Giving back and helping as many people as possible generates great rewards. Acts of kindness and philanthropic endeavors are no strangers to our guest today, Ryan Long, the Founder of City Summit and Global Unity Foundation. As Dani Behr and Tara Joseph interview him, he passionately talks about his life journey from being a depressed kid to a successful entrepreneur doing businesses with some of the world’s most altruistic artists. A determined and ambitious guy, he also discusses how he does his job with pure passion. His opinion on how he and celebrities are taking their charities seriously explain the genuineness of what they do for the world and those in need.
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Founding City Summit, Working With Celebrities, And Giving Back To The World With Ryan Long
Our guest has spent nearly his entire career giving back and helping other people through the amazing philanthropic and charitable work that he does. Beloved by some of the biggest stars in the world, his honesty and generosity. Please welcome, Ryan Long.
Thank you for having me, I appreciate that. I do want to preface this by saying that I have spent my career fundraising. That is my passion, but we also serve the entrepreneurship community with a genuine enthusiasm for helping entrepreneurs grow so that they can give.
Is that what the City Summit is all about? Explain to us what City Summit is.
City Summit is a world-class business acceleration experience where I ask billion-dollar founders, meaning founders of $1 billion companies, to come out and teach entrepreneurs how to grow their business. This is the key because if you founded a $1 billion business, that means that you know what you’re talking about. There are a lot of leadership programs, business coaching programs. People go and they get a little certificate that says, “I’m a business coach.” No, you’re not. You’re a business coach when you founded a $1 billion enterprise. Those are the people that I want to learn from.
It’s having the experience and the education from someone who’s been on the ground and done the work. That’s exciting, Tara.
Tell us what to expect from City Summit.
Johnny Depp is headlining the thing.
That’s on the 9th of February?
The entire experience is February 7th through 9th. This is the funny part of things. Tony Robbins talks about this a lot. There are three different types of entrepreneurs. There’s the entrepreneur for entrepreneurs. All they care about is money. They’ll invest in any business. They’ll do anything for money, oil, gas, finance, real estate, whatever it takes. There’s the manager leader, which is everything must fit in this square box. For the entrepreneur guy, think of Sir Richard Branson. That entrepreneur invests in anything. His Virgin companies, he has 400 companies. For the square box guy, the manager leader type of thing like Warren Buffett, if it doesn’t fit into his rules of investing, he won’t do it.
There are artists. Those people are typically visionaries. They’re good at starting things, bad at finishing. You get a whole bunch of ideas, you start them. Johnny Depp is a true artist. Let me tell you why. He has a $1 million a month wine budget. I don’t know what wine this is. The first thing that I’m going to say is, “Johnny, you need one of these business coaches to help you get your budgeting together,” because that’s what I needed. I’m an artist. I’m a visionary. I’m a good starter. I’m great with stuff but ask me to organize something or stay within a budget.
The concept is a different animal to operations. They’re two completely different skillsets to get timelines. Energy is required. An artist is typically a creative person, therefore conceptually that comes easy. The follow-through in the execution of an idea is a different thing altogether. That takes a whole other set of skills. Some people have both, some people need help with one or the other that’s lacking.
One of the things we said, “We have this phenomenal fundraising apparatus for nonprofit organizations that are feeding hungry, sheltering homeless, liberating and rehabilitating people from human sex trafficking. It’s important work.” You can only do so much when you’re not the celebrity. I’m not a celebrity. No one’s coming to see me. We want to get people involved in that care. People like Johnny Depp donated $5 million to a hospital for kids with a chronic illness then showed up to the hospital dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow.
Are you the facilitator, Ryan? Do you find the organizations and the places that need help and then you match them with a celebrity?
No, I do not do that. What I do is I am the Founder of the Global Unity Foundation. We train nonprofits on how to be sustainable because nonprofits go out of business at a higher rate and percentage than for-profit businesses because they’re built on the passion. The nonprofit is usually like, “My mom died of cancer. I’m committed to cancer research and all that stuff,” but they don’t know how to run business. We do weekly training for nonprofits. That’s a part of the Global Unity Foundation. If you fall into these parameters, are you feeding hungry people? Are you sheltering homeless? Are you liberating and rehabilitating young victims of human trafficking? Are you a health and wellness? Are you in mentorship or education? Those are my passions. I know there are a lot of other things out there. There’s climate change. I don’t like giving money to cancer. It’s cancer and certain things. That’s its own business. Cancer is a business and it’s a business for a lot of organizations. I’m too rebellious. I have to rebel.
