It may come as a surprise, but there are plenty of celebrity entrepreneurs who run super-successful businesses away from the limelight of the big screen. Yes, we admit that it’s far easier for an A-Lister (such as Jay Z or Jessica Alba) to launch a company or a startup compared with most of us, but there are celebrities-turned-entrepreneurs who have become game-changers in an industry that’s completely different from the one for which they are famed. Here are five of the best.
At the top of the list comes the inimitable Oprah. So famous that she doesn’t even need a last name anymore, Oprah founded her own production house in 1988, Harpo Inc. (“Oprah" spelled backward; not a Marx Brothers reference) for televeision and film production, magazine and online media (O, the Oprah magazine has a circulation of over two million readers a month). She is co-founder of Oxygen Media, which operates the Oxygen Network, a cable network for women that reaches more than 54 million viewers. She’s an Internet entrepreneur too, and with 13 million users per month generating 75 million page views, Oprah.com is one of the top women's multimedia lifestyle websites.
Robert De Niro
Co-founder of Tribeca Productions and the Tribeca Film Festival; responsible for the rebranding of the Tribeca area in NYC; big into investing in successful restaurants; oh, and an Oscar-award winning actor and director to boot, Robert De Niro is nothing short of a star entrepreneur in every sense. In 1994, he and celebrity chef Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa became business partners and came up with the idea of launching the Nobu sushi franchise empire around the world (in 2015, Australian billionaire James Packer forked out $100 million for a 20 per cent stake in the company). Truly an actor with the Midas touch.
The rapper, married to Beyoncé (an entrepreneur powerhouse herself with her own active-wear label in partnership with Topshop, and a vegan food-delivery service called 22 Days Nutrition) set off a media blitz when he bought little-known Swedish music streaming company Aspiro for $56 million last year. The aim of the game is to provide high-quality sound (anyone thinking Dr Dre and Beats?), while also paying high royalties to participating artists. The rapper used to head up hip-hop record label Def Jam Records so he’s in the know with the entertainers that count. Entrepreneur status is also bestowed on him thanks to his clothing line Rocawear that he sold to Iconix Brand Group in 2007 for a staggering $204 million.
Not only is she beautiful, but this blockbuster film actress catapulted to entrepreneurial stardom with her Honest Company – which, by the way, when she first pitched the idea in 2008, was met with dismissive scepticism. Today, the business, which sells non-toxic baby and household products, is valued at around US$1 billion, and last year Unilever began talks to buy it in a bid to expand into the ever-growing market of eco-conscious consumers. While the deal didn’t go through, it was enough of a biggie to earn Alba major business cred.
Winner of two Oscars and eight nominations, swoon-worthy actor and producer George Clooney is adored across the globe. Seemingly ageless, he co-founded, with Rande Gerber (who also happens to be former supermodel Cindy Crawford’s husband) the tequila company Casamigos, which boasts "the smoothest tequila around." Never actually meant for the public, what started off as a passion to produce great tequila for private consumption, it turned into an accidental business and is now touted as one of the fastest-growing private-label tequila brands in the US.
Photo courtesy of (from left to right):
1. Oprah - Oprah Winfrey Network
2. Robert De Niro - DFree / Shutterstock, Inc.
3. Jay Z - Debby Wong / Shutterstock, Inc.
4. Jessica Alba - Helga Esteb / Shutterstock, Inc.
5. George Clooney - Casamigos Tequila