In talking about the decision to “Level Up,” both in moving outside of her comfort zone and in striking out to self-release a single by that name, Ciara said sometimes “you have to take a risk, you’ve got to do things that are uncomfortable.”
The Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter, entertainer and entrepreneur looked anything but uncomfortable this week during an appearance at the GeekWire Summit where she shared some of her experiences and insights around creating music, businesses and more — some on her own and some alongside her husband, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
At times, in front of a tech and innovation-focused audience, she sounded like a startup founder plucked from their ranks.
“You’ve got to appreciate the failures in life because they build your integrity, they give you wisdom,” Ciara said. “I wouldn’t have known how to run a company if I hadn’t failed.”
As someone who has clearly harnessed the “why not you” attitude — a mantra and charitable foundation in her and her husband’s life — Ciara has sold over 23 million records and 22 million singles worldwide. She’s the founder and CEO of Beauty Marks Entertainment, a company at the vanguard of the fast-changing music industry which is positioned to tap into her passions in film, fashion, philanthropy, and technology. She also sits on the board of Seattle startup Amperity, heading up corporate social responsibility efforts and serving as an advocate and advisor on Amperity’s community initiatives.
“All it takes is one person to believe in your dream and that one person is you,” Ciara said. “The moment you believe is when opportunity begins.”
Keep reading for more quotable moments from Ciara’s appearance:
On launching her own label: “I was so exhausted, waiting for the opinion of someone to say if I can do something or if I can’t, or if it’s going to be hot or if it’s not. I’m a big believer that when you have a vision for what you believe in and what you’re doing you go after it. … We didn’t see eye to eye. And so at that very moment, I started my own company, Beauty Marks Entertainment. There’s no greater feeling than being able to run the ship, to be able to make my decisions. … ‘Level Up’ marks a very special moment in my career and in my life … being fearless is how you level up, taking the risk is how you level up. That was everything that I was doing in my life.”
On her process in music and business: “Your gut is the same gut, whether it’s creatively or business wise. The artist in my mind just thinks creative, and then there’s this business part of my mind that kicks in and thinks budget. Creativity and budget sometimes doesn’t mix for us artists, because we just want to put out the vision that we want to … there is that fine line and balance. My mind is not just wired in one space, it’s not just thinking creative, I’m having to factor in the backend side of it all. And then I do have to really be disciplined.”
On building companies that have impact: “There’s no greater joy when you’re able to impact someone’s life through what you do. That’s legacy. That’s true brand-building to me when you’re doing something that’s so substantial that it helps to change the environment that you’re in, or to even help change the world.”
On her partnership with Russell Wilson: “When I started Beauty Marks Entertainment, Russ was right there by my side. He was the one researching other artists that ran their own labels, he was up to 3 o’clock in the morning and had to turn around three hours later to go to football practice, but he was in it with me. Those are the moments that you need in life. Who can we lean on in those times, when we are making those big decisions? And who’s going to give us the best advice?”
On advice to her kids: “I definitely want them to have a ‘why not you’ attitude. I hope that more than anything they can just see my example. When you put the work in, the results come out good on the other side. And also that life isn’t going to always be pretty, it’s going to throw you some curveballs. And I just hope that we can do a great job of building them up to be prepared for those curveballs. … And then you also want to make sure you give them the rod vs. the fish. You want to keep that humble beginning process for them. That to me is what really made me who I am.”