You’ve worked with some amazingly high-profile individuals like James Cameron and Bill Clinton. How do you get all of these people to give up their time because they’re all busy? You must clearly do something incredibly well.
The key is who’s inviting you and why should I be there? When you’re talking to some of these people, we’ve had President Bill Clinton and we honored Robert De Niro at Unite4: Humanity. This is not under the umbrella of City Summit & Gala, which is a new brand. We’re on our fifth annual City Summit & Gala. Prior to City Summit & Gala, I did project for project. I did an event at the United Nations. Peter Diamandis was the keynote speaker. It was brilliant. It was about innovation and technology and how to move things forward. I had Puff Daddy come out to the Playboy Mansion. It’s a weird thing to go from the Playboy Mansion fundraiser to the United Nations.
Is that the event when he then went on Jimmy Kimmel and said that was the best party he’s ever been to?
Puff Daddy comes and we do this fundraiser.
He’s been to some parties. You know that much.
It was fantastic. Puff had run a marathon for kids with chronic illness. We thought this would be good to match him up with this organization and have an event. We chose the Playboy Mansion because it’s a great draw, to be honest. People paid money to go there. This was not a lingerie party. This was a black-tie gala. We did it up and Puff Daddy comes out and then he goes on Jimmy Kimmel and says, “Yes, it’s my best party of all time.” I was like, “I’m going to watch it and love it.”
Celebrities, noteworthy individuals, and people with money get asked all day long and get sent every invite. What differentiates your events to get them there because you have a success rate of winning the move and getting them in the door, which is the hardest part?
We talk to them about their passion. I do believe that there are some movie stars, actors, famous musicians out there that don’t care about the charity. They don’t care about the work. They present it publicly. “I care so much,” and all that stuff. It’s Hollywood there. There are some badass people that are doing real work. When we talked to Ashton Kutcher, it was, “Ashton, we will donate to your organization. Would you like to come out? We’ll talk onstage about Thorn,” which is his passion. He went all the way to Congress and challenged the senate. “Why is human trafficking still alive? We can smash these guys. We know exactly where they are. What’s being done? Who’s doing something about it? Why does it even exist? It shouldn’t,” especially talking about the big human trafficking rings.
There’s always going to be those little things. When Halle Berry came out, a lot of people know this. Halle Berry had been beaten by two of her husbands. She was representing the Jenesse Center, which is a place where victims of domestic violence go for rehabilitation. This is meaningful work. I can name drop all day. Sir Richard Branson came out because he loves Virgin Unite. His mom runs it and they donate to a whole bunch of different things and on and on. Matt McConaughey, was one of our best speaker speakers because he got up there and that guy let it rip.
He’s got charm and swagger.
His Just Keep Livin Foundation helps kids before adulthood before they go out into the world. He helps mentor kids. We talk to these people about these things. It is, in particular, what do you care about and what message. We have an audience that cares about what you care about. We’re gathering up to do something meaningful. Me, personally, I wanted to do those. Halle Berry, a victim of abuse. Charlize Theron is out there. She has her Africa Outreach Project were $1 into that organization gets way more medicine out in South Africa than here in the United States. She’s a badass for doing that. I have a lot in common with these people. I’m a victim of abuse.If your life is all about the party and the glam, you have no meaning. Click To Tweet
When I was four years old, my dad beat me bloody the first and only time I met him in my childhood. The first time I met him, I was four years old. That’s childhood trauma. Now I know what that means and why I did what I did. I did a lot of bad things as a kid. After my own transformation after a severe depression, I made a promise to myself that sex, drugs and rock and roll is cool. I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t have a blast. Are you kidding? I had a blast, but I needed meaning back in my life because my hero was my grandfather. He was my dad and I was living a life unlike my hero. A farm boy from Kansas who moved to LA and became a rocket scientist, that type of guy gave me his last name.
I am Ryan Long because of my grandfather. What that means to me is that I was trashing his name by throwing Penthouse and Playboy and Hustler parties and all this. I’m trashing my grandfather’s legacy and I don’t want to do that. Everything that I do now has meaning. We help entrepreneurs grow so that they can give because entrepreneurs cut the biggest checks to charities. We have a for-profit business that does that and then the non-for-profit my passion because I want all of these people. I am not a charitable guy. I’m not born like Mother Teresa out there, helping. That’s not me. I am a vicious, authentic person that has the best of intentions and is willing to crusade for the cause.
You find celebrities or high net worth individuals that have the money that they need at some point. The fame, the power and the status, that’s what becomes fulfilling and they give back a lot.
