I was eager to write this post, after being one of the millions that tuned in to see Rihanna’s halftime performance at Super Bowl LVII. I’m fascinated by Rihanna because her brands, Fenty Beauty and Savage X Fenty, have propelled her to billionaire status. As I watched her perform, I thought about how many music artists have tried to do the same, but haven’t gotten this level of success. As a performer, it is to their benefit to have multiple business aside from singing: in many cases, these artists understand that they have a relatively short shelf life *if* they hang their legacies upon the preferences of a fickle public. So it’s always in their best interest to expand and nurture business aspirations beyond their singing careers. As far as performers go, no one in the past couple of decades has done this as well as Rihanna has.
So what can business owners and wealth builders learn from Ms. Fenty? Here are 7 business lessons from Rihanna:
- Don’t be afraid to have a “starter business”. In many ways, music has become secondary to everything else Rihanna has going on. Music was what opened doors for her, and she worked hard at her craft. However, she was strategic: music was never the final destination for her empire. So, if Rih had a “starter business”, that is, a business that opens doors until you can land bigger opportunities, why not you? Start with something that you enjoy but not necessarily plan to do forever, and use it to position yourself for the things that can catapult you into the spaces and income brackets that you desire.
- Weave your businesses together in unique ways. Most of us weren’t expected to see an ad for Fenty Beauty in the midst of the Super Bowl halftime show. Yet, here we are. When Rih dabbed her nose with her brand’s blotting powder, it set the internet ablaze, with Fenty Beauty’s website activity tripling its normal numbers. It was a simple move that got her brand the kind of additional press that most business owners dream of. Consider how you can weave two or more of your interests together, and then experiment with those interests – explore how they overlap, observe how they diverge, and see whether these interests have a common audience – until you hit your sweet spot.
- Consider starting a business in an area that others have complimented you on. Rihanna is a singer, but her beauty is undeniable, and she quickly became noted for her fashion sense. She took those compliments to the bank – literally. Her beauty and fashion brands are an extension of her, and for that reason, it’s only natural that she has made billions of dollars in this industry. Wherever others have complimented you, consider making it into your business. It doesn’t always look like what you’ve been paid to do in the past, and sometimes it’s in an area that you never believed could be monetized. And don’t worry if you can’t come up with a business idea based on those compliments: consultants like myself can help you with that. Click on this link to see how I can help you find your Marvelous Metier (TM).
- Have a bold opener to your business, so that you stand out immediately. When Fenty Beauty was launched, Rihanna didn’t start by peddling lipsticks or eye shadow. She took on the costliest – and riskiest – product in beauty: foundation. She launched with 40(!) shades of foundation, from the lightest hues to the deepest colors, and she didn’t cut any corners. She had the beauty industry shaking, after many cosmetic companies whined about their limitations in making complexion products that flattered darker skin. Rihanna’s risk paid off: the pale and deeply colored beauties of the influencer world sang her praises and confirmed, without a doubt, that there was ZERO reason for companies to ignore darker skin. If she, a newbie to the makeup world, could create a range that respect the varying undertones, overtones and depth of all skin tones, what was their excuse? That kind of bold opening is how she established herself as a cosmetic force to be reckoned with. If she can do it, you can, too.
- Be willing to do the unexpected. Perform at the Super Bowl visibly pregnant? Take a music career and spin it into lucrative cosmetics and lingerie businesses? Achieve billionaire status before turning 33? Rihanna has done it all, and did it well. NO ONE could have seen any of this coming, yet here she is, successfully doing whatever she wants. Rihanna has done many unexpected things in her career, and it has paid off handsomely for her. You can take smaller (or bigger!) risks, doing unexpected things and seeing where it takes you. Who knows: you may become a billionaire, too!
- When all eyes are on you, be ready to shine. The Super Bowl is one of the biggest stages available to musicians, and Rihanna didn’t waste any of her time. She employed fireworks, moving stages suspended in the air, color symbolism, and a host of other eye-catching elements to make sure that we focused on her through the entire performance. Wherever you go, be ready to shine. Have your elevator pitch and hook ready, keep your business cards ready, and always have a great story to connect with anyone you meet. You never know when the spotlight will be on you. Sometimes that spotlight happens when you least expect it, but if you stay ready, you don’t have to “get ready”.
- Giving 100% doesn’t look the same to everyone: just make sure you’re satisfied with what you’ve created. There were a lot of viewers that were disappointed in the performance: they expected more athleticism, guest stars, flashier production, etc.,. But, the understated performance had a certain charm to it, and it’s still memorable. I believe that Rihanna gave 100% to the performance, but how she defines her “best” is different from what viewers expected. She focused more on the details that may be lost upon those that are unfamiliar with what goes into such a large production. And in those details – the symbolism in the colors and dance, the tribute to Andre Leon Talley, the order of the music performed and the fact that she announced her pregnancy without saying a word – she gave 110%. So learn what 100% looks like to YOU, then aim for that. What others expect isn’t nearly as important as fulfilling the vision you have for yourself.
Did you glean any other lessons from Rihanna? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!