Meet the Black Angeleno Entrepreneurs Featured in Pharrell Williams, Jay-Z's New Video

"I am Black ambition, I am always whisperin'," begins the new Pharrell Williams and Jay-Z collaboration, "Entrepreneur."

The song, released on Thursday to coincide with a Time magazine cover package on "The New American Revolution," is a tribute to the Black entrepreneurs across the world who push on in the face of systematic disadvantages.

Williams and Jay-Z, both entrepreneurs and investors themselves, use the video to highlight Black founders and their hustle from Adé Neff, owner of Ride On in Leimert Park, to Denise Woodward, the founder of Partake Food, which Jay-Z's Marcy Venture Partners help lead a $1 million investment.


"They keep telling me I will not," the lyrics continue. "But my will won't listen."

Directed by L.A.-based Calmatic, who produced Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road" video as well as commercials for companies like Uber and Sprite, the video spotlights several Los Angeles startups, founders and entrepreneurs that have created opportunities and upended typical media narratives of Black men and women.

There's actress Issa Rae, who filmed her first web series on the streets of L.A. and is "literally building her empire on those same blocks."

There's Debbie Allen, the founder of Tribe Midwifery that provides home births for Black women, who are more likely than white women to die of pregnancy-related complications. There's the Compton Cowboys, whose South L.A. group mentors youth and rescues horses. There's Six Sev, a Los Angeles artist, designer and entrepreneur. And there's also a tribute to slain rapper and entrepreneur Nipsey Hussle, who spent his investment dollars in South Los Angeles.

Then there's Sole Folks, the South L.A. retail incubator for young designers, part of accelerator Grid110's South L.A. 2020 cohort. The outfit offers a program for young designers and artists in nearby communities and operates under the nonprofit Back Owned and Operated Community Land Trust. It runs a 12-week program for millennial entrepreneurs to source, brand and launch their own designs at pop-up shows.

The music video comes amid a push to create more capital for Black-owned businesses in the wake of the George Floyd protests that forced a conversation on longstanding inequities.

Black Americans make up nearly 13% of the U.S. population, but account for only 3% of its wealth. There are only three Black CEOs in the Fortune 500, and just 1% of venture-funded startup founders are Black.

The song and its chorus, "Black Man, Black Man," is a call for more ownership and in turn more wealth creation.

The over five-minute video gives a panorama view of Black entrepreneurs around the world and those who excel in their field with captioned clips of their stories: Princeton's first Black valedictorian, creators of the first Black anime studio in Japan, a woman who started her own line of household cleaning products and a Broadway star who bought the plantation where his ancestors were once enslaved.

Adé Neff, whose bike shop Ride On opened in 2017, walked by the "Entrepreneur" filming crew two weeks ago, right after they finished shooting the clip of Sole Folks next door.

"How come I'm not in the video?," he said to the crew.

That's all it took.

Adé E. Neff, founder of Ride On! Bike Shop/Co-Op in Leimert Park.

"Well you're right, let's do it," they told him. "It was right on time," Neff reflected, "because they hadn't put away their equipment."

Neff didn't know whose project it was, or even when the video would be released. He asked anyway. "A closed mouth doesn't get fed," he quipped. The whole thing took about 10 minutes.

On Thursday, a friend sent Neff the clip. In the video, he raises his right fist above his head just like the store's logo behind him. "I was just being me," he told dot.LA. The gesture is a nod to the Black Power movement.

Adé E. Neff, founder of Ride On! Bike Shop/Co-Op in Leimert Park.

His friends are still texting him about it. In Leimert Park, people who know Neff's shop stop him on the street saying "I saw you in the video."

"It looks like it's getting a lot of talk behind it. It's doing its thing," Neff said. "It's letting people know that we're out here, we're doing stuff. We don't have to wait for anyone to come to us. We're out here doing it."

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Lyre wants to sell Americans on clear-headed drinking with their faux bourbon and other mocktail spirits. The Australian-based company set up North American offices in Los Angeles last year and has aggressively sought to make a mark in the Golden State. And it seems to be working; the company just raised $11.5 million.

Lyre has hitched its success to the growing "sober curious" movement, focusing on health-conscious consumers with its dry month challenges. About 60% of the company's sales come from the United States and it's increasingly looking for tastemakers in Southern California to help build its brand.

