Check out my exclusive interview with Jackie Christie via BlackEnterprise.com:
Jackie Christie may be the better half of former NBA star Doug Christie, but rest assured she’s no trophy wife. Best known these days as the star of VH1′s Basketball Wives LA, over the last 20 years Christie has been a tenacious business woman, with her hand in almost every industry you could possibly think of. From clothing, cosmetics, music and publishing, to her more recent venture, a cognac with her namesake, Christie has the balance sheets to prove she’s the ‘Jackie’ of all trades.
In an exclusive interview with BlackEnterprise.com,Christie breaks down the enterprises of Jackie Christie Inc., why she rarely sleeps, and how her husband always knows how to play his position. No matter what critics may say of her on-screen persona, off-screen she means business and she plays to win.
Black Enterprise: What motivated you to become a businesswoman and not just a basketball wife?
Jackie Christie: 1993 was when I really decided to take my business and go with it. I modeled when I was younger, but I definitely knew I wanted to be a designer. When I married my husband, I went into designing and would wear them to the games. He was playing for the Toronto Raptors at that time. All the wives and everyone wanted me to make things for them and it continued on when we got to Sacramento. That’s when I made it an official business. After that I wrote books. One reason that I started Jackie Christie Inc. was so that I could create jobs and help as many people as possible.
My husband was making a lot of money doing what he loves doing, which is basketball, and I was at home raising the kids, supporting and traveling with him. I thought, ‘why not do my businesses and once he retires I can really go full force and he’ll support me.’ That’s how we did it and now he’s my support system.
On Basketball Wives LA viewers got a chance to see the beginning stages of you launching your own cognac. Where are you now with that process?
JC: The cognac is done and it’s actually starting to fill up the warehouse right now in Burbank. We went to France and we launched it there over in Cognac. It took a long time to get it to that point. I wanted it to be a certain taste and it gives you that. I’ve been a Hennessy lover and I thought nothing would ever stop me from drinking it until I made my own cognac. Once people taste mine, they will love it. It’s a fine cognac and aged just right. The name of it is Jackie Christie from Bossard.
Is there anything about getting into the liquor business that you didn’t know before?
JC: I didn’t realize going in that it takes awhile to get it to the flavor that you want, and with cognac there are certain flavors you can and cannot use. I also learned there are so many different brands of cognac. There’s XO, there’s Heritage, VSOP, and all of these are aged at different amounts of times. Mine is an XO, a high-end cognac that’s just delicious.
On the show there was a scene where you were trying to get the bottle to be the sculpting of you and your husband’s bodies. What did you end up deciding on?
JC: I was really fighting for that but the company that gave me my brand didn’t think that would be smart. The cognac is a fine liquor and sexy brand, so I went with a different bottle. It’s a sleek glass bottle. It’s also very heavy. I wanted people to feel like they’re holding a prize when they get it.
Are you involved with the marketing and the consumer reach of the cognac?
JC: I’m very hands on with my companies, especially with my cognac brand—it’s my baby. We’ll be getting it into nightclubs and we’re going to be shooting commercials. It officially launches July 20 and will be in about 60 stores. I’ll be traveling around the world doing tastings. It’ll be in other countries as well, so I’ll be going to Spain, Germany, and England with it later this year.
Tell us about your record label and when it was founded.
JC: We launched the record label (Jean Rah Fya Records) in 2007. We have Bobby Tinsley, my daughter Chantel, and four other acts. Their music is at Target, Amazon and iTunes. Bobby is an artist who sings R&B, but also sings gospel. I wanted the record label to be something that was clean music. It’s a youth movement. A lot of the artists signed when they were younger. We take artists, leave them under our label for awhile, we develop them and then we can either take them to [major labels]. Chantel is currently in talks with Universal right now.
Did you know a lot about the music industry before deciding to launch a label?
JC: I kind of did because our family is very musically inclined. We have a lot of singers and recording artists in our family, so I knew about [the business] from that way. Then I educated myself. I always tell people there’s a lot of education you can get from reading. I also studied business law, so I understood the different legal ways of entertainment law. It was a no-brainer for me. There were so many unsigned and independent artists out there that needed an outlet, so I thought who better than myself? I’ve been given a platform and I wanted to use it to let their voices and their music be heard.
With the music industry not being what it used to be, is it difficult making profit as a smaller record label?
