A Fireside Chat about music and entrepreneurship was held on Friday at the David Whitney Building. This session included Big Sean, Katrina Turnbow and Drew Rives. All three were born and raised in Detroit.
The intimate session was produced and moderated by Katrina Turnbow, a Google Digital Coach and owner of Kanopi Social, a digital marketing agency based in Detroit. She is one of nine people in the United States that helps Black & Latino create and improve their business's online presence.
Drew Rives is a music exec at Def Jam, currently based in Detroit. He's been in the music industry since 1992, and at Def Jam since 1999. He went to school to be a lawyer, but ya know how that goes-
Big Sean has been on the Detroit music scene since he was a kid, and was picked up by Kanye West's label GOOD Music in 2007. He signed with Def Jam a year later, and Roc Nation in 2014.
We're gonna kick off the Q&A session with Drew Rives.
Name five artists that you feel had entrepreneurial traits:
"Jeezy, Jay-Z, Jadakiss, Big Sean, Kanye."
"Jeezy was one of the most successful stories I’ve ever seen. He had the mind state of going from streets & selling drugs to owning his own liquor company, clothing line. Now he’s makin money moves."
What is something that was an obstacle to overcome?
“Thinkin’ that u are hotter than I really are.” You cannot believe the hype. Master what you’re good at first. “Don’t spread yourself too thin too quick.”
[If you get] "knocked out 8x get up 9. “
Mr. Rives went on to say how important a team is for entrepreneurs who can't and shouldn't do everything themselves. He stated that "a team is what makes it work" and that “the successful ones never give up.” He said it's crucial to “find people who want to go just as hard as you. “
Then Big Sean stepped in through the glass doors. He came through with a team of 25 deep, flanked by a security team and his mother.
He took his seat and was ready to go, piggy-backing onto what Drew Rives had said.
He started off saying that building a team successfully had allowed him to scale. He stated that “you definitely have to go through trial & error. At first I had all my friends working for me (during mixtapes) but I realized not everyone is meant to be on the team. It did set me back."
He said making the decision to drop people in his team was not easy. He said sometimes, if he had to let someone go— he’d call his mom about it.
He then stressed that, in regard to business, it is important to ask yourself “Are you doing a job or a hobby? Are you’re homies qualified to work for you and do the job that you need them to do.
My 1st manager isn’t the one I have now. One was good at breaking an artist. My new manager is good at making deals & creating a superstar."
Do you have advice on standing out in the business world?
Big Sean dropped this gem: “The biggest secret to business is: supply & demand.” You wanna stand out- supply something that is different. That's the most obvious but overlooked thing.
Being an artist in Detroit
As mentioned, all three on stage were born & raised in Detroit. Ms. Turnbow said, "I don’t know about y’all, but I come downtown and I swear that I never thought I’d see Detroit lookin' like this. I never thought I’d see these building look like this in my lifetime.”
Big Sean said “Detroit is one of the most creative places in the world. I feel like Detroit gave me everything so it’s [his involvement in the city] my way of giving back.”
And he's not just talking.
There's so much going on in the city, and Big Sean is playing a role in the transformation. He's the creator of D.O.N. Weekend- kicking it off on June 21 with a Fashion Mogul event sponsored by Puma. This five day event includes a block party for families on the East-side. It concludes on June 25 with a private event honoring kids that are at the top of their game in school. Dubbed "Lightfest," it's an award ceremony to recognize kids enrolled in Detroit schools that maintain good grades.
As if that weren't enough Big Sean is on the Board for the Motown Museum. He is also singlehandedly responsible for bringing a movie theatre downtown. He went on to say that he's also "Doing lots of things with Ford. I'm doing my best to not just be an example- but be the best for myself."
Drew Rives said that it's an “Exciting time to be in this business in Detroit." He continued, "Our new CEO is from Detroit-- Paul Rosenberg and we just signed Payroll— and we're looking for more Detroit artists."
Big Sean agreed and said that, "These guys [Detroit musicians] had no opportunities and no one to look up to--- before, it was Berry Gordy." He said that's changing and now, with the evolution of the internet- it doesn't matter where you're from- we're all on a level playing field.