How Will Smith Started His Businesses

© | Andrey Bayda

This article focuses on an example of a great actor and successful entrepreneur, Will Smith. We explore 1) Will Smith – Early Life, 2) Acting Career, 3) Investments made, as well as learn from 4) Advices for entrepreneurs from Will Smith.


Will Smith was born on 25 September, 1968 to a refrigeration engineer, Willard Carroll Smith. His mother Caroline was a school board administrator in Philadelphia. Smith grew up in Wynnefield neighborhood in West Philadelphia as a Baptist. Pamela, Ellen, and Harry are three of his siblings. He went to a private Catholic elementary school by the name of Our Lady of Lourdes in Philadelphia. When he was 13 years of age, his parents separated and later got divorced around the year 2000.

He enrolled in Overbrook High School and later got accepted in a pre-engineering program at MIT – Massachusetts Institute of Technology because of his high SAT scores. However, he never attended college.

His career officially began as the MC in the hip-hop group DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. He was the group’s producer and turntablist. This trio soon became famous for its humorous performances such as ‘Summertime’ and ‘Parents Just Don’t Understand’. It was in this trio that Will Smith won a Grammy Award in 1988 in the category of Rap.

Following that year, Smith became loose in his money spending and started underpaying his income tax. He fell into a tax debt of $2.8 million after the Internal Revenue Service conducted its assessment against the tax payments of Smith. As a consequence, his income was garnished, and a lot of his possessions were taken away from him. By the year 1990, he was almost bankrupt. The same year, he was signed up to a contract with NBC television network for their sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

The show was a hit and marked the beginning of his career as a legendary actor. Smith has won 4 Grammy Awards, 2 Academy Awards and has been nominated four times for Golden Globe Awards. He has received great success in music, film and television and is referred to as one of the finest actors the world has ever seen.


What makes Will Smith different from all other actors is the fact that he entered the film industry with research, figures, and facts in his hands. He began his movie career in evaluating the top-grossing movies and searching for patterns in them. This helped him develop an important success strategy for himself.

Smith has grossed $4 billion for his films all because of his business-minded approach towards films. He made it very clear that he wanted to enter the movie world, and he did so through seeing what constitutes success in the movies.

He collected relevant, accurate, and current information to help him in the decision-making. He analyzed the movies for their insights and patterns and found out that the top grossing movies included special effects, love story, and creatures. As a result, his first two movies, “Men in Black” and “Independence Day” were based on that model and had a box-office success of $1.3 billion collectively.

He continuously looked for what made the audience happy and acted in movies that fulfilled that criterion. In the mid-1990s, actors such as Tom Hanks and Tom Cruise were his biggest competitors. However, that did not intimidate him, and he never opted to choose the same kind of films that these successful actors were doing.

He based his decisions on objective investigation and homework rather than his “gut feeling”. This strategy has helped Smith to make right decisions and gain success in his movie career.


Apart from making tremendous money in music, television and film industry, Smith is also known for business ventures and investments. There is a huge list of investments he has made in different types of businesses, in which online companies and website probably seem to have the biggest share.

Overbrook Entertainment

Overbrook Entertainment was founded by James Lassiter and Will Smith and is a production company. It is based in Culver City, California and was founded somewhere around 1997 and 1999. The company produces television shows, films, and music. Smith founded the company to find roles in films and to serve as a producer. Music for some of his films was recorded in this company.

The company has so far invested in 4 different companies. In 2013, it invested $1.4 million in Loom, which is a photo management solution that enables users to store videos and photos in the cloud and then access the data from any device. This investment was made along with other investors such as Damon Way, Google Ventures, Great Oaks Venture Capital, Slow Ventures and Hammerstone Capital.

The company also invested $2.1 million in BlackJet along with 32 other investors. BlackJet enables users to book instant seats on private jets. The software guarantees the availability of seats and presents itself as a very cost-effective private jet solution.

The company along with Polaris Partners and Sony Pictures Entertainment invested $7.5 million in JibJab in 2009. JibJab distributes, produces and creates funny content and is a digital entertainment studio.

In 2008, Overbrook Entertainment invested $2 million in a family entertainment website – PluggedIn. The website provides commentary and information on culture, video games, television, music, and movies.

New Village Academy

In 2008, Will Smith initiated a private elementary school by the name of New Village Academy in Calabasas, California. The management of the school was selected by Smith and Jada, his wife. The school incorporated educational methodologies such as Bruner methods, Gardner, Montessori, and Study Technology. Subjects that were taught in the school included art, etiquette, living skills, technology, robotics, yoga, karate, Spanish, literacy, and mathematics.

Laptops were provided to students of New Village Academy, and they were also given organic meals. The school restricted the students to watch television and encouraged the involvement of parents. 80% of the students were provided financial assistance while the annual tuition fee was approximately $22,500.

The school was somehow linked with Scientology, as the staff comprised of numerous Scientologists including some of the school’s teachers, Artistic Director, Director of Qualifications, and the Director of Learning. Moreover, the subject of technology that was a part of the curriculum was developed by the founder of Scientology, Ron Hubbard as a form of education.

This school is no longer active and was closed down on June 28, 2013.

Carol’s Daughter

In 2005, Will Smith along with his wife and Jay-Z invested heavily in a Brooklyn-based cosmetic line, “Carol’s Daughter”. The beauty line was initiated by Lisa Price and the group of music and movie stars invested a hefty amount of $10 million in the cosmetic range of products that was planned to be taken nationwide.

Other investors in this venture included Jimmy Lovine (Interscope Records chief), Andrew Farkas, and Steve Stoute. In the initial advertising campaign of this brand, Smith’s wife Jada became the brand’s face.