If your life is all about the party and the glam, you have no meaning.
Do you ever look at the celebrities who potentially or perhaps aren’t known for the charitable work that they do and think, “Is there a way for me to reach out to this particular person and see if I can engage them with what I’m doing?”
Maybe there are a lot of people as well who do a lot, we just don’t know about it.
There are some silent givers. There are some people that probably do a lot for people. I have no desire to reach out. It’s great when it hits the news wire. You hear $1 million was sent over to a school or some people have been saved from homelessness or something like that in Syria because of this person speaking up and speaking out about it. If you’re not speaking up and speaking out about it and you’re donating silently, good for you, but not great for the world because the world needs the voice as well. I want those heroes that have the voice, to have the nerve to get up, speak up and do something about it. Matthew McConaughey has the nerve to get up, stand up and say, “As a mentor, these kids need mentorship if they need to. They’re underserved in their community.”
How listened to are celebrities there? There is the flip side where a lot of people are like, “Celebrities should be there to entertain.” Donate, show up on a red carpet, put on the gown, but at the end of the day, are they taken seriously? From my experience, I think any PR is a great PR to get the voice and the message across. How do you feel about celebrities using their status for political gain? That’s quite a contentious subject.
Donald Trump is in the White House. Do I have to say anything else? There are celebrities that use their voice for something or they’re doing something in the world. You’ve got to speak up though. That influence, you have a guy like The Rock, Dwayne Johnson, whom I admire and will definitely work with one day. When you have a guy like that speak up and say, “This kid is dying. I want to send you a notice,” he does a whole of Instagram. “Letting you know I’m praying for you.” What a great guy. He doesn’t have any influence. Some of the do-gooders out there are looked at as soft. I have an utter disdain for those people that think that do-gooders are soft.
It’s interesting because when you have the award ceremonies, it’s often the same people that get up and say something like, “Let’s change the world. Let’s do this. Let’s do that.” You always have Patricia Arquette who gets up there and makes a stand about something that’s important to her, the same with Michelle Williams, Oprah. You have these people who feel passionately and I think that people do listen to them because a lot of people relate to celebrities in one way or another. Unlike the fact that they’re a voice that perhaps the majority of the population doesn’t have, whatever that belief might be.
John Travolta came out and his son had just died. Here you have a guy that’s heartbroken. He comes out and he has the nerve to talk about these things. It shined a light on many different areas. It shines a light on autism and shines a light on some things. I do believe that when people are both willing, they’re passionate. They have a message and they speak up and they have that influence. People follow people that are in power. That’s the nature of human beings. We’re pack animals. If you feel a vibe from someone, “I vibe with that. I’ve been through that. I can relate to it. I have a family member or a friend that’s been through it.”
Who do you love working with? Which celebrities have you worked with that the public might be surprised to hear are fantastic or amazing people or who surprised you the most or impressed you?
John Travolta. John Travolta is an outstandingly humble, sweet man all the way around. I know that because of the Church of Scientology thing, he gets flak. He is surprisingly humble and strikingly friendly. I loved working with him.
I’ve never heard anyone say a bad word about John Travolta.
He gets the flak for the Church of Scientology stuff.
That’s the PR perception of what they think and all of that. As far as people that have worked with him professionally and personally know him, people rave about him.
He’s put out a couple of movies that have flopped, but I think he’s an icon and a legend.
You can put out a couple of movies and they can flop. The perception of a lot of celebrities is what they’re putting out on social media a lot. They’re out there and they’re doing the thing and they have good publicists and I get it. When you get to meet them though, then you get the real vibe. We had this gala in 2017 where John Travolta was our headline speaker. He did all the photo ops with everybody. On our team, we each choose a chaperone for the people that are honorees who are a part of the show. I chose a returning guest of ours. I wanted to chaperone a big celebrity. His name is John Paul DeJoria. He’s the Founder of Patron. He sold Patron for $5 billion. I dig his vibe.
He’s a charitable guy, sweet, humble, passionate, fun. He gave a rousing speech and I loved it. I chose to be with him. Other teammates started the arrivals of other people. John Travolta was there that night. Russell Simmons who many people know as the Founder of Def Jam and many other great things. Quincy Jones was receiving our Lifetime Achievement award that evening. We each divided and conquered. We get backstage and we find out that Quincy Jones has sent in a highlight reel video to be played prior to John Paul DeJoria presenting. We didn’t know about it, but Quincy’s team wanted us to play it.
