As Us Weekly would put it, “Stars: they’re just like us!” – and that’s true in business too. These eight celebrities have created and grown small businesses by following their passions, remembering their roots, keeping an eye on the details, and being persistent – traits familiar to every small business owner.
Sandra Bullock: The Academy Award-winning actress owns two businesses across the street from each other in her adopted town of Austin, Texas: upscale eatery Bess Bistro and Walton’s Fancy and Staple, a combined florist-deli-bakery. Bullock is involved in many of the details, from the décor to the dishes. She told People Magazine that family recipes help inspire the menu at both businesses.
Patti LaBelle: Music legend Labelle has loved to cook since she was a young girl, and she’s now sharing her culinary skills with the world through her own line of hot sauces and relishes. They’re available in hundreds of stores, mostly on the East Coast in the Midwest. Labelle has also written three cookbooks. “Food has always been at the center of my joy, from the fish fries my parents had every weekend to the barbecues I have in my backyard today,” she writes in her most recent book, Recipes for the Good Life.
Pharrell Williams: The seven-time Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter-producer also has his own record label and multimedia company. And he’s changing fashion too, with a company called Bionic Yarn, which makes textiles from recycled plastic bottles. Williams is an investor and the company’s creative director. Drawing on his lifelong love of BMX bikes, he’s also the co-owner of Brooklyn Machine Works bicycles.
Steve Carrell: The popular comedian has helped keep open a local landmark in his native Massachusetts by purchasing and restoring the Marshfield Hills General Store. Carrell acquired the store, which dates back to 1853, in 2009 and has stocked it with both 21st century needs and old-fashioned fare, like penny candy. His sister-in-law runs the store, but Carrell can sometimes be spotted there: he’s listed on the store’s website as “Popcorn Maker + Coffee Brewer + Candyman + Stockboy + Cashier + Beloved Proprietor.”
Miranda Lambert: The country music star is also a spitfire when it comes to business. In 2012, she opened an eclectic boutique in Tishomingo, OK, called the Pink Pistol. The store did so well that it’s been credited with boosting the entire town’s economy. A year later, she opened a second Pink Pistol in Lindale, TX, her hometown. Lambert also opened a pop-up version of the boutique in Nashville during the CMA Fest this year. She also recently launched a bed-and-breakfast, The Ladysmith, in Tishomingo.
Sammy Hagar: You may recognize Hagar as one of the lead singers of rock band Van Halen, but did you know he’s also a serial entrepreneur? When he began touring, Hagar started his own travel agency to save on fees. In the 1980s, he parlayed his love of bikes into a bike store, Sausalito Cyclery; by the time he sold it, it was doing $4 million in sales annually. You may be more familiar with some of his more recent ventures: his popular nightclub Cabo Wabo and the tequila by the same name, which he sold for $91 million a few years ago. But he tells the magazine he doesn’t do it for money: “All my ideas have come from sheer enthusiasm.”
Andrew Shue: Melrose Place star Shue co-founded the popular website CafeMom in 2006. It’s now one of the top women’s sites on the internet. In his bio, the Dartmouth-grad says he wanted “to create an organization that would celebrate and reward moms for all that they do each and every day.” The site now has four properties, including TheStir.com and MamásLatinas.com, and attracts more than 30 million monthly unique visitors across them all.
Kevin Smith: Like many entrepreneurs, the Clerks director took something he loved and knew well and turned it into a successful small business. He bought a small comic book store, Comicology, in 1996 and renamed it Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash. He soon moved to a bigger location in Red Bank, New Jersey. The shop became so popular that Smith was able to develop a reality show set at the store. It’s now heading into its fourth season on AMC.
Lyle Waggoner: The Carol Burnett Show star saw a need in his industry, and he filled it. It’s the story of many entrepreneurs, but Waggoner’s industry was Hollywood, and the need was a one-stop shop for motorhomes to be used as dressing rooms on set. Waggoner was also on the hit show Wonder Woman for four years, until 1979. It was at that time that he purchased a motorhome to lease to the producers of the show. That led to the founding of his company, Star Waggons, which now has nearly 700 custom luxury trailers–from cast trailers to wardrobe– that it leases to the entertainment industry. Waggoner, now 79, has retired, and the business is being run by his sons.