Three Things We Can Do To Embrace Nipsey's Entrepreneurship Model
The way he cultivated his personal brand can teach us so much.
It’s been a little over a month since Nipsey Hussle met an untimely death at age 33. Since then, there have been murals erected in his memory, countless stories shared about his many acts of kindness and the way he inspired people. There also have been ugly rumors about a possible motive for his murder. And many of his fans and fellow artists cringed when he was described as “just a rapper” on Fox News.
Hussle should be applauded for his amazing talent and his ability to pull himself up after experiencing the world of gangs and a hard knock life. That’s one reason I believe that his death has been a zeitgeist for his fans and other young adults who have been systematically denied access to the American Dream. Hussle was a visionary who defied the odds. A tech junkie and a natural born leader, he intelligently planned and executed every business move he ever made. And each had an essential component: to positively impact others, be it his fans through his experiential retail store Marathon Clothing, the community revitalization projects he spearheaded through property investments and strategic partnerships, or his advocacy for STEM education and improved police relations.
Hussle could have used his extensive talents and connections to next-level his ambitions somewhere else, but he didn’t; he flourished close to home, empowered others and demonstrated the power of being your own brand.
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In a relatively short period, the young father set in motion philanthropic endeavors such as an open-air children’s museum that will impact his community for years to come. His businesses and investments are robust enough to financially support his children well into the future. His family has received an outpouring of offers of financial support but politely shut down all crowdfunding campaigns, confidently stating, “the children will be more than alright.”
I’m proud of Nipsey Hussle and all that he accomplished during his short time on this earth. He rewrote the narrative of what it means to be young and affluent through his authentic and unyielding dedication to social entrepreneurship. Hussle was once quoted as saying, “The highest human act is to inspire.” I only know that because I googled him. I admit, I didn’t know Nipsey Hussle before, but I know branding, and Nipsey Hussle’s brand fascinates me. How could one man ignite such grief, anger, hope and empowerment at the same time? As a branding specialist, the personal brand that Hussle carefully cultivated fascinates me and is, in his own words and in my opinion, worth emulating.
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Hussle saw things as they could be, not as they were. Marathon Clothing, for instance, is a brilliant example of how Hussle was able to breathe new life into the old-school, brick-and-mortar retail model by curating unique experiences for his customers and providing early access to his new music. He invested in people, too; he hired convicted felons and helped smooth their transition back into society.
Ultimately, his empathy placed him in the detrimental situation that culminated in his murder. But that mustn’t be the lesson we take away from this tragedy. Instead, I challenge you to emulate his socially responsible brand of entrepreneurship and to make doing well by doing good a key component of your personal brand. Here are 3 things you can do to get on task.
Think about how your decisions affect not only you and your family, but others. Will your actions improve their lives, or empower them to be able to do better for themselves? Your choices are reflections of your intention. Make them count.
Homework: For the next seven days think about how your choices impact you, your family and your community.
Hussle didn’t brag about what he was doing for his community. In the age of social media (where if it's not on Instagram or Twitter, it didn't happen) was a man who understood the meaning of humility. Most of us didn’t know that he supplied city workers with water while they repaired the street on a scorching hot day, that he installed a playground at an elementary school or that he liaised with the LAPD in hopes of fostering greater peace and harmony in his community. Humility is a personal attribute that became part of his brand and, now, his legacy.
Homework: In the next seven days, YOU seek out someone to lend a hand to – friend or a stranger
Hussle was able to be the man he was because he kept close ties with his community and his fans. He knew the perils of his neighborhood and still he took time to sign autographs, or to give a young person words of encouragement. The day he was killed he stopped to take a picture with a little girl. Sure, he used social media to promote his music, but that didn’t displace him from face-to-face human exchange, which today is a lost gift.
Ask yourself: Have I become disconnected from the people and things that matter? How can I restore communications and valued relationships? How can I level up my social responsibility to positively impact my brand and others?
Homework: Connect to others with a warm “hello,” take a minute to visit a senior living facility or drop by the home of your neighbor and simply ask if there's anything you can help them with this week.
I’m not saying that going back to your old neighborhood is the only way to make a difference. You can be impactful wherever you are. But it’s worth asking yourself whether those familiar spaces are, in fact, where you should start BYOB-ing—building your own brand—around people who know and love you, where you can be your authentic self and make an impact. It worked for Nipsey, and it can work for you, too.