The Walt Disney Concert Hall, which is a beautiful venue, is where we did this one. It costs $5,000 for the union person to press a button so that the screen will come down. They’re like, “Should I put that on your tab?” I’m like, “Go ahead. Quincy is the man, so go ahead and do it.” The one thing is that John Paul DeJoria is a professional. He wanted to see that video prior to doing the presentation. These union workers are all over the backstage area and the one guy is like, “There’s only one way and it’s way upstairs.” He’s got his legs on the table, a little fricking lazy bum. He’s like, “It’s that way.” I’m standing there with John Paul DeJoria. We fly up those stairs and he watches that video with real precision. We get that going on.
We get backstage and we’re trying to find out the green room scenarios. Each one of them had their separate green rooms. John Travolta, Russell, Quincy and JP, John Paul DeJoria. We’re walking by and the door flings open on one of the green rooms and Quincy is sitting there. That’s who John Paul is presenting to. I say, “JP, you want to hang out with Quincy?” He’s like, “Yes, the heck with being alone.” They go in and they’re pals already. This is like some fireworks and then the bug buzzing noise started happening with the walkie-talkies and stuff. They’re like, “Do you want John Travolta to come in here or in his green room? He wants to come in here.” “Send him on back.”
John Travolta is in the room and the three of us are having a great conversation. We’re not talking business at all. We’re not talking about this show. We were catching up and it’s a cool vibe. I peeked my head out the door and who’s bopping down the hallway? It’s Russell Simmons with his signature tie with his hat and stuff like that. He’s got earbuds and he’s all alone. I don’t know how he got in. He came the back way with no chaperone, no bodyguard, nothing. He walks up with his earphones in and he’s like, “Is this the place?” He sits down. Quincy Jones is the ringleader. He’s like this masterful storyteller. If you ever hang out with Quincy Jones, that’s what he does. He sits there and he’s entertaining. He’s talking about how he’s bald and now has a lot of daughters and he’s self-deprecating.
This was on the night of the Grammys and one of his artists had won a Grammy. He was beaming about that. John Travolta is talking to John Paul DeJoria and he’s this sweet, humble, nice guy. Russell Simmons is sitting in the corner, halfway paying attention. He’s ADD. He’s on his phone with the earphones and you don’t know if he’s listening or not. He’s constantly texting. Every couple of minutes, he’d look up and he’d like to throw some shade at John Travolta and he’s like, “John, you look younger.” I’m like, “Why would you say that to John Travolta?” A few more minutes would pass. “John, last time I saw you, you had a lot less hair.”
John Travolta finally looks over to Russell Simmons and says, “It’s the stem cells,” and everybody starts laughing because we know. The evening ends with all of those guys getting together. Quincy Jones is in a wheelchair now. That video drops and John Paul DeJoria says those words that he was going to say presenting a Lifetime Achievement Award to Quincy Jones. Quincy gets up out of his wheelchair and he goes off into the crowd. I’m peeking into the crowd. They’re standing there, rousing ovation and he gives the most wonderful speech. We raised so much money for a charity that night. I’m grateful for all of those guys.Some artists are good at starting things and bad at finishing them. Click To Tweet
Thank you for sharing that with us. Can you tell our readers how they can find out more about City Summit? How can they potentially get to the City Gala? Is there a website? Is there any further information you can share with them to make sure you get all the support you deserve?
This one simple thing, CitySummit.co. They could find anything, the gala, the celebrity poker tournament, the pitch competitions, the entrepreneurship stuff that we’ve got going on.
City Summit runs from the 7th to the 9th of February. Dani and I hope to be there.
I sincerely hope you come.
I can’t guarantee you some hair loss stem cell stories or I’m going to roll out legendary style like Quincy, but we’ll make it work.
Thank you for sharing all your stories and all the information on City Summit. Keep doing all the amazing things you’re doing. On behalf of the City of LA, we want to thank you for everything that you do for everybody.
I appreciate you, ladies. Thank you for having me on. Have a great one.
Thank you. Thank you to all of our readers.
- Ryan Long
- City Summit
- Global Unity Foundation
- Jenesse Center
- Just Keep Livin Foundation
- Africa Outreach Project
About Ryan Long
Ryan Long was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. Throughout his childhood he was presented with many difficult obstacles. Ryan was born with a congenital deformity known as clubfoot. Also, Ryan’s father left when he was very young, leaving his mother to raise Ryan on her own. Ryan spent the first two years of his life in surgeries and was immobilize by casts and bars that were bolted to the sides of his legs. Together, Ryan and his mother faced these challenges head-on.
