celebrity entrepreneurs everything you need to know

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Episode 226: Celebrity Entrepreneurs: Everything You Need to Know (+ The 6 Different Types of Celeb Entrepreneurs)

Dude bros. Lady bosses. There are so many different types of entrepreneurs vying for our attention and our money, and I’ve termed these the celebrity entrepreneurs.

In this post and podcast episode, we’re going to talk about the phenomenon that is the celebrity entrepreneur. And if you’re wondering how this is relevant to you as a service business owner, trust me –– this is critical information if you operate at all in the online business industry.

The culture of the celebrity entrepreneur impacts us much more than most of us realize when it comes to running our business. From how we serve our clients, to our mindset, to how we market ourselves, their impact is indelible, and many times we don’t even realize it.

My goal is to equip you with the insights and intelligence you need to be savvy consumers and business owners.

The Parallels Between Hollywood and Online Business

Here’s a fun fact about me. For years I’ve been completely obsessed with celebrity gossip, and not for the reasons you’d think. While I never fell into believing the outrageous headlines of something like the National Enquirer, I was completely riveted by the marketing and PR machines behind celebrities.

Sure, it was fun and fluffy to pick up an issue of US Weekly on my lunch break every Thursday (later, my US Weekly habit turned into faithfully reading the Lainey Gossip blog), but there was so much more to it than entertainment. 

As a communications and marketing professional, I was curious about why some stories would get published, others would be open secrets in the industry and other ones would get shut down.

And let me tell you, I learned an immeasurable number of lessons by analyzing how stars controlled their image, and what gossip got out about them. As part of that, I’ve spent years watching how the world of celebrity gossip has changed thanks to the Internet and social media.

What’s been fascinating to me is how platforms like blogging and Instagram have dramatically changed celebrity gossip. Instead of stars having to negotiate with People Magazine, they now have the means to control where and when stories are shared. (On the flip side, when hot gossip would hit, they no longer had the ability to kill the story as it would be shared in a matter of hours, not days. But that’s a conversation for another day.)

The power celebrities now have to shape the narrative has given rise to influencer culture where literally anyone with the right talent or skills can build a platform and reach an audience of thousands or even millions.

And that very same power has been extended to pretty much anyone who wants to build an online business. Which is amazing on one hand, but it’s created an entire generation of superstar entrepreneurs who have businesses to teach you how to build your business.

Meet the celebrity entrepreneurs.

What’s a Celebrity Entrepreneur?

For years, I’ve been poking fun at the marketing and sales tactics at play in the online business world, but I’ve always struggled to come up with the right terminology. Talking about the dude bros or the lady boss coaches wasn’t ever enough to encompass the full range of entrepreneurs out there engaging in shady, problematic business practices.

And here’s what I’ve realized. The same way that Hollywood stars, or influencers are a product, so are these entrepreneurs. The same way any of the Kardashians are selling you the lifestyle and the dream that goes with it, this group of entrepreneurs is doing the exact same.

Most of all, this generation of online business superstars get richer by being business famous. Because while they may not be household names, they’re the ones that other business owners in these circles want to be like. They’re selling the dream of business success as hard as any Kardashian is shilling a weight loss tea in January.

They’re celebrity entrepreneurs, and they’re here to sell you the dream of success and take your money in the process.

What’s Wrong with Making Money?

Before we go any further, it’s worth nothing, I have nothing against making money.

In fact, I freaking love making money and helping other people to do the exact same. As a business owner for the last 15 years, I know exactly how life changing owning a business can be, and I’d never dispute that fact.

What I do take issue with are the business practices many celebrity entrepreneurs are engaged in to make that money. The majority of the strategies and tactics employed by these entrepreneurs, while they’ve been normalized as “business as usual” within the industry, are predatory and unethical.

This is everything from exploitative payment plans, to manipulative sales practices, to reducing everything into a mindset issue. In the process of building their businesses, celebrity entrepreneurs often do an incredible amount of harm to those they claim they’re on a mission to help.

And that’s the real problem.

That harm, intentional or not, makes these celeb entrepreneurs richer.

As business owners, and as the audience for these celebrity entrepreneurs, the only solution is for us to know more. Then, we can stop giving them our time, attention, and most of all our money. We need to stop making these people rich. 

Who Are the Celebrity Entrepreneurs?

For us to opt-out of celebrity entrepreneur culture, we need to be able to spot them in the wild. (And by the wild I mean social media, ads, blogs and other channels.)

