By Ryan Velez
Generally, boy bands end up as “Where Are They Now” fodder after their success runs its course, unless a member is lucky to break out on their own. This can go a number of ways, from riding off their fame to reinventing themselves. Inc. shares the story of one person who did the latter: Spectacular Blue Smith formerly of the group Pretty Ricky. Today, Smith’s company Adwizar manages and monetizes social media accounts of over 100 celebrities, and he shared how he got there with Inc’s Kate Rockwood.
Smith recalls always having an entrepreneurial impulse: “I never knew what an entrepreneur was, but I always knew I wanted to make money. I remember in fifth grade, my school had a candy drive and I went crazy--going door to door for days, asking my mom to sell to her friends. At the end of it, I'd sold more than $1,000 worth of candy and I got to pick out something from the prize catalog. I earned ... a yo-yo?!
I'm no idiot; I knew I'd been robbed. I decided to sell candy for myself. But I was selling out by second period. There was only so much candy I could carry, so I started asking people if they wanted to make money. I paid $20 every Friday, and if they could sell three bags a week, they'd make an extra $5. I didn't know what I was doing, but I had payroll and an incentive program. I was killing it, making $2,000 some weeks--more than my mom, more than enough to buy a car when I was still 14.”
This attitude served him well when he joined Pretty Ricky with his brothers, which earned him fame, but left him with little after his manager, a family member, made bad decisions and left him with little money. It was here that he first learned about social media’s potential.
“One of my guys called me up and said that I could make money off of tweeting, and my first question was: "Where do I sign up?" I worked almost 18 hours a day on my girlfriend's mom's little computer in her den, building up my Twitter page. Within the first 30 days, I started making $15,000 from monetizing posts with ads sold against them. By the time I left my girlfriend's mom's house six months later, I'd earned about $100,000.” The business took a turn when Smith had a conversation with Soulja Boy and Sean Kingston, who had six and eight million followers on Facebook, respectively, but no clue on how to monetize them. It would be Smith’s experience in the music business that helped him nab these top clients.
“The thing is, if you don't know social media monetization and someone talks to you about making $20,000 a month, it sounds like blowing smoke. But I come from the music business, where everything is about advances and getting the money up front, so that's what I did. I gave people $20,000 or more, depending on how big their social media following was. Then they knew I wasn't blowing smoke--they listened to how I was going to recoup my costs and then make us both money. Word of mouth spread, and business blew up.” This has grown to nearly 240 million followers for Adwizar content last year, and a full team of strategists, content creators, and account managers.