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Ray J may have created a name for himself as an artist, but now, he has his eyes set on the tech world. Born in Mississippi and raised in Carson, real name William Norwood Jr. has been in the spotlight since he was eight years old. With R&B legend Brandy as his sister and Snoop Dogg as his cousin, failure was never an option. Ray J would go on to release hit after hit. From “One Wish” to “Sexy Can I” to “What I Need”... the list goes on.
Ray’s current endeavors include his own company Raycon Global — with only the highest quality of earbuds — investing in the new social media platform Tsu and gaming company FaZe Clan, and signing artists to his Tech Money Gang label.
For Financial Literacy Month, REVOLT caught up with Ray J at Arenas Entertainment in Burbank to discuss what it means to be an entrepreneur, how he learned the ropes, why he chooses to invest in certain companies, new music from his label Tech Money Gang, and more. Read below!
What does it mean to be an entrepreneur?
For me, I don’t call myself an entrepreneur. An entrepreneur is somebody who really cares about the work because the title can only be solidified with the hard work that you put it in. I have so much more to do, so much more work to accomplish to really even put myself in those situations or titles. I just like to work. I’m an employee of myself. I work harder than everybody in the industry. As long as I stay, I’m in the lead of working harder than everybody. All the accomplishments we look for always happen because the work speaks for itself.
What work are you saying you want to finish?
I have so much work to do as far as building my tech companies. We have a long way to go with Raycon. We have an even longer way to go with Loop and Scoot-E-Bike in the bike sharing industry. I look at myself as putting in five to 10 years for each company — give it a long-term run for a big long-term success.
What’s the latest with Raycon Global?
Raycon’s booming. It’s doing really well, thanks to everybody who’s really going out buying the earbuds. We’re doing better than we’ve ever expected. But again, we can do better. If you go No. 1 you could always go No. 1 again. You can always stay No. 1. If you look up and slip up, or go to sleep, you can go from No. 1 to No. 100. For us, we try to stay on top of our game. Stay humble, and continue to make sure the customers are happy with what we do.
Talk about pushing your companies and promoting it on your own platforms, and the efforts you put into that.
We have a really dope marketing company — all of us — Raydar PR, and just how we lay it out, we have certain templates on how we market that’s unique from anything else. People call it guerrilla marketing, I call it alienating marketing because this s**t is out of this world.
What are all the businesses you own?
I invest in certain businesses. We invested in FaZe Clan in the eSports gaming community. Shout out to Clinton Sparks because he’s the main guy putting the puzzle together with all of us, and putting us up on game. Raycon Global. I sold Scoot-E-Bike to Loop, but I’m still the creative director and I have a lot of shares in the new company.
Why’d you sell it?
It was time. It was time for me to be able to compete and stay in the game. To take bike sharing to the next level, you need the best engineers. You need the best financing. You need the best team around you who can help build your ideas. To win, you have to have a strong team. With Loop, the CEO is a real killer in business. We’re already in the stock market, we’re already going up. It’s looking good, man. But now, everything’s going down because of Coronavirus.
How are you adjusting to all this chaos?
We all are. We all have to pick up where we are and continue to grow. If you look on the stock market, everybody’s down. So hey, we can all get back up.
Somebody today said they lost $100K just waking up.
$100,000? Somebody today lost $100 million! Look at this (pulls out phone). That’s stocks, that’s everything. That’s us right here, we’re down. Everybody’s down. The Nasdaq’s down in its entirety. It is what it is. You go up, you go down. Right now, the whole world’s been a slump with this health crisis. But, we’ll get it together, we always do. The world will come together, find an antidote, and get us back where we need to go.
How did you learn about starting your own business? Did you have any mentors?
My mom [and] my dad. I’ve always been independent with my music. Ever since “One Wish,” I’ve always invested in my own self. My own time, put in the work. With that album (Raydiation), which was my first independent project, we were able to sell over 400 thousand albums at $12.99. “One Wish” was able to go platinum. I’ve learned then back when I was young, took that same business sense, and put it into tech.
