How Jay Z Started His Entrepreneurial Projects

© | Debby Wong

In this article, we will explore an inspiring example of a great entrepreneur, Jay Z. We start with the 1) introduction and going then to 2) how Jay Z started his entrepreneurial projects and 3) golden secrets of Jay Z’s success.


With a current net value of $520 million, Shawn Carter (Jay Z) was bought up in the darkest corners of Brooklyn, New York. He was born on 4 December, 1969 and was the last one in his siblings. When he was only 11 years old, his father left the family, and he was single handedly brought up by his mother, Gloria Carter.

Since a very young age, Jay Z had experienced poverty, violence, and drugs in his surroundings. Therefore, rap served an escape from all the negativity he was facing in his life. Some of his songs also have a reminiscence of his childhood, which reflect the way he felt back then.

At an early age, between choosing to get a low-paying ‘decent’ job, he opted to get a high-paying ‘indecent job’ – drug selling. Marcy Projects in Brooklyn, his place of upbringing, was heavily infested with drug abuse and hence it soon became a money prospect for the young Shawn Carter. It all ended when he surrendered himself completely to rap music.

Right after he collaborated with Jaz-O to record “The Originators”, he adapted the name Jay Z, as he was called Jazzy back in his childhood.

He started to earn a good name when he founded Roc-A-Fella Records with two of his friends, Kareem Burke and Damon Dash in 1996. This made his album ‘Reasonable Doubt’ a possibility. This is the stepping-stone in Jay Z’s career, and then there was no looking back. It developed him as a rising star in the hip-hop industry.

The album Hard Knock Life brought recognition and success in his life, and the title song of the album won Jay Z his first ever Grammy nomination. This was followed by numerous hit singles and top ranking albums. The Blueprint became the most renowned album in that era. Some of his hit singled included “I Just Wanna Love U”, “03 Bonnie & Clyde” and “Big Pimpin”.

Jay Z has sold around 100 million records worldwide making him one of the best-selling artists in the world. He has also been nominated for various awards and has received 19 Grammy Awards to date.


Jay Z is not just a rap artist who has stumbled upon an exciting net value – he is a businessman and a true entrepreneur. In fact, he can be directly compared to Warren Buffett as both of them are counted amongst the richest men in the world. However, Buffett could just wish that his life was half as interesting as that of Jay Z’s.

The rapper Jay Z of the older times who was primarily known as a recording artist is now known in the world as an intelligent multi-millionaire investor. Not only does he enjoy the great success of his record label, he also invests huge profits in different industries. He has built a whole empire single-handedly, and he runs it without a flaw.

You think that two leaders cannot make it work together in life? Well, Jay Z and Beyonce are here just to prove that wrong. In 2008, both of these powerhouses decided to tie a knot and have ever since worked towards earning huge profits and success in everything they do.

Here is Jay Z’s portfolio of investments that led him to expand his empire:

Roc-A-Fella Records

No one can take the glory of Roc-A-Fella Records away from Jay Z. He founded the label along with two of his friends as they began from the ground. Starting a label from the scratch is never an easy thing to do but the overwhelming talent of Jay Z ensured that he quickly built up an audience as other labels began calling into this newly found label legend. He maintained ownership rights of his whole catalog, which means that even after all of these years, Jay Z is receiving dividends of his early music that is being sold in the market.

Def Jam paid an overwhelming $10 million to buy Roc-A-Fella Records in 2004. Jay Z was still the President and CEO of Def Jam as he continued growing his wealth alongside with other artists belonging to the label, such as Kanye West working towards the Platinum sales of their records.


For Jay Z, it was not all about being the proud owner of a successful record label. Therefore, along with Damon Dash, he took a leap from music to the clothing industry and hence Rocawear was founded in 1999. In just a matter of 8 years, the brand was purchased by Iconix Brand Group for a gigantic $204 million. Following his style, Jay Z is still the CEO of the brand. In 2007, the brand made sales worth $700 million. That is the power of Jay Z; everything he touches becomes gold.

