You know them as stars of the stage, screen and television — but some of the world’s most famous celebrities double as entrepreneurs who spend their off-camera time toiling away at business plans to develop alternate revenue streams. These celebrities turned their business ideas into thriving companies that earned them money, diversified their incomes and brightened their stars.
Click through to discover who these successful celebrity entrepreneurs are — and see the smart business decisions they’ve made.
Business move: Apparel and accessories
When she got serious about starting a business, Oscar-winning actress Reese Witherspoon found a way to use the talent she already has to succeed — she used her auditioning skills to pitch her idea to potential investors. Eventually, she convinced a venture capitalist to contribute $10 million in seed money for Draper James, which is Witherspoon’s Southern clothing and lifestyle brand. Within hours of her 2015 launch, according to a Daily Mail report at the time, the brand’s $125 tank tops and $325 purses sold out within a few hours.
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Business move: Cosmetics
In 2017, Time listed a makeup line called Fenty Beauty as one of the top inventions of the year. The line, which was developed by pop superstar Rihanna, earned $72 million in a single month and outpaced the earnings of much larger brands. It also forced top companies such as L’Oreal to ramp up marketing to women of color.
According to Billboard, Rihanna leveraged her massive social media following to help make the leap from just another singer with a makeup line to a bona fide heavy hitter in the global cosmetics industry. Rihanna now has a net worth of $245 million.
Business move: Men’s clothing
Forbes calls Ryan Seacrest “the busiest man in show business.” After finishing “American Idol” in 2016, he immediately transitioned into co-hosting “Live” with Kelly Ripa. He is a fixture on the red carpet, hosted NBC’s late-night coverage of the Rio Olympics and New Year’s Eve in Times Square, hosts a morning radio show and produces at least eight television shows — but he’s also an entrepreneur.
In 2014, he made business news when he launched his Distinction clothing line as part of an exclusive deal with Macy’s. By 2015, Women’s Wear Daily was reporting that he was the “darling” of Macy’s, which counted Distinction among its top brands. In 2017, Macy’s expanded Distinction to include a sportswear line, which should further boost Seacrest’s $380 million net worth.
Business move: Dropping an album with no marketing
Beyoncé and her husband Jay-Z are a $1.4 billion music/money/mogul power couple unlike any other. But Jay-Z claims $900 million of that haul, which leaves Beyoncé with a measly half-billion dollars. Her albums dominate the charts, and her concert tours gross deep into the nine figures. But, according to Fortune, that’s just where her vast business network begins.
She’s the mind behind several fragrances, fashion lines and even a streaming service. But her biggest business talent might just be related to her biggest creative talent — music. In 2013, she dropped a self-titled “visual album.” The release was backed up with no promotion, no marketing and no singles to push the product, which is clearly the mark of an amateur, right? Not so much. Understanding the psychological snowball effect of social media, the singer informed her fans of the news with one single tweet. Twitter immediately seemed singularly focused on Beyoncé, and the album sold 80,000 copies in three hours.
Business move: Tourism and theme parks
After 47 Grammy nominations, 41 top 10 albums and two Oscar nominations, Dolly Parton’s status as a living legend and one of the richest stars in country music is more than secure — but she also has plenty going on offstage. In fact, she even launched her own theme park, Dollywood — and it’s no local carnival. For decades, Dollywood has been the biggest tourist attraction in the whole of Parton’s home state of Tennessee, according to Forbes.
Entrepreneur reports her empire includes not just the theme park, but also Dollywood Smoky Mountain Cabins, the Dixie Stampede dinner theater and Dollywood’s Splash Country. Together, her ventures employ 3,000 people.
Business move: Monetizing the “Margaritaville” brand
Jimmy Buffett spent half a century raking in big bucks from strumming and singing about his beach bum lifestyle — or so you’d think. According to a 2018 expose in The New York Times, “Jimmy Buffett does not live the Jimmy Buffett lifestyle.”
Instead, the article summarizes him as a “well-preserved businessman.” He earned $50.5 million in 2017 alone, according to Forbes, the majority of which came from the “Margaritaville” business empire he built, which includes merchandise, restaurants, hotels and even a station on satellite radio.
Business move: Social media marketing
Kim Kardashian is the ambassador of the Kardashian family brand. On her shoulders sits an entrepreneurial empire that includes her family’s hit reality TV show, a lipstick collection through Kylie Cosmetics, a mass of endorsement deals and the merchandising fortune that surrounds her Kimoji app.
All of it, according to Fortune, is anchored by the star’s massively influential online presence. She adopted emerging social media platforms early, and then built her collective social network into the launch pad for new endeavors, the marketing platform for existing ones and the central communication hub for dialogue with fans and customers. She earned $45.5 million in 2017 alone.
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Business move: Personality branding
The Taylor Swifts of the world have long translated their talents on the stage and in the studio into money in the bank. This Taylor Swift, however, took the lead by extending her efforts to what Esquire referred to in a recent article as “personality branding.”
She fought to keep Apple from giving away her music as part of a promotion, launched a “verified fan” program to reward her biggest followers and even took over the logistics of her latest album shipments. When “Reputation” dropped in 2017, Swift announced UPS would become the sole transporter of her physical albums — as long as they plastered Swift’s face on their trucks. She earned $44 million in 2017 alone, but she doesn’t keep it all to herself as she’s easily one of the most charitable celebrities.
Business move: Underwear, cosmetics and fragrance
Thanks in part to her role on “Modern Family,” no television actor of either gender was paid more over the last two consecutive years than Sofia Vergara — but the Colombian actress isn’t a single revenue stream woman.
Her role on the show is responsible for just 25 percent of her $41.5 million annual haul, according to Forbes. Business Women reports she recently launched a unique subscription underwear service for ladies — and that’s just one segment of her entrepreneurial empire, which includes fragrance, makeup and hair care product lines.
Business move: Digital media
Comedian and daytime personality Ellen DeGeneres owes most of the $77 million she earned in 2017 to her wildly popular self-titled talk show. But her likability and wit aren’t her only strengths. DeGeneres made entertainment news headlines when she partnered with Warner Bros. to launch Ellen Digital Ventures, which includes all Ellen-owned sites, apps and social content from her show, reports Variety. According to Forbes, it’s a “multi-million dollar business” that also includes her own streaming platform, Ellentube, as well as mobile games such as the popular Heads Up.