As Ryan got older and his legs grew stronger, he made up for the time he lost not being able to run and play, with a zeal for sports. Throughout elementary school, all the way through high school, athletics were his sole passion. They provided him with guidance and discipline that have served him well throughout his life.
During Ryan’s formative years his grandfather, James Daniel Long, filled the role of a father figure. Ryan recalls when he was eleven years old; he was struggling in Little League. After watching his grandson strike out three times in a row, his grandfather offered to help Ryan learn how to hit the ball. Ryan was very resistant to the idea at first, but his mother was able to convince him, “Just give Granddad a chance.” Ryan eventually agreed.
Ryan’s grandfather took him to the batting cages and he pushed his grandson so hard that by the end of the session Ryan’s were covered with blisters. The strategy, however, paid off. The very next game Long hit a triple, and a game-winning home run! To this day Ryan cherishes the lesson his grandfather’s guidance taught him – a little support could make all the difference in the world.
Ryan excelled academically in college, but when he learned he was to become a father, even though he was only 21 years old, Ryan was faced with a difficult choice. But thanks to the guidance of his grandfather and the memory of the sacrifices his mother made as a single mom, he decided to quit school to focus on being a dad. It’s a decision he’s never regretted.
Aaron Christopher Long was born on February 9th, 2001. Ryan was inspired by the birth of his new son and wanted to provide him with the best possible upbringing, so he went back to school and studied bio-mechanics, kinesiology, and health so that he could become a personal fitness trainer. Ryan started working at LA Fitness and in just two short years he rose to the level of Fitness Director of several LA Fitness locations.
Ryan’s longtime friend, Royce McCalman, then approached him with an opportunity to invest in a nightclub promotion business. Their first event was at the Rio Lounge and Grill, in Encino California. Ryan soon discovered that were great opportunities with music showcases for upcoming talent. Long soon started throwing nightclub parties and teaming up with other top Los Angeles promoters in promoting music showcases, and to produce events for adult entertainment industry businesses. This built momentum for Long and he became even more ambitious about the entertainment industry. In 2008, Long flew his best friend, Mark Pilkenroth, out to Los Angeles to assist him in partnership of a new music showcase company with ambitions of making it a worldwide production.
In 2009 Long was involved with his first event at the Playboy Mansion. Ryan was inspired by the success of that event and was part of several other functions at the Mansion. In 2012 Ryan Ryan stepped up to the role of Executive Producer for the first time. On the evening of the Grammy Awards, Sean “Diddy” Combs hosted “Fame at the Mansion” to benefit the Angelwish Foundation. Two days after the event, Combs went on to the Jimmy Kimmel late night show and described the event as his “best party of all time.”
For his next endeavor, several philanthropists and humanitarians influenced Ryan. In the winter of 2012, he had an idea to bring President Bill Clinton to Hollywood during the week of the Academy Awards. Long also developed the idea of providing a platform for Oscar winner James Cameron to support an upstart charity named Community Inspiring Today’s Youth (CITY), on the evening of the Academy Awards.
Through the Philanthropy United campaign, Long was instrumental in an event that helped raise funds and awareness for multiple foundations at “Unite:4Humanity”. The event featured President Bill Clinton as the keynote speaker, and appearances by Martin Scorsese, Robert DeNiro, Sean Penn, Forest Whitaker, Selena Gomez, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Adam Samberg, Jada Pinket-Smith, Jane Fonda, Wilmer Valderrama, Alicia Keys, and Demi Lovato, among others.
Long also produced “Fame & Philanthropy” with keynote James Cameron, which raised over $350,000. In all, Ryan helped to raise over $5 Million on the week of the Academy Awards.
Ryan is most proud of the success of “Fame & Philanthropy,” and the funds that were raised for the charities supported by Colin Farrell and special guests Charlize Theron, Halle Berry, and Ne-Yo. The host foundation of the 2104 Fame and Philanthropy gala, CITY (www.TCPYouth.org), was able to open its first office and fund its operations for an entire year.
After the Fame & Philanthropy event Ryan branded a new event called the City Gala. The Gala’s vision is to advance community through humanitarian activities and events. The purpose of the gala is to assist startup, charitable organizations gain access to funds and awareness. The City Gala has featured speakers and honorees such as Sir Richard Branson, Sean Combs, Jane Seymour, John Travolta, and Halle Berry. Shortly after founding the City Gala, Long executive produced the Novus Summit and the United Nations that featured speakers and a theme of how innovation and technology is moving forward against today’s global grand challenges.
The City Summit, which Ryan founded in order to assist entrepreneurs in building and growing their business is themed “a world class, socially conscious business acceleration experience.”
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