Nadia Mukami: How billionaire Jay Z inspired me to build a business empire
Before he became a business mogul, American celebrity Jay Z (real name Shawn Corey Carter) was one of rap music’s best rhymers.
Soul samples, handled primarily by fellow American artiste Kanye West, gave Jay Z’s 2001 studio album, The Blueprint, the glossiest sounds money could buy.
Even if Jay Z wasn’t sitting on the pop and rap throne, his disheartening diss track (a song meant to verbally attack someone) Take Over directed at another US rapper, Nas (real name Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones), would still show he wasn’t a man you would want to cross.
At the time of the album recording, Jay Z was awaiting two criminal trials, one for gun possession and another for assault. He had become one of hip-hop’s most ‘dissed’ artists.
The release of The Blueprint was necessary. It was a battle of egos. But as it would be, the album’s staggering sales shaped Jay Z’s mindset, setting him on a path to become not only one of the best rappers to ever live but also one of only a handful of entertainers to become dollar billionaires.
Jay Z’s vast, steadily growing kingdom is expansive, encompassing liquor, art, real estate and stakes in companies like Uber and Spotify.
It is this blueprint that Kenyan chanteuse Nadia Mukami has plucked a page from. She is already working on establishing herself as a female version of Jay Z.
“I follow Jay Z a lot with the intention of learning because we are in the same space. We are both entertainers. I mean, if you cared to listen to his chat on (American comedian and actor) Kevin Hart’s chat show Hart to Heart, Jay Z speaks of the importance of having multiple streams of income.
1 million gig
We artistes make a lot of money — sometimes more than a million (shillings) in a good month from just a gig.
A Sh200,000 show this week, another Sh300,000 the following week, and more on the weekends. But many of us spend huge chunks of this hard-earned money on having fun rather than investing. There is this mentality that there will always be more coming in soon,” she tells the Sunday Nation. Nadia thinks such a stance is laden with risks: “Life happens. Things can go terribly wrong. Who would ever have thought of a Covid-19 pandemic?”
Jay Z’s empire has over 2,000 permanent employees, but the 26-year-old Wangu hit-maker has 25 on her payroll. She believes the number will soon increase once she rolls out her next ‘big’ project.
The Maseno University graduate is a finance expert by training, an entertainer by practice, a philanthropist, a businesswoman and a mother, hats she juggles with effortless ease despite the pressure.
“I have learnt not to only depend on the music. Locally, I look up to people like Peter Nduati, who made his money from the insurance industry and music via his Pine Creek Records label. Most people in the music industry don’t even know that you can make money from owning master copies of artists under your record label. Another one is Myke Rabar, the Homeboyz Entertainment CEO. It is the first and only entertainment company listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange. Sevens Creative Hub (her company) will certainly be the second,” Nadia says.
We are seated on the third floor of an apartment along Mombasa Road.
The well-lit, delicately furnished apartment has so many things going on. A General Manager’s office where we are lounging, a recording studio, a video editing suit, a photography studio, and a cosy waiting lounge. The apartment is a beehive of activities with people walking in and out.
Black and white picture frames of South African music icon Miriam Makeba, Kisumu 100 hit maker Suzanna Owiyo and other female entertainers hang on the white gypsum walls.
On the wall shelves in the General Manager’s office, Nadia’s enterprise and musical accolades as well as streaming plaques compete for space.
“This is our new office. We just moved in here recently. We needed a bigger space to step up the Sevens Creative Hub. Why 7? It is my lucky number and it’s Biblical. Sevens Creative Hub is the mother company to four of my current businesses,”
Of the four, only music is known.
Sevens Creative Hub started in 2019 at a Servants Quarters where Nadia lived then as an up-and-coming musician, with just two employees.
The singer with over 1.8 million followers on Instagram had just cut ties with her former management stable, Hailemind owned by David Guoro.
It took Sevens six months to land its first job, a consultancy which paid Sh3,000. In 2021, Sevens got its first high-paying job of Sh4 million, and Nadia has never looked back.
“Starting Sevens was me trying to break the narrative that Nadia is just an artiste. I wanted to make my brand become more business-related,” she says.
She would move Sevens from her SQ to another space and began offering videography and studio recording services. She charged artistes between Sh15,000 and Sh20,000 for audio recording because “some artistes complain too much”.
“From there I ventured into the bulk SMS business. I built a database of my fans’ contacts. We had a good turnover from selling SMS and that helped keep Sevens afloat. I was able to pay rent and salaries to my five employees. It also helped me in promoting my new music releases.”
How bulk SMS business works is that a client reaches out to Sevens with a message to be sent to its targeted consumers. With the robust data stream in place, Sevens is able to send the client’s bulk SMS at a fee.
“You could do your math from a database of more than 2,000. We charge 0.35 cents for each SMS. How much is that considering it’s a charge for a single message, and the minimum number of SMS you can sell for a client is 10,000?” she says.
Costs in such transactions typically include tax, money paid to the telecommunications company and the SMS platform provider among others.
Nadia is Kenya’s top female artiste. She boasts of the highest number of streams on Boomplay— a streaming and download service targeting Africa — standing at 37 million. That number places her in the third position in East Africa after Tanzanian artistes Zuchu and Nandy. She has also ventured into offering experiential services. These broadly refer to services that focus on the customer’s experience when interacting with an organisation or its brands.
“The kind of experiential services I do is both online and onsite activation. Sometimes I engage fellow influencers. I pay them whenever I have these kinds of jobs,” she says.
At this point Nadia feels the urge to flex, “Honestly speaking, I am the queen of corporate gigs. I don’t think there is any other musician who has done as many corporate jobs as I have, and this is because many times when pitching, I don’t pitch as an entertainer but as an agency offering several services as a package. This has been my catch because then the client is then able to see that there is more I bring to the table,” she says.
The singer also runs Financial Discipline Journey, an initiative that won her an accolade last year at the Zuri Awards.
The awards recognise, celebrate and support exceptional and inspirational women who are involved in bringing positive change through their work. Interestingly, this initiative that I started simply to sensitise my fans on the need to adopt a saving culture has helped me get jobs from different corporates,” says Nadia.
The artiste runs the initiative on her online platforms.
“We have several WhatsApp savings groups consisting of about 1,000 people. Think of them as online chamas. For 52 weeks you are required to save a minimum of Sh50. Should you fail to save for three consecutive weeks, you are kicked out of the group,” she says.
The vibrancy of this initiative has seen financial institutions approach Nadia to market their financial services and in return pay her.
From her music streaming fortune, Nadia ranks Boomplay at number one followed by Spotify and YouTube a distant third.
“Honestly though I am not making much from YouTube, I just don’t understand how its algorithm works. But Boomplay and Spotify, there is ‘juice’ (good rewards),” she says.
Nadia, however, will not say how much she makes from these streams because “money matters are personal”.
It’s been an hour since we started the chat and Nadia needs to prepare for a show later in the evening, but first she will need to check on things at her new investment, a nail bar and beauty parlour, situated along Koinange Street in Nairobi’s CBD. The business has been operational for three months now and she says she invested a significant amount of money. After all, starting to build an empire inspired by billionaire artiste Jay Z does not come easy.