March 25, 2022

The Business of Black Leadership 2022: Christopher Bridges

City National Bank is proud to sponsor the Business of Black Leadership, an annual event that features a prominent Black leader in conversation regarding their business, philanthropic ventures, community engagement and approach to building wealth.

The 2022 event, held in February, featured a three-way virtual conversation.

Nwaka Onwusa, the chief curator of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, returned to moderate the conversation between Christopher Bridges, also known as Ludacris, and Jini Thornton. She's the first Black curator of the Rock & Hall of Fame, developing immersive and informative exhibits that celebrate the diversity of musical expression.

Bridges is known globally as Ludacris, a moniker he used to launch his rap career over two decades ago. Besides earning three Grammys and having multiple platinum albums, Bridges has fostered a prolific acting career. He recently created and produced the animated Netflix series “Karma's World," which is entering its second season.

Thornton is a CPA with over 26 years of experience in the accounting profession and entertainment industry. As the founder and CEO of Envision Business Management Group, Thornton has had the opportunity to lead the financial lives of amazing talent and entrepreneurs, including Bridges, over the span of her career.

She is currently the financial expert for three nationally syndicated radio shows, including “The Rickey Smiley Morning Show," “The Morning Hustle" and “The Willie Moore, Jr. Show." She is also featured regularly on several television networks.

Financial education has always been important to Thornton, which inspired her to create Thank Me Later, an online financial literacy platform that empowers professional Black women to confidently take control of their money and prepare for life events.

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Bridges on Developing Karma's World

For Bridges, “Karma's World" is truly a passion project. The show took 14 years – and a heavy investment of personal time and money – to develop. A self-proclaimed “girl dad" with four daughters, Bridges credited inspiration for the show to his daughter Karma, who is now 20 years old. He explained that seeing her eagerness in the studio while recording his albums revealed the importance of fostering a creative spirit in young people.

“It's a dream come true," Bridges said. “It's just one of those stories of persistence and never giving up on your dreams. I think every time I had another daughter, it kind of reinvigorated me."

The show focuses on issues that children face while growing up. Through the show's titular character, Bridges wanted to depict a person that was relatable for his children. He wanted her to look like them and have the same experiences they did as young Black people.

“In the world of social media today and constant comparisons going on, I just wanted to be the change that I felt like the world needed to see," Bridges said.

The Importance of Finding the Right Team

When it comes to finding the right team, Bridges described two experiences.

First, he noted how important it is to find the right people to bring a vision to life. He described how it took the right team of animators who were willing to create characters reflective of the real world's diversity. By exercising patience for over a decade, Bridges was able to find the people who could bring his true vision to life – possibly the most important return on his investment.

Second, he stressed how important having the right financial advisor is. For Bridges, finding advisors who are willing to have faith in a personal vision is crucial, especially when that faith is tested after 14 years of pouring money into a show with no immediate return.

Bridges credited trust as being the key to buying the time a project needs for success and the factor that has enabled him to take risks throughout his career.

Bridges' Advice to Entrepreneurs

From acting to rapping, Bridges has demonstrated that he has an entrepreneurial spirit. His advice for young entrepreneurs? Use any platform that you're currently on to reach your goals.

“Whatever platform or position that I'm at currently, I'm only using that as a platform to get to the next platform," Bridges explained. “I never wanted to be a radio personality, I always wanted to be, you know, in music. Then, when I became Ludacris, I pivoted that to be in movies."

Thornton, a longtime accountant for Bridges, has had a front-row view on his evolving career. She believes the key to Bridges' success is his ability to constantly focus on business no matter what his surroundings or challenges are.

“It is about passion, it is about making art, but we do this to make money and we do this to make an impact," Thornton said. “We can never lose sight of that business."

Watch the full event above to hear more of this year's conversation. If you'd like to stay updated with the latest cultural discussions, financial news and more, sign up for City National's newsletter here.

This article is for general information and education only. It is provided as a courtesy to the clients and friends of City National Bank (City National). City National does not warrant that it is accurate or complete. Opinions expressed and estimates or projections given are those of the authors or persons quoted as of the date of the article with no obligation to update or notify of inaccuracy or change. This article may not be reproduced, distributed or further published by any person without the written consent of City National. Please cite source when quoting. 

This presentation is for general information and education only. It is provided as a courtesy to the clients and friends of City National Bank (City National). City National does not warrant that it is accurate or complete. Opinions expressed and estimates or projections given are as of the date of the presentation with no obligation to update or notify of inaccuracy or change. This presentation may not be reproduced, distributed or further published by any person without the written consent of City National. Please cite source when quoting.

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