Do you feel the same passion you felt when you were making music?
I love making music. I have more music coming. We’re starting a new label and got a new bunch of artists coming. Truth is coming with his s**t. Jackie Long is coming with his music. Peso is coming with his music. The label’s called 17 Inc. The crew is called TMG: Tech Money Gang.
Talk about investing in the new social media app Tsu.
Oh my God, Tsu is the social network that pays. They’re bringing this new platform where everybody could make money off of everything they post. Not only am I invested into Tsu, but John who’s the CEO of Tsu, is also my main financial advisor. We’ve always talked, but the way we’ve been talking lately, and the advice he’s been giving me has been really monumental and helpful in my businesses. Things have been better because he’s been advising me.
So many different things going on behind the scenes that he helps me deal with, helps me see what I might’ve not seen before. Not even on the stock market, but all my businesses in [their] entirety. Of course, you’re going to make your own mistakes. But, when you have wise men around you putting you up on game, you listen and learn from what they’ve done. You can grow faster.
Their whole thing is to pay back creatives with ad revenue. Why do you believe in that notion?
It’s time for people to make money off all the posts that they do. All the hard work that people put into... just the time online. I go to Instagram and I don’t even know I’m going because it’s an automatic thing. So, why not go to the Tsu network, keep that same consistency there, but then make money doing it?
What about your cannabis line?
William Ray LA is my cannabis firm. But, the brand we have out that’s already taking over in the streets is called Peanut Butter and Jelly. It’s the new strand that’s about to take over everything. It tastes just like peanut butter and jelly.
How did you perfect that?
Well, we’ve been [in] the cannabis business for a minute. We invested about $5 million into the business. We have a strong team around us. We own the genetics for Peanut Butter and Jelly, so we’ve been cooking it up. We have a thousand pounds coming to the stores in May. We’ve already sold out of pre-orders on the first run. If you look online, you see a lot of rappers are already talking about it. From Yella Beezy to Young Thug. Young Thug has a song called “Peanut Butter Jelly.” It’s blowing up. It’s going to do really well this year.
What does cannabis do for you?
Cannabis calms me down a little bit. I don’t smoke it like I used to when I was younger — all day, every day. I smoke it after a great day and I want to calm down, just think about what to do next or how to make adjustments. Or watching Netflix, that’s when I put one in the air.
How do you think you’ll teach your kids about the business?
I think they’ll teach me the business. They just need to hang around and learn. Experience is everything. You can read a book, but the person who’s experienced more and more will outdo the person who’s going by the book.
What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs?
Build a team of people who know what they’re doing. Everybody in every position needs to be great — from customer service to being the greatest CFO, COO, CEO. You don’t claim CEO if you’re really not going to be the chief executive officer. Don’t be the operations officer if you’re not going to handle operations and be really good at it. Certain positions really need to be taken seriously. If you build your whole team of greatness, you’ll have a great company.
What if you don’t have the resources to find such great team members?
You have to start with your small team first. It doesn’t happen like that. But, as you grow, as you see a little bit of success, as you see other people wanting to come in and help you, don’t move them out the way because you feel like you know it all and you got it. Sometimes, open your door up to other people who want to help you win.
Anything else we can look forward to?
All the music that’s coming out: Tech Money Gang. All our fans are in Silicon Valley. We have tech nerds as our fans now, but we’re going to expand. We’re making music an accessory to the tech. We’re bringing it together. In the future, you’ll see the innovative stuff we’re doing bringing music and tech together. We have a special sauce we’re about to sprinkle on them.
What’s the sauce?
We have to sprinkle first. They have to taste the sauce to know the sauce. New music is on the way though, big music from all of us. My album’s coming, the single is called “Rope.” ...For the summer, I’m coming out with a song called “Sak Pase? N’ap Boule.” It’s in Creole. It’s saying, “What’s up? How you doing?” “Hey I’m doing well, let’s burn it down tonight.” In your own style. It’s a super feel-good anthem. Shout out to everybody in Haiti, we’re coming out there.