“I’m not a Businessman, I’m a Business, Man”

Never a truer word has been spoken from Jay-Z.

The rapper who used to sell crack cocaine as a high school dropout is now widely regarded as a successful entrepreneur who has a business empire spanning clothing, beverages, real estate, sports teams, and record labels. Like many successful entrepreneurs before him, to an outsider it feels like he has had overnight success. Propelled by the Insta-famous nature of social media, most people – celebrities included – assume Jay-Z’s rise to business fortune following his illustrious rap career was causational. Being famous made him successful.

The truth is far from it.

With all Jay-Z’s business smarts, he has had to work exceptionally hard for what he has built, and it has taken time. Many forget that his first business Rocawear was launched 22 years ago. At its peak in 2007, Rocawear’s sales reached $700 million and Jay-Z sold the line for $204 million cash which he used to fund the start-up for Roc Nation in 2008. Even then, with all his contacts, Roc Nation didn’t sign their first artist until 2009. Over a decade later RocNation’s annual revenues are just $90m, but are arguably one of the most influential entertainment companies in America.

People fail to appreciate that the hustle is real.

From a talent perspective, just because you have a million followers and landed a role in a Marvel movie does not give you the skill set – nor the appetite – to run a successful business, let alone businesses. Alternatively, as a brand, putting Jay-Z as the face will not necessarily sell your products. With all Jay-Z’s success and talent he has had failures along the way – most of which have not been publicized. Recently he was sued by Parlux fragrances for $18 million for his cologne Gold which failed to reach projected sales targets because he couldn’t convert his followers to purchase. He also lost a licensing deal with Jeep due to a change of management within the automotive company who failed to see value in a partnership with the notable artist.

Just being a celebrity or a beautiful person with a huge online following does not necessarily convert to cash. However, if treated as an asset to a brand and managed correctly, it can create opportunity. It then becomes what you choose to do with that opportunity that counts.