Sure, I could give you a list of people that I believe to be problematic, but that’s only going to get us so far.

For starters, as well-versed as I am in the online space, I simply can’t know everyone and everything. And then there’s the reality that new players enter the market daily, and there’s no way to keep track of them.

And finally, if I were to name some of these people, many of you simply wouldn’t believe me. You’d completely dismiss me, as many of these tactics are seen as either normal, or they’re covered up in layers of frosting and rainbow sprinkles.

Here’s the thing. Many times, these celebrity entrepreneurs don’t show up in the packages that we think they should. Sure, the guy leaning on a Porsche in a Facebook ad is sleazy, but a lot of other types of these entrepreneurs are much less obvious.

Meet the Six Celebrity Entrepreneur Archetypes

Which is why I want to introduce you to the six celebrity entrepreneur archetypes, so you can recognize them when you see them in action.

The BFF Next Door
Have you ever read the “stars, they’re just like us!” feature in US Magazine? This is exactly what your BFF Next Door celeb entrepreneur is like. They’re appealing because they feel like someone who’s a lot like us, but just further along in their journey.

In short, they’re accessible. They’re down-to-earth. They’re just like us!

This archetype is tricky as they disarm you completely by making you think they’re so much like you, that you can do or have exactly what they do. They excel at sharing stories that make you think that you’re on a level playing field.

The end result is that they earn your trust quickly and you’re incredibly loyal to them, the same way you are to your BFF that you grew up with. Even if you don’t really like them. Even if they slept with the guy you liked back in your early 20s. (Wait, is that just me?) You’re lifelong friends, but you keep picking up the tab, and you’re not sure why you keep falling for it.

Honestly, this archetype can be the hardest to spot as they’re so damn nice and likeable. But make no mistake, their marketing machine is working, and you’re just another person on their list who they’re warming up for the next big launch.

woo crew

The Woo Crew

If you’ve been in the online space for more than a hot minute, you’ve had someone talk to you about mindset. If this industry had a catch phrase, it would be “work on your mindset”, and while that’s completely valid, it’s also incredibly reductive.

The Woo Crew of celebrity entrepreneurs is big on mindset. Because mindset is everything and nothing else matters.

Except it does. This is the crew that engages in problematic behaviours like chalking things like racism up to being a mindset issue. (Not even joking here.)

They are the poster children for toxic positivity, and they won’t abide by anyone challenging them. And if you do, you’re labelled as needing to do the work, or low vibe.

(You know what’s low vibe? Not recognizing your privilege.)

Woo Crew members can be identified by the fact they hold retreats in Sedona during a global pandemic and gaslighting you into buying their programs. Sales tactics include accusing you of not having an abundance mindset, or “playing small” when you won’t open your wallet. 

This group is a mash up of spirituality plus self-help gone awry (think: The Guru podcast) but for your business.

Fancy AF Lady Boss

Next up, we have the Fancy AF (as fuck) Lady Bosses. (Except, they probs don’t say fuck all that much as they’re lady bosses.)

Typically, this celebrity archetype is easy to identify as they’re over the top with the clothes, hair and makeup. They’re all about a beautiful brand, and having a glamorous image.

I’m talking photoshoots in couture dresses at the Eiffel Tower, luxury vacations and all the trappings of a five-star lifestyle. Backed up with pictures all over their Instagram accounts or website to prove it.

The Fancy AF Lady Bosses are selling being your own boss as a way to have the lifestyle of your dreams. And sure, maybe it is, but many times it isn’t.

From my personal experiences with the Fancy AF Lady Bosses I can tell you this: they love to sell you a spot in their $40k mastermind with a good rags-to-riches story, even if it’s not entirely true, or it’s completely made up.

Plus, they convince you to trust them by virtue of their attractiveness and the material trappings of their lifestyle. Even if they spend thousands trying to manufacture their image, that couture dress is actually rented and they’ve maxed out all their credit cards to make their dream happen.

Hard Core Dude Bro 

Meet the cousin (or brother, or husband) of the Fancy AF Lady Boss, the Hard Core Dude Bro.

This type of celebrity entrepreneur uses their toxic masculinity to the max in order to convince you that you suck, and they can help you not suck so bad. Essentially, they’re the same frat boys from college that you didn’t like.

The Hard Core Dude Bros, much like the Fancy AF Lady Bosses are selling you the lifestyle of entrepreneurship. But instead of the Eiffel Tower and endless self-care, they’re swinging around their toxic frat boy energy with expensive cars and luxury homes.

