through panel discussions and TED Talk style presentations.

“You need people,” explained Maverick Carter in his segment, “A Conversation with Mav Carter,” which mainly reflected on his partnership with LeBron James and their business, SpringHill Entertainment. “You need partners, and it is so important to be user friendly.” Carter emphasized that being someone who can work with all types of people and constantly finding ways to tell a story is the key to success.

Another notably important message from the forum was the importance of community, funding and collective commitment. During the session “Ignite the Mighty,” Hatcher moderated Williams, Ayana Green of UPS, Nataki Williams of Guardian and Danny Robinson and Shelley Stewart III of McKinsey to empower entrepreneurs and remind them that no mighty dream is too big. The panel mentioned the strength behind community, whether it is from a consumer standpoint or a business standpoint.

“Buying Black is a great way to support these entrepreneurs,” one panelist mentioned. “However, it needs to go beyond just shopping for the holidays—it needs to be all year round.”

Black Ambition, Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Greenwood Initiative and the Racial Wealth Equity Database Team also addressed this in their segment, “Working toward Racial Wealth Equity,” emphasizing the optimization of informed decision-making among consumers. While shoppers are encouraged to buy Black, it isn’t always easy to know the faces behind a brand. Their advice to minority entrepreneurs was to showcase your background through more diverse representation, inclusive products suitable for all ethnicities and strong, relatable marketing.

In an exclusive interview with Coastal Virginia Magazine, Joyce Parente, VP of Marketing at The Guardian US, emphasized that “there is power in creative risk taking and storytelling.” Reflecting on changes she has noticed within the world of entrepreneurship, an increase in storytelling was the one that stood out the most. She also mentioned that she has seen a shift in financial institutions, acknowledging that “the fidelities of the world have already started to target young people by offering resources on how to be a young business owner.”

Parente’s biggest token of advice for new entrepreneurs was to “find a champion, a mentor, an advocate to guide you through, find more creative funding like investor groups and embrace the right platforms.”

Learn more about the Mighty Dream Forum at Learn more about Something in the Water at

Kelsey Thomas
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