A lot of people are doing it straight through iTunes or electronically. It’s different for us because we actually still invest in the physical CD. You’re more invested in the music that way. We also sell our music through outlets other labels wouldn’t think about like CDBaby.com. For us it’s a pretty profitable situation and the artists know that this is a platform to get their music out there and make money at the same time. They’re also in it to grow and they understand that going to a bigger label at a later time is their ultimate goal.
As your flagship company, where are you with your fashion line?
JC: I will be doing a 2015 men’s and women’s line and will be showing them during Fashion Week. I haven’t done men’s publicly. I’ve done it before and other basketball players bought it and loved it, but to do it for the mass public is phenomenal. I’ll start with jeans, T-shirts, and maybe sandals for a resort collection.
How do you arrive at what’s a smart business decision for you?
JC: I have insomnia. I’ve had that for about 20 years. I’m always up at all hours of the night. I love surfing the net, inspiring people, and creating. That’s why I think I’ve done six books now. Anything that’s artistic, I’m good at. All my businesses are things that will create a legacy. Whatever I do is something that motivates me, helps others, and is a smart decision income wise. Even if it doesn’t make you rich over night, sometimes you do it because you love it and the riches will come.
What has been the hardest lesson to learn as a businesswoman?
JC: I would say the hardest challenge for me is getting things done at the pace that I’m used to getting them done. I’m a hard worker and sometimes I have great expectations for other people and if they don’t do it fast enough we may have disagreements. I had to learn patience.
Another one was when I started my clothing line, everybody ordered it and I couldn’t fill the order. It was the most upsetting thing ever. I also pitched to Neiman Marcus and some other retailers and they wanted like 5,000 pieces, and I didn’t have any way of manufacturing them because the company making my clothes was a mom-and-pop business at the time. I learned you have to be ready when you go public with any product.
Do you agree or disagree with the statement that in order to make money you can’t be afraid to lose money?
JC: I definitely agree, but I don’t agree with the fact that you have to lose money. If you really study and you take your time, if you’re in a position where you have money, you can compensate for the losses, but I wouldn’t encourage anyone to do that. I would encourage people to take their time and spend small amounts first to figure out if this is something you really want to do. You have to be ready to put your heart and soul into it. You do that and you will win. Even if there’s no financial gratification you’ll win because your business will constantly be moving forward. You can’t lose with a business that is constantly growing.
Have you ever been criticized for your business decisions?
JC: Oh definitely. I was raised to believe that you could do whatever you set your mind to. I’ve been criticized that the only reason why I have so much business success is because I have a show. Even without the show I launched a successful makeup line and shoe line and the shoes are selling out right now. I didn’t put any of that on the show. But criticism to me is more motivation.
Tell us more about your makeup and shoe lines and where consumers can purchase.
JC: For the makeup line, Blink Cosmetics approached me. I had wanted to do it for five years and it just fit perfectly. Right now, I have a lipstick, a liquid gel liner and eye shadow. I went to the International Makeup Artists Convention (IMAC) in New York and will be attending the one in London coming up. You can get it at MakeUpByJackieChristie.com, but it will be in stores this fall. My shoe line, Shiekh Shoes, is in 160 stores nationwide and the owner, Shiekh, approached me about me doing my own line. It’s a six-shoe deal and I signed that about five months ago. A lot of women, especially being a basketball wife, can afford a little bit more than others. I’m very practical so I’m not into all of that flash and stuff, but a lot of women want to look good. I felt like why not offer them a hot, sexy shoe that I would wear myself at an affordable price?
How do you balance owning so many businesses?
JC: For one I have a strong support system, which is my husband and my kids. My husband home schools our son so he’s right there to help me do anything I need help with. I have a good team around me as well. I’m a soldier. I will work 24/7 to make sure it’s a success and not just for the financial gain but for the people, because they’re depending on me. It makes me happy when I see people put up Instagram pictures of the products. I love being able to provide that for them. This is what I love to do so balance for me is easy.
What role does your husband play in all of your business decisions?
JC: He and I are partners on Jean Rah Fya Records and our publishing company. But as far as the other companies, that’s all me. He was like ‘I want this to be your thing.’ When he played in the NBA I negotiated some of his deals right there with him and his agent. I was part of that but it was really his thing, so that’s kind of what he wants it to be for me. We’re best friends. For him to support me the way that he does is amazing. I can wake up at 4 a.m. with an idea and he’ll wake right up with me to help… and I do the same when he goes overseas to play basketball. You have to have that partnership to win.