Facing an uncertain financial future, many are finding themselves at a crossroads. It’s times like this, when there’s little to lose and lots to gain, that it may make sense to go back to school to further your education, or even take a fork in your career path to consider career opportunities you would have never considered before. Diversification isn’t just a proven investment strategy, it can also be a way to leverage the money and influence gained in one endeavor to achieve success in an entirely different one.
The following examples are much more than mere American success stories. The career advice offered here can prove inspirational and educational for those looking for opportunities to pursue entrepreneurship, passive income generation or even a plan b. Because for every celebrity with a vanity apparel line, there are hundreds of Americans with great ideas (plush toys, organic cookies, etc.) that they are just waiting to become the next millionaires with.
Robert De Niro
Regarded as one of the most influential actors of his time, De Niro has most recently made a name for himself as a world-class restaurateur. De Niro has partnered with Iron Chef Nobu Matsuhisa to build a chain of highly successful and critically acclaimed sushi restaurants under the name ‘Nobu.’ With De Niro’s backing, Nobu has grown into a network of 21 locations in seven countries. Most recently, De Niro (along with other Hollywood A-listers) has partnered with Italian chef Agostino Sciandri in order to help grow his already successful Las Vegas based ‘Ago’ restaurant. New Ago locations have sprung up in New York, Miami, and Los Angeles, with more openings slated for the near future. It is very interesting to note that De Niro attributes his success to loving what he does; he could very easily promote these restaurants with a number of endorsements and high profile appearances, but he tends to let the restaurants speak for themselves.
Cool Hand Luke star Paul Newman started his multi-million dollar food products empire in 1982, with a single salad dressing recipe (co-founded with author A.E. Hotchner). Initially given away to friends as gifts, the dressing became the flagship product for the highly successful “Newman’s Own” brand. Since 1982, the brand has grown exponentially, and now distributes myriad products internationally including a new organics line called “Newman’s Organics.” According to the Newman’s website, the company has donated over $250 million since its founding. Interestingly, the company operates as a for-profit corporation, and gives 100 percent of its proceeds to grants and charities across the world. While Newman’s products have undoubtedly benefited from his reputation, their popularity for their intrinsic quality cannot be denied.
During the height of her successful television career, Somers began to venture into the world of celebrity endorsements, perhaps most famously a product known as the ‘Thighmaster.’ This would signal her emergence into the lifestyle products marketplace, in which she has since created a multi-million dollar empire. Somers’ business ventures were really ahead of the time, a realization that many beautiful actresses are not able to continue getting work as they age. Mostly marketed via the Home Shopping Network, Somers companies, ELO Somers and Port Carling Inc, sell personally branded beauty, diet and exercise, and fashion products. She also owns her own e-commerce site, as well as an Avon-esque direct sales company called, Suzanne.
Ireland was one of the most successful models in the 1980s, and eventually channeled this success to a career in acting. Although her acting career was somewhat brief, Ireland’s film and television appearances are relatively well known (Necessary Roughness, Loaded Weapon I). During the height of her popularity in 1993, Ireland founded Kathy Ireland Worldwide, a marketing and brand management agency. The business’ first move was to market socks under her famous name, which were to be exclusively distributed in North America through Kmart Stores. Immediately successful, Ireland has operated as the CEO of what has become an international brand, expanding to selling Ireland-branded furniture, make-up, clothing and other lifestyle products. It is estimated that the company’s annual sales are at around $1.4 Billion. Of this, Ireland’s annual salary is a paltry $10 Million.
Jackie Chan is one of the most successful international stars of all time. After reaching superstar status in his native Hong Kong for his singing (over 20 albums released) and acting career, Chan came to the US with a string of well-received, and high-grossing action films. Recently, Chan has lent his name to a number of enterprises: his clothing line, launched in 2004 under the ‘JC’ moniker is currently distributed worldwide; Chan also has a sushi chain called Jackie’s Kitchen, with a number of locations throughout East Asia and Hawaii. Another one of his ventures, Jackie Chan’s Café, has locations in Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines. Most recently, Chan has partnered with California Fitness to open a number of ‘Jackie Chan Signature Club’ gyms. Chan is a noted philanthropist, and donates a large percentage of his profits to various charities, research facilities and educational programs.
Aside from his many acting and directorial accolades, Mel Gibson has had quite the successful run in the real estate game. He currently owns a number of properties in the U.S., Costa Rica, Fiji and Australia. In the last five years he has sold an estate in Connecticut for $40 Million, a property in Malibu, CA for $30 Million, which together accounted for a gross return of $37 Million. Gibson’s recent purchases include the Mago Island (Fiji) for $15 million, and a 400-acre ranch in Costa Rica for $26 Million. The exact value of his real estate portfolio is not entirely known, but it is safe to say that it is worth well over $100 Million. His most recent investment is development of a $10 Million dollar church in Malibu, which many speculate will offer some type of generous tax loopholes for the star.
Jaclyn Smith is widely regarded as the godmother of celebrity fashion lines. The former ‘Charlie’s Angel’ star first partnered up with Kmart to sell her private label collection – owned and designed by Smith - as an alternative to simply endorsing other brands’ products. Since Smith’s product launch in 1985, it is estimated that 100 million women have purchased clothing and/or accessories from her line. According to Women’s Wear Daily, Smith’s line had the highest consumer awareness of any private label fashion line in the US.
Robert Redford is a true renaissance man: former model and college baseball player, actor, director, producer and founder of the successful Sundance brand. His first major investment was the purchase of a ski area just outside of Park City, Utah where he would establish the Sundance Resort (named after his character's name in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid). Redford has subsequently has founded the Sundance Film Festival, which is the largest independent film festival in the U.S, as well as one of the largest festivals in the world. Other Sundance enterprises include: Sundance Films, Sundance Catalog (an E-commerce site), and Sundance channel, and Sundance Cinemas. While Redford has not disclosed the total worth of his Sundance holdings, it is reported that he sold Sundance Channel in Mid 2008 for an estimated $496 million.
Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen
In 1993, at the tender age of 8, the Olsen twins established a brand called Dualstar, which would serve as a parent company to their subsequent licensing deals. This has included the release of a number of Mary-Kate and Ashley-branded fashion and cosmetics products. Since ‘93, products bearing the Olsen twins’ names have been sold in over 5000 stores worldwide. Brands include a Wal-Mart distributed eponymous clothing and beauty supplies line marketed to girls ages 4-14, along with a high-end boutique line, Elizabeth and James, named after their other, non-celebrity siblings. The sisters’ combined holdings (mostly from their product lines) equate to a net worth of over $100 million. It is estimated that their combined brands net revenue for the girls of $15M per year.