In 2012, Smith along with Jay-Z joined as investors to fund Viddy, which was a video sharing application.

The application was meant to be like Instagram for videos and was created only for iPhone users. It allowed users to share small video slips with their friends. In 2012, the application bought 300, 000 new users everyday on top of 10 million users that were already registered to it.

Investors of the application included Biz Stone (the founder of Twitter), Shakira, Rock Nation by Jay-Z and Overbrook Entertainment by Will Smith.

Jada and Will Smith have comfortably joined hands with Jay-Z in several business ventures. The trio also produced the 2009’s Broadway musical Fela!

Philadelphia 76ers

Will Smith wanted to get the hold of Philadelphia 76ers since a long time, and it finally happened in 2011, enhancing his list of great business investments. Smith and his wife struck the deal for a hefty $280 million, which allowed them a partial ownership of this basketball team along with other investors. The leader of the ownership is Apollo Global Management’s co-founder – Joshua Harris.


In 2012, Apple wanted to acquire the Pinterest-like website “Fancy” but could not make it possible. Just a year after, Will Smith invested heavily in this e-commerce website along with other investors such as Len Blavatnik, who is an American Express billionaire and Sarah Frier of Bloomberg. Fancy was generating the revenue of $3 million each month in 2012 and had also raised about $80 million from investors such as Chris Hughes (Co-founder of Facebook) and Jack Dorsey (Co-founder of Twitter).


In 2011, Smith invested $6 million in Stance. It is a first-class sock brand devoted to the spirit of uniqueness. Based in San Clemente, CA, Stance creates socks using high-quality materials and the best-fit. The team comprises of Aaron Hennings, Jeff Kearl, Ryan Kingman and Taylor Shupe.


Will Smith invested $30 million in Jane Park’s beauty venture “Julep” along with 12 other investors. The brand is a rapid-growing e-commerce business that serves the beauty and takes a rounded approach to distribution, testing, and product development. The brand is the only beauty company in the world that gathers feedback from social media networking sites such as Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to manufacture more than 300 fresh beauty products every year! Its distribution is done online via its website and also through Nordstrom, QVC, and Sephora.


In 2013, Smith invested $650k in a media company by the name of BioBeats along with 5 other investors. BioBeats develops programs based clinical medicine, consumer wellness and health and entertainment. The founders of this company are Nadeem Kassam, David Plans, and Davide Morelli, and the rest of the investors are Cantora, ZhenFund, Scooter Braun, Kevin Colleran and Eniac Ventures.


In 2013, Smith invested $5.7 million in Matt Sandler’s Chromatik. It is a digital learning platform that redefines how people learn, perform and practice music. Their web and iPad applications enable users to record performance tracks, upload music and share the steps with friends, band mates, teachers, and students. The data is synced across a multitude of different devices which means that a user can access the music from everywhere.


Will Smith truly believes that the universe is present to take our commands and act in the way we want it to act. Therefore, he has tremendous advice for people who want to achieve big in their lives.

Belief has all the power

The first step, according to Smith, is to believe truly that we are capable of what we want to achieve. Since, the universe acts positively on our beliefs if we believe in something it becomes our reality. If we believe positively about something, we take positive steps towards achieving a specific goal and vice versa. Therefore, without belief, an idea cannot go far.


Decision-making is an important aspect of attaining success in life, according to Smith. It is important for us to decide how we see ourselves, what we want, and how we are going to achieve our goals. Therefore, planning automatically becomes an important part of attaining success. When we know what we want to do, the whole path becomes easier to follow and makes us to closer to success.

Give it all you have

True success comes from true dedication. According to Smith, even if you are giving 99% of yourself to what you want to achieve, you will not get there. Giving your 100% is the requirement in order to be the person you want to be.

Change your mindset

Will Smith views thoughts, feelings, and emotions as physical entities that have physical consequences on our lives. If you feel that you will not make it, the possibility is that you not make it. Therefore, whatever we achieve in our lives is the sum of what we feel about ourselves and what we can or cannot do. When we start thinking and feeling a certain, it transcends change in our life and change our personal reality. Therefore, one has to be aware of their thoughts and tune their minds to foster a positive thinking pattern in order to attract positivity in life.

Hard work

Will Smith worked tirelessly hard even when people around him had fun and sleeping. You can achieve all that you want in life if you are willing to work hard at it.

Take one-step at a time

Will Smith tells other people to not imagine the end result; instead they should focus on their journey and try to make the best of it in order to have the best results. Nobody can have perfection since the beginning and, therefore, one should focus on each step they are taking to be the best step they ever take. All of this resilience will end to give you the best conclusion in the end.

Comparing yourself with others is bad

According to Will Smith, people should have confidence in themselves and must not compare themselves with other people because, during the comparison, personal confidence is lost. Smith has invested in numerous ventures and just like everyone; he has made a lot of mistakes. However, he has learned tremendously from his mistakes and has made sure that he does not repeat them.

Back in 2008, when Smith was investing in an online venture, he was super excited about it. However, it all turned into a great frustration after a few months down the line, and he began comparing himself with others in the same market. This made him feel bad about himself and lose confidence in his vision.

What entrepreneurs need to keep in mind is that what others do is none of their business and will in no way have an impact on their success.

Help others

When an entrepreneur tries to contribute to the lives of consumers and solve their problems, he does not only help their lives but also his own. Therefore, according to Smith, entrepreneurship is not all about making money but to improve the quality of life. Entrepreneurs should, therefore, strive to see what people are struggling with and then try to help them through their products and services.

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