They’re incredibly easy to spot, as they’re typically attired in a hoodie and baseball hat (sometimes a beanie) or in a full suit. Yet, for some reason, we fall for their BS as they’re incredibly adept at using their masculinity to leave us questioning our own judgement. (Hey, patriarchy, is that you?)

As for their sales style? It’s all about high pressure tactics and trapping you in a neverending funnel. Don’t click on that ad, and definitely don’t sign up for anything or you’ll never get out of the seventh circle of dude bro hell.

The Rebel Creative

This member of the celebrity entrepreneur family is definitely not as prevalent but they still exist and deserve a nod on this list.

You can usually pick out a Rebel Creative as they’re the ones who do things differently. That said, this doesn’t mean you can automatically trust them. Just because they deviate from the tactics ever so slightly doesn’t mean they’re not just as troublesome as the other celeb entrepreneurs on this list.

If they’re using manipulation and unethical business practices, I don’t care how cool their tattoos or leather jacket is. Speaking of which, Rebel Creatives excel at telling you just how edgy they are. They like to share their stories of not fitting in in order to create a connection which plays on your need to belong.

As someone who identifies most with this archetype, I recommend you ask yourself if their “rebel” image seems real, or is it contrived? Are they playing dress up and putting on an attitude, or is this who they really are?

Plus, if someone is all “fuck the system” on the surface, but then everything they do isn’t aligned, please don’t take them at face value. A true rebel wouldn’t tolerate buying into any of this online business BS for a hot minute.

Your Intellectual Superior
Grab your dictionary because when you’re dealing with the Intellectual Superior, you’re going to need to constantly look up big words and expend a lot of energy trying to figure out what the hell they’re saying.

Make no mistake. The Intellectual Superior uses loaded language and complex ideas in an effort to elevate themselves, while convincing you they have all the answers.

Newsflash: They really don’t. They don’t know any more than you do.

In fact, the Intellectual Superior is one of my least favorite of these celebrity entrepreneur archetypes as they make you feel inferior. They confuse the shit out of you by making everything harder than it needs to be.

Typically, they’re selling the same tired strategies around things like productivity or growth strategies, but dressed up in academic, conceptual language.

Basically, they love to tell us how intelligent they are, and how they’re going to help us reach our goals with all of their brain power. They use stories that highlight their intellectual prowess and that make them look like the smartest person in the room.

Your Intellectual Superior uses the same manipulations and the same shady tactics, but does it in a package that’s much more palatable, albeit somewhat patronizing. Maybe you wouldn’t buy from a Fancy AF Lady Boss but you would from someone who seems so much smarter than you. 

Breaking Free From Celebrity Entrepreneur Culture

Now that we’ve broken these celebrity entrepreneur archetypes, let’s talk about why this really matters.

First, not every person who seems like one of these archetypes is necessarily unethical. For each of these (okay maybe not the dude bros) there are ethical, intentional business owners doing amazing work.

And that’s not who I’m talking about. I’ve broken down these types of celebrity entrepreneurs so we’re better equipped to identify them, and more importantly, so we’re wise to the harmful tactics they’re employing.

This is critical in an industry that has zero accountability or professional standards in place. People can do and say whatever they want, and it’s up to us as consumers to know better so we can do better.

Plus, as service providers, there’s an additional layer to this. If you work in the business-to-entrepreneur space and celebrity entrepreneurs are your clients, you have the opportunity to advocate for them to do better. You can recommend different tactics, encourage transparency and help break down the culture of celebrity entrepreneurship.

Just because someone has made millions or has credibility doesn’t mean they should get our time, attention or money. On the contrary. The bigger their level of celebrity, the more questions we should ask. The harder we should look at how they’re marketing and selling to us. The greater accountability we should demand from them as “leaders” in this industry.

That’s how we break-free from the BS of the online business world, and build service businesses that serve us, and leave our clients better than when we found them.

Author’s Note:

All opinions in this post and the accompanying podcast are my opinions and mine alone. You can view our full disclaimer here.

Citing anyone as a source in this essay or in any other of my works doesn’t constitute an endorsement.

Last edited on October 24, 2020. Since publishing this work I’ve been made aware of concerning behavior on the part of someone who’s worked I’ve cited. As such, I’ve removed references to their work.

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Maggie Patterson Abou the Author

I’m Maggie Patterson (she/her), and services businesses are my business.

I have 20+ years of experience with client services, am a consultant for agency owners, creatives, and consultants, and vocal advocate for humane business practices rooted in empathy, respect, and trust.

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