Famous Black Entrepreneurs Series: Sean Combs

Sean Combs - P. Diddy
Sean Combs - P. Diddy. Chris McKay/WireImage/Getty Images

The Brief

Sean “Puffy” Combs, the founder of groundbreaking chart-topping Bad Boy Records, showcases true entrepreneurial drive for his push for major interests in a variety of industries such as television, spirits and fashion. 

Why We Love Him

Not content to simply excel in the music business, Combs is a true empire-builder, expanding his portfolio to include clothing, perfume and spirits brands. 

Early life

A native New Yorker, Combs was born in Harlem and grew up in the nearby Mount Vernon, New York. 

He joined Uptown Records as an intern and soon advanced to the role of talent scout after dropping out of college. An early coup was signing Mary J. Blige, but soon Combs set his sights on bigger things, namely forming his own business. 

Bad Boy Records

Combs’ early knack for spotting talent paid off in his earliest venture, Bad Boy Records, where he launched the company in 1994 with Brooklyn rapper Notorious B.I.G. Soon his roster contained such rising acts as Ma$e, Lil Kim, and Faith Evans. 

Scaling Up 

Proving the value in creating a business that can scale, Combs formed strategic partnership with record industry presences with much bigger muscle. In 1996, Bad Boy formed a joint venture with Arista records which successfully expanded the business until its amicable split in 2002. In 2003, Bad Boy once again joined forces with a major player, Universal Records, to ensure maximal distribution for Bad Boy artists.


Diverse Ventures

Music is a big piece of the entrepreneurial pie for Combs, but since his start he’s been avidly and successfully pursuing diverse business ventures. 

Founded in 1998, Christian Casey is a multi-million-dollar high-end urban fashion brand aimed at trend-conscious young people. 

2005 marked the beginning a joint venture with Estee Lauder on the Sean John fragrance, an eventual department store best-seller.


2007 marked a foray in the spirits market — Combs joined forces with liquor conglomerate Diageo to oversee marketing efforts for the Ciroc vodka brand. 

In 2013, the Combs empire jumped into television with Revolt TV, a music television network. 

In 2014, Combs leveraged his partnership with Diageo to purchase DeLeón tequila. 

What to Learn from Combs' Success

Research shows that 80% of pentamillionaires (those with a net worth of $5 million or more) are entrepreneurs who grew and sold their companies.

Think big -- build a business asset that will attract partners, investors, and eventually, buyers. A simple understanding of how business value is calculated can provide more focus on areas that can significantly increase the valuation of your business. Here's how to build business value. 

Famous Black Entrepreneurs Series

Sean “Puffy” Combs: the founder of groundbreaking chart-topping Bad Boy Records showcases true entrepreneurial drive for his push for major interests in a variety of industries such as television, spirits and fashion. 

Tyra Banks: She's appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated's famous swimsuit issue, and she was widely known as the "face" of Victoria's Secret, but behind the flawless face, there's a tremendous entrepreneurial acumen.


Magic Johnson: We all know Earvin "Magic" Johnson as a celebrated basketball player. But what many don't know about Magic is what an accomplished businessman and entrepreneur he is. 

Tyler Perry: writes books, makes movies, acts in films and performs, and has built a multi-million-dollar entertainment empire, all from quite modest beginnings.

Marcus Samuelsson: a wunderkind chef with a taste for blending global cuisines into something critics and the public love.