"We believed that there was significant latent demand in the U.S. market for consumers looking for a sophisticated non-alcoholic alternative," said Christian Butler, Lyre's Los Angeles-based senior vice president in an email response. Some bars in Los Angeles have adopted the mocktail, a trend that he hopes will influence the rest of the country.

Founders Mark Livings and Carl Hartmann created the non-alcoholic drink line in 2016 catering to those who might be left out in social settings where booze is flowing. Lyre's mission is driven by a focus on health and lifestyle, allowing consumers to enjoy the best of both worlds while being responsible.

"Our business anticipates and matches the trends of the consumer and culture and our current product innovation is being developed to match alcohol spirit flavors and styles," said co-founder Livings in the announcing statement.

The seed round will be divided into three tranches and be distributed over the next 12 months. The company is backed by Doehler Ventures, DLF Venture, Maropost Ventures with several European, American and Australian family offices and also HNWI participating.

Lyre has a line of 12 fake alcoholic beverages, from amaretto to gin and rum, that are sold at Bevmo, Amazon, at some Los Angeles bars and directly online. The drinks aren't cheap at $35.99 for a 700 ml bottle.

Although the pandemic depressed sales, the company said since January it has seen a monthly 400% recurring revenue growth. The recent raise will allow Lyre's products to expand their market reach as they set to launch an Italian Spritz in the U.S. market later this year and develop a line of ready-to-drink mocktails like gin and tonic or bourbon and cola.

According to a report by Nielson, the non-alcoholic beer market had an increase of 3.4% in the last year. Lyre's also looking to compete by expanding to other countries.They are currently available in Australia, New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Singapore, China and throughout Europe.

"The next year demarcates our business evolution from a start-up to a true multi-national beverage company, with manufacturing in multiple, global locations, compliance for new markets, and continued recruitment firmly at the top of our task list," said Hartmann in the announcing statement.

Kelly Rutherford is an activist and actress who has impressed audiences with her roles in "Melrose Place," "Gossip Girl," and most recently, "Dynasty" and "Pretty Little Liars."

Rutherford is also known for her very high-profile and public custody battle she had with her ex-husband. A California judge went on to rule that it was in the best interest of the kids to live with their father in Monaco which is something she fought for six years, eventually going bankrupt. The fight for her kids impacted her not only emotionally but also financially, and it was at this point that she had to rebuild her life from the ground up.

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As Santa Monica prepares to shutdown its five-year-old, city-run shared bike service, Lyft will roll out a fleet of hundreds of electric bikes, beginning Tuesday.

The new ebikes will be docked at the city's existing 80 bike rental stations and cost $1 to unlock plus 34 cents per minute to ride. That compares to the city's Breeze Bike Share program started in 2015, which cost 12 cents a minute after a $1 initial drop.

Breeze was the first shared bike system in L.A. County, but once competitors such as Bird, Lyft, and Lime came to town, Breeze lost marketshare and ran a deficit that city leaders were not keen to subsidize. Last month, the city's bike share coordinator Kyle Kazar said with Santa Monica financially strapped by the pandemic, the city would permanently close Breeze and turn bike sharing over to the private sector.

When stay-at-home orders took effect this year, Santa Monica saw shared mobility ridership plummet by 94% between February and April. Lime and Jump terminated their operations, leaving Lyft and the hometown unicorn, Bird, as the only operators.

Since then demand has increased, especially as riders have favored micro mobility over crowded buses and trains. Bird and Lyft have returned their e-scooter fleet sizes back to 750 each and Lyft will roll out the 500 ebikes.

Lyft already rents ebikes in Columbus, Minneapolis, San Francisco, San Jose, New York, Washington D.C., Chicago and Portland.

The electric bikes are available in Santa Monica but can be ridden and left as far away as West Los Angeles, so long as the rider attaches the bicycle to a public bike rack when done. Otherwise, they must be returned to a Breeze station.

"I couldn't be more excited to see Lyft launch its new ebike program in Santa Monica," Mayor Pro Tem Terry O'Day said in a statement. "Our future depends on sustainable, active transportation like ebikes. They reduce our carbon footprint and increase accessibility for the entire community."

For those who still want to try the city's Breeze program, rides are free until the city pulls those bikes off the road November 11. The city's equipment will be sold or recycled in the coming months.

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