Shanti Das is no stranger to success. As the former Executive Vice President of Marketing at Motown Records, Das engraved her name in the music industry from her roles at various labels such as LaFace, Arista, Columbia and Sony Urban Music. Now, she is a self-made entrepreneur and a best-selling author, who shares her wealth of knowledge in pocket-sized business books.
Following the release of The 1, 2, 3s Of Networking, Das penned the second installment of her clutch guides titled The 1, 2, 3s Of Entrepreneurship, both a product of her hard work and a gift for any aspiring CEO. “I always tell people that dreams are just ideas, but they take proper planning, strategy and execution,” Das says.
Das’ latest release packs in priceless gems from well-known entrepreneurs like Mona Scott-Young, Daymond John, and Will Packer, who hand out brilliant tips and insightful lessons for any future sole-proprietor.
Scroll through VIBE’s interview with the Atlanta boss below, where she dishes about being her own boss, mistakes entrepreneurs often make, and the many keys to running a fruitful business.
VIBE: What motivated you to pen this new book?
Shanti Das: I took a huge leap of faith in 2009 and walked away from a really big career in the entertainment industry. I was Executive Vice President of Marketing at Motown, and I just didn’t really think I could be an entrepreneur. But some life changes took me back home [in Atlanta] and I wrote this book because I felt like a lot of people are afraid of the word “entrepreneurship” or even going into business on their own. I wanted to put something together that would help them with some of the basics. I look at my “1-2-3” series like the “Dummies” or “Chicken Soup For The Soul” series, where it touches on the very basics of any topic or business, just to help folks that are starting out.
You’re also an industry veteran from your time at LaFace Records, Arista, Columbia, and Sony Urban Music, to now author and entrepreneur. Why the switch now?
The switch was to start something fresh for myself. I’ve helped launch the careers of so many other people and help grow the companies that it was nice to have my own business and my own company. I put those tips together just because it’s really difficult starting out, trying to own your own business. I didn’t even know you had to pay quarterly taxes when you own a company. When you don’t have a lot of overhead or money to hire a staff, you wear all of these different hats. Who knew just starting out I have to be the accountant, the marketing person, the promo person, and the business development person for the company?
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What steps did you take in putting together this book?
I enlisted help from some of my dear friends in the entertainment industry that have successful businesses. For example, Will Packer, the producer, gave me a quote. Steve Stoute, the marketing extraordinaire and Joel Katz who’s been everybody’s attorney in the entertainment industry. This book is just giving tips on entrepreneurship whereas the first book, I wrote all 30 tips and it was all on networking.
Did you pick up any tips from those that you interviewed that you’d apply to your own work ethic?
Joel Katz just talked about always taking the call or that meeting, and not being afraid. I think sometimes we’re a little bit leery about opportunities. What’s the worst that can happen? Somebody can tell you no. Even now, [that still applies for] me being five years in as an entrepreneur, and they say if you can make it for the first five years, you’re okay. I’m still creating opportunities for myself, taking all these meetings and really believing in the power of me. Will Packer talks about that. You come in contact with so many successful people and it’s easy to get intimidated by those people. The key is to not get intimidated but to learn how to feed off of them and really get what you need in the process.
VIBE: What’s the number one key to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
There’s a lot of moving parts. Having that plan in place and creating a strategy that works because we can all have strategies, but you don’t know what works until you try it. You can’t be afraid of failure. If you’re afraid, then I don’t think entrepreneurship is the business for you. Some things work, and some things may not. I know guys that started their own companies and they had two successful runs. Company made a couple million and then it folded or failed. That’s not necessarily looked at as “failure.” You have to take that experience and keep moving forward. Real entrepreneurs have it in their heart and spirit.
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VIBE: What are some common mistakes that people make when they seek to create their own business?
Not putting together a proper business plan. They jump in head-first, not really understanding the business they’re going into. You need to do a lot of research, find out who your competitors are in the marketplace, if nobody is doing this product or service that you’re offering, making sure that you’re the absolute best at it, and find a niche for it. For example, I created a live music series called ATL Live On The Park and it’s in year six. It’s the most successful music showcase in Atlanta now. We’ve had everybody from R. Kelly to Miguel at the show. What made it work for Atlanta was we had a product, which was the showcase, but there was a void in the marketplace for it. I didn’t try to go into the Atlanta market, doing something that everybody else was doing and trying to compete. I tried to create something that was unique for the environment. That’s what I think a lot of people don’t do—try and look for something that’s new and fresh and that would be a great addition to the marketplace. Whether it’s a product, service, or you’re a consulting services, find a way to make your self or product unique and make it stand out.
What are your thoughts on the younger entrepreneurs you meet on the College Chat Room tours?
The younger generation is more open to entrepreneurship. I think my generation, the 40-plus crowd, a lot of us just wanted to have that safe job, 401k, retirement plan and we were okay. When you look on YouTube, for example Marques Brownlee, he’s like 20-years-old and started reviewing mobile products and computers right in his dorm room. He’s very smart at it and with his business, he could make like a couple hundred thousand to a couple million a year just from reviewing products. He’s onboard with YouTube, and they’re paying him, and some of the other companies pay him to review their products. It’s just so easy with technology now. That’s one thing that I’ll say with this generation. Technology has changed the landscape for entrepreneurship. It’s all right there for you. If you just have a great idea or a really cool app, and you have people behind you, just try to think of something like what would make your life easier. No longer are we waiting for people to do it for us. I feel that sense of entrepreneurship in the millennials and it’s refreshing.
What’s the biggest takeaway that people will gain after reading your books?
Anybody that’s looking to start their own business needs to really create a plan and a strategy for yourself. Whether you are starting out and you have this little online boutique or you have this great product and you’re looking from an investor, like a Daymond John from Shark Tank, who is featured in the book. He talks about showing people how investing in your company helps them. It’s not just talking from a selfish standpoint. I want people to do those business plans. Don’t be afraid to fail and just learn as much as you can about the world of business so that you can properly handle your accounting, taxes, and you can start reaping some benefits down the line.