Almost everyone has heard of Rihanna, but not many know what she has been up to recently. After topping the charts with her single “Work” in 2016 and releasing a collaborative album with rapper Future later that year, she appears to have fallen off the radar. However, it turns out that was all part of an insider strategy for coming back bigger and better than ever before. In January 2018, Rihanna entered the world of venture capital with a $20 million investment in Fenty Beauty. It wasn’t long before she became one of the youngest self-made billionaires in America as a result. Here is how the Barbados-born beauty mogul went from being a household name to becoming one of those elusive celebrity billionaires we hear so much about these days…
A brief history of Rihanna’s success
Rihanna grew up in a modest household in Barbados, but her childhood was not as privileged as one might think. Although they were far from poor, Rihanna’s parents believed she and her sister would have a better chance at success if they were raised outside of the Barbadian “fishbowl”. As a result, they were sent to a series of schools around the Caribbean when they were children before finally settling in New York for their high school years. It was in the Big Apple where the seeds for Rihanna’s future were planted thanks to some fortuitous networking. Having caught the music bug early in life, Rihanna began writing and singing songs fairly seriously during her high school years.
Thanks to some connections she made through her school’s choir program, she was able to meet with a handful of record label representatives and interested investors. By the end of her senior year, she had a deal with Jay-Z’s label, Def Jam, and a recording contract worth $90 million. Rihanna’s early success was driven by a combination of luck, talent, and a decade of hard work. Although she was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time, she also earned her early commercial successes through sheer determination and hard work. From the time she was a teenager, she spent hours in the recording studio honing her craft and studying the business of music.
Fenty Beauty: From zero to hero in six months
Rihanna’s business ventures have spanned industries as disparate as fashion, hotels, and beverage, but her greatest success to date has come in the beauty industry. She cofounded Fenty Beauty, a line of cosmetics for women of color, in 2017 with Kendo Brands. The company was acquired by LVMH (the luxury conglomerate behind brands like Dior, Louis Vuitton, and Moet & Chandon) just six months later for $100 million. It’s not every day that a cosmetics company goes from nothing to being acquired for $100 million in six months. In fact, it may be unprecedented in the history of the beauty industry. But it was Rihanna’s extraordinary marketing savvy that was largely responsible for this astronomical success.
How did Rihanna become a billionaire?
The Fenty Beauty deal closed in February 2018, less than a year after the line was first announced. By that point, it had already amassed a significant amount of buzz in the beauty and fashion communities thanks in large part to Rihanna’s aggressive marketing strategy. Rihanna was an active participant in every part of the Fenty Beauty rollout. She starred in all of the brand’s marketing materials, including ads, social media posts, and a partnership with makeup artist Mario Dedivanovic. She also opened up the Fenty Beauty product testing facility to the public so that customers could get their hands on the products before they were released to the general public. These elements, along with the fact that the line was designed for women of color, helped Fenty Beauty surpass $100 million in revenue in less than six months. It’s estimated that, thanks to this deal, Rihanna became a billionaire in less than a year.
Lessons for entrepreneurs from Rihanna’s success
Even if you don’t know much about the beauty industry, it’s hard not to be impressed by Rihanna’s meteoric rise to the top of the charts in such a short amount of time. There are a couple of key factors that contributed to her success. Rihanna was able to build a $100 million brand because she is who she is. The demographic of women she chose to focus on was a strategic decision, but she also was able to leverage her own celebrity status to help bring attention to the new product line. She has more than 60 million followers across all of her social media platforms, and she used them to bring attention to Fenty Beauty from the very beginning.
Rihanna is a great example of what an entrepreneur can accomplish when they put in the work and stay focused on their goals. While it’s true that being successful in business requires luck to some degree, the more you put yourself in a position to be lucky, the more likely it is that opportunity will find you. Rihanna’s success is the result of a decade spent honing her craft and learning the ins and outs of the music industry. When she first came up, she was lucky to have a record deal, but she also worked hard to make the most of her opportunity and become a global commercial success. Rihanna has since extended her business interests into a wide range of areas, including fashion, hospitality, and beauty. While luck was certainly a factor in her rapid rise to fame, she also made a point of capitalizing on every opportunity that came her way in order to get where she is today.
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