40/40 Club

After music and the clothing industry, Jay Z was all set for investing in nightlife. The 40/40 Club was founded in 2003 in New York City. Whenever you enter the bar, you will see ESPN playing on the screen as it is a top-notch sports bar. He is a frequent visitor of his bar and loves to hang out there in his free time. Just like everything else that Jay Z has put his hands into, the bar has also tremendously grown and expanded. The club has multiplied to various locations and has just piled up more returns for this super mind-set entrepreneur.

Brooklyn Nets

Brooklyn Nets is one of the most high profile investments made by Jay Z. He is a stake holder in the Nets NBA Franchise and has thus revolutionized the team ever since he became a part of it. His involvement in the team was particularly publicized when it was moved to Brooklyn, Jay Z’s hometown. Moreover, their uniforms were changed (for the better), and new branding strategies were adapted for the team.

In 2013, Jay Z sold his stake against a high return of investment of 135%. It took him 9 years to gain a return of $2.35 million for the initial $1 million that he invested. Forbes even compared this return to the business-minded attitude of Warren Buffett.

He sold his share because after exploring great success in music, nightlife and clothing, he was all set to do something big in the sports industry. In 2013, Roc Nation Sports was launched by Jay Z through collaborating with CAA to handle the marketing operations and representation of athletes.

It was a legal requirement for him to sell his stake if he wanted to pursue the sports agent industry, and that is exactly what he did. Not only did this enable him to gain a huge profit but also gave him a chance to start something of his own in the sports industry.

Barclays Center

Mr. Carter knows how to put his money to great use. Therefore, as he was selling his stake in the Brooklyn Nets, he shifted his stake in the Barclays Center. Barclays Center is of the of the world’s most intriguing and fresh arenas. It is expanding its horizons as the Nets is gaining incredible popularity in Brooklyn. Apart from that, it also hosts high-end events like it hosted the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards.

The financial gurus say that if you are successful in one investment, it will just transcend into other future investments and Jay Z has truly practiced this art and wisdom. All of his investments have been successful, and he has just expanded his empire with his queen like a total boss. He has left an incredible mark not only on the music industry but also the apparel, sports and nightlife industry. Therefore, his glory is not just limited to music.


The tale of his amazing investments is still continuing with Jay Z bidding a great sum of money on the Sweden-based company – Aspiro. This was just reported earlier this year and is predicted to give Jay Z strong foothold in the immensely expanding industry of streaming music and enable him to compete with well-known players such as Spotify and Apple. The bid was a whooping offer of a $56 million and it was made through a company known as Project Panther, which is indirectly controlled by Jay Z. The reports show that the offer has already received the basic acceptance by the company.


Recording artists come and go, and the record industry is famous for exploiting musicians and giving them a few seconds of fame before they could bid farewell to them.

Obviously, Jay Z was never the type.

In the past 20 years, Shawn Carter has earned a net value of $520 million while taking the music industry by the storm. He has toured and had hit records, but the real money has come from the businesses that he invested in as he founded Roc-A-Fella Records and Rocawear.

Here are some work ethics of Jay Z that can fuel up some enthusiasm in the future entrepreneurs.

#1: Know the art of hustling

The work ethic that Jay Z embodies is his only hustle. It is a cliché, but Jay Z is all about working hard along with working smart. He was inspired by the hard work of his mother as he saw her raising four children single-handedly. Marcy Projects – the area he belonged to did not present a lot of opportunity to people like Shawn. Therefore, he decided to do the dirty work rather than choosing the clean path – drug dealing.

His ambition was clear to him even as a drug dealer. He had his eyes on fame and rapping as he relentlessly practiced rapping techniques with his friend Jaz.

#2: Get on the road even if your hands are empty

Jay Z did not have professional music equipment in his early years, and that did not stop him from creating rap beats. Rock-A-Fella records did not have air-conditioning, computers, and desks when it first started and grew out to be one of the most successful record labels in the world.

Focus is Jay Z’s forte, and he believes that if you truly want something, you should just go for it and become serious about it rather than waiting for the right time. Circumstances do not always have to be perfect in order for an entrepreneur to do well in life and to achieve his goals and dreams.

#3: Help yourself first

People will only help you if they see that you are actively pursuing a goal and helping your self. However, that will not happen if you are just seeking help without ever helping your self. Jay Z’s mother bought him a boom box as a birthday present after seeing him play tunes on the kitchen table. It would not have happened if Jay Z kept silent. Therefore, it is important to show passion in things and work towards them in order to achieve excellence.

