268: Entrepreneurship, Equality, and Yes, The Entertainment Industry is Just as Crazy as You Think with Jennifer Justice
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This week’s Misfit Entrepreneur is Jennifer Justice. Jennifer, also known as JJ, is an entertainment and live experience executive known for her expertise in building artists’ careers and business portfolios by marrying art with commerce. She made her mark as an entertainment attorney with a roster of clients that included Jay-Z, Outkast, Slipknot and Mark Ronson, and negotiated massive joint venture agreements including the partnerships of Jay-Z and Roc Nation with Live Nation. She then parlayed her experience to join Jay-Z to build Roc Nation in 2010 and served as his personal attorney for 17 years as well as Beyonce’s at times, during that time.
Today, JJ’s focus is on accelerating the success of women, women owned businesses, and women focused brands to help them succeed and achieve equality and diversity in the market and workforce.
I’m excited to have her on to talk about this topic, her experience, and the power of entrepreneurship.
@JenniferJusticeLeague on Instagram
JJ’s family never went to college or in some cases never graduated high school, so she didn’t have any success mentors. She was passionate about music and when she did get the chance to go to law school, she decided that she was going to be a music entertainment attorney. She didn’t realize how hard it was to get into doing that type of law – it was very small market. She started off a big Wall Street law firm and networked to meet some in the entertainment space. She had some success and ended up as a partner at a firm that specialized in music entertainment law. She found a lot of common ground with her clients and being an advocate for them as many came from the same type of background as her.
One of her first clients was a very then, unknown, Jay Z. They grew up in the business together and she started growing her roster of clients. She then grew into all the other areas of the business for her clients with Live Nation, Roc Nation, etc.
After 17 years, she had twins that were 2 and half and felt it was time to move on. She was single mom and took 6 months off. She took the time to find out what she really wanted to do and became the President of Suyperfly, a live experience company that started festivals like Bonnaroo and others. She was there for 3 years and pushed herself.
Through it all, she has always had a really big passion for gender equality and started her own firm called the Justice Department to help women in this area. She also invests in companies and consults for general business needs.
What was it like taking 6 months off?
- It was foreign to her.
- It was actually stressful because of her being used to going all the time.
- She felt discombobulated. It was eye-opening. She needed a purpose – just a bigger one.
Tell us more about your mission for equality and the state of things…
- JJ went in bright eyed and thinking that success was equal.
- She found through her work with clients that there was a big discrepancy in wages between men/women for the same roles and types of contracts.
- She started questioning why this was happening and looking into it deeper.
- Me Too and Covid really brought this into the forefront and showed a lot of examples on a larger scale.
- We haven’t made a lot of strides in the area of equal pay and people are fed up with it.
Do you see entrepreneurship as the best opportunity to level the playing field?
- Yes, but there are issues there too.
- Women get funded 90% less than men.
- You do get to set your own rules and solve your own issues as an entrepreneur
- It is a great opportunity.
What you best advice to help women succeed in their careers?
- In a traditional job or system, do it with open eyes.
- Understand that biases exist and educate yourself on them.
- Know what other people make. Legally, other employees can share this with you. Find your tribe.
- Be armed with the information.
- Make sure when you are negotiating a new role or salary, you hire an attorney to review the documents and negotiate on your behalf – you can do this.
- For more of an entry level role, you should still hire an attorney to give advice.
- Let them give you the first offer and take it into consideration before any agreement or negotiation.
- Ask for 20-25% than you think you deserve because you never know. If you don’t get what you want – ask how you can and decide on what needs to be done to get there that you and the company agree to.
Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want and believe in your worth.
What are the principles that you’ve used to build great companies and what do you look for when you invest in companies?
- It comes down to the founder. They lead the business.
- There is something to be said about the product but investing in areas you know is important as an investor or when deciding to build a company.
- Founders needs to understand when it may be time for them to step aside and let someone with the right experience for that level come in to run the company.
What are some of the best lessons you learned from working with Jay-Z?
- He really knows who he is.
- He had never had an agent because he doesn’t like a middleman.
- He took what was passion and built businesses around them doing them himself.
- He was/is focused on enterprise level opportunities.
- Jay-Z was/is very good at using joint ventures to grow and increase the value of his companies. 1+1 could equal 1000.
- Lastly, the willingness to walk away from a bad deal.
You should always be willing to walk away from a bad deal. Many times, walking away will turn it in your favor and if doesn’t, it wasn’t mean to be.
Best advice for an entrepreneur just starting out?
- Go through the MVP process
- Get a lawyer from the beginning
- Find your right team that will support you internally and externally.
- Build the core business and expand from there.
Craziest thing you’ve ever seen happen in your career in the entertainment industry?
- A lot of it JJ cannot say because of attorney client privilege.
- She had her life threatened a few times.
- If you’ve watched the show Empire, it pretty much nails how it is.
- It’s just as crazy as you think it is.
Best Quote: Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want and believe in your worth.
Jennifer's Misfit 3:
- Before taking advice, take a moment to think about if the person giving you that advice has ever been in your shoes.
- Don’t worry about the traditional way of doing things. Be un-conventional.
- Hire outside of what is traditional. Give those that need a hand up a chance.
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