Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Financial Empowerment: Hip-Hop mogul Russell Simmons raps on serving the unbanked

Philanthropist and author Russell Simmons built the Phat Farm fashion empire into a revenue generator that topped $300 million and he managed rap stars before hip-hop was a lucrative genre within the music industry. Yet, he saw what he describes as a "white space" that no one was cultivating, while others saw these artists as risky. (Photo credit to Gerald Janssen)

Simmons took the leap and formed Def Jam Records in the 1980s, bringing into the mainstream hip-hop greats such as The Beastie Boys, Whodini, Public Enemy, LL Cool J, Ludacris, DMX, Jay-Z and his brother, Joseph Simmons or "Run" from the group Run DMC.

He spoke with me briefly Tuesday, during a stop along his bus tour in New Haven. Simmons visited with more than 800 students at James Hillhouse High School, followed by a reception and book signing at The Rodrick Gilchrist Fashion House in the Westville neighborhood.

In his latest book "Super Rich: A Guide to Having It All," Simmons we don't need money or toys to be happy.

"So rather than any state of material abundance, Super Rich actually refers to living in a state of consciousness where you're able to see the miracles of life unfolding in front of you all the time," the 'godfather of hip-hop' says. "That's right, when you're Super Rich you'll be able to see that happiness is actually a state of needing nothing."

Listen below as he expounds on how entrepreneurship has enabled him to both fill a societal need and satisfy personal passions "There's always something missing," he says, among other things:




One of Simmons' latest endeavors is UniRush Financial Services, a company that provides pre-paid debit cards, money transfer services and helps consumers with building credit histories, as well as creating and managing personal budgets.

Just as he previously noticed voids in the music and fashion industries and established businesses to address them, Simmons felt compassion for the unbanked and developed online services to help them achieve financial literacy, while providing tools that enable them to better manage their finances.

Listen to him talk about how that evolved here:


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