#4: Do not discuss your goals too much

While Jay Z was struggling as an artist, his friend Jaz reached EMI’s record deal. At this point, Jay Z knew what he wanted – to sign a record deal. He shared the idea with his crew members, and they were all discouraging saying that the music industry just uses artists and musicians. Jay Z did not give way to their negativity and stayed focused on what he wanted. He also learned a great lesson: to not talk too much about his plans with people.

Sometimes, when your vision is too huge, people have a difficulty accepting it and are, therefore, doubtful and discouraging about it. Therefore, Jay Z worked hard silently and kept his aims to himself because he knew his potential and what he could achieve in his life. Although it might be tempting to talk to other people about your plans, just keep them to yourself until you start gaining success.

#5: Experience matters

Jay Z founded companies that are worth $100 million and has served as Budweiser Select’s co-brand director, which makes him a top-of-the-line entrepreneur and businessman. However, he never attended business school.

Jay Z learned all of the business skills from the streets he was living on. He learned how to promote, manage a business and how to make sales from the streets and thus was able to perform many roles as an entrepreneur. Experience does more miracles in the practical world than education and therefore one should never let go the chance of utilizing their talents in different fields and gaining relevant experience.

#6: Take rejections positively

Jay Z tried his level best to hit a deal with numerous labels in the industry and faced rejections from all of them. Did that stop his journey? No. Instead, he founded his record label. Iceberg Apparel offered Jay Z a low-paying endorsement although his promotion for their clothing line was heavily boosting their sales. Well, no. Instead, he founded his clothing line and gained $200 million through selling it after ten years.

Jay Z always bounced back amazingly from rejections and shone like a star. You can either let rejections destroy you or make you successful, and the decision is completely yours.

#7: Have a plan

When Roc-A-Fella Records was found in 1994, all of the three partners created business plans – both long term and short term. They kept their predictions realistic and wrote everything down which made the visualization easy.

Writing down business plans helps to develop focus and makes it seamless to achieve goals.

#8: Dream Big

In his childhood years when he was being raised in Marcy Projects, no one could have told him that one day he would become a millionaire. Thinking big is the only way to achieve big in life. You get all you want and strive for in life so if you are struggling as a junior artist, that is all what you will be. Jay Z dreamed big and gave it all that he had.

#9: Value your mentors

Artists and entrepreneurs are strong-headed individuals. Jay Z is both – an artist and an entrepreneur but that has not stopped him from valuing his mentors and asking them for help.

Having successful and helpful mentors mean that you will not face the issues they faced in their lives, and the way of success will be easier for you. Mentors are very important in showing you direction and guiding you on important matters.

Jay Z’s mentors comprise of big names such as the Co-Founder of Def Jam Records – Russell Simmons, The Notorious B.I.G, and Michael Jordan.

#10: Be a Trend Setter

Auto-tune was the biggest trend in hip-hop in 2009. Jay Z could have followed the trend, but he did not. Instead, he broke it and introduced his style in his hit single ‘Death of Auto-Tune’. It was off-pitch, noisy and dissonant. For Jay Z, if you adapt a style which does not define who you are as a person, then it will not work out for you. Therefore, it is important to find your style and voice for long-term success. You can be more successful through doing what you are passionate about rather than following the trends.

#11: Entrepreneurship makes you help the world

As an entrepreneur, Jay Z has had numerous opportunities of making a significant change in the world.

Jay Z and P Diddy donated $1 million to the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005. He also pledged to assist the promotion of the global water shortage through his upcoming world tour after meeting with Kofi Annan – United Nations Secretary General in 2006.

Barack Obama asked him to support his campaign in 2008 as a presidential candidate. Jay Z did concerts to spread the word to get votes for him. Therefore, Jay Z has played a significant role in electing USA’s first black president in the history.

Jay Z could have chosen to keep on selling drugs for the rest of his life and it might have earned him good money, but he had his eyes on the bigger picture. If he had not set his feet to become an entrepreneur, he would not have gotten the chance to help the world in a way that he did.

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