Diversifying an investment portfolio is the cornerstone of business building. Endorsements notwithstanding, few people in the entertainment industry have managed to successfully expand and sustain their brand beyond the original craft. Sure, there are the Carters. Last year, Jay-Z sold half of his Armand de Brignac Champagne to LVMH while Beyoncé upgraded her Adidas x Ivy Park partnership. Ryan Reynolds is a Hollywood outlier with a growing fintech reputation as a mobile operator, a digital marketing maverick, and a soccer club owner. It also does not seem to work the other way around. Business icons rarely make it as entertainers. See Elon Musk as a dancing meme or Mark Zuckerberg doing karaoke. Talent, charisma, business acumen and market conditions must align just right. Turkish-German entrepreneur and singer Özkan Şen, known as Mr. Jade, is garnering attention for his chart-climbing music and a distinctly Millennial business model which combines local hospitality, global lifestyle, and soon… fashion online.
It all began with music. “I learned to play 13 instruments and was raised with so much music. The passion for music is in my blood,” recalls Şen. Perhaps, this instilled in his young mind the idea of pursuing multiple goals at once to achieve overall quality of sound, of life. His first hit came in 2018 with Welcome to Turkey. He has since released several singles, including critically acclaimed duets with Niran Ünsal and Musa Eroğlu. Hospitality was a natural extension of the desire to bring people together, an important part of his family legacy. JADE Group built an international catering business with venues in Germany and Turkey, including at KUMSmall, the largest mixed-use shopping center in Europe. The secret to popularity of his banquet halls and lounges is in the customer-centric attitude. “I think that every person is unique in their own way. All receive gifts from the Creator, and it takes a lot of work and strength to shine bright. We want people to feel honored in their special moments,” says Şen. The global coronavirus pandemic severely impacted HoReCa industry. Particularly, the wedding segment. “There were no public celebrations for a year. We were very badly affected and on the verge of losing everything,” recalls Şen. However, this served as a blessing in disguise as more operational attention could shift towards other company divisions: tea, coffee, and chocolate distribution.
Writing about women entrepreneurs of the Eastern European diaspora, I learned that first and second generation immigrants account for a lion’s share of new business ventures in Europe and North America. Şen is familiar with the pressures and opportunities that come from establishing oneself in a new environment. “It can be hard when you are called a foreigner every day. From all sides, the authorities, the financiers, even some customers. I had to prove I’m much more capable than they might think. I turned this emotion into strength to do more and succeed again and again.” Now, with 5.2 million followers on Instagram, Mr. Jade is one of most recognizable Turkish media personalities on social media. To put in perspective, that kind of audience exceeds the population of Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, and Cologne put together. He sees this as an opportunity to strengthen entrepreneurial networks. “I post a lot of my work in my Stories. I show how to do things in music and in business and in the business of music, so people can learn from it. It has a positive impact. A lot of my followers say you are the real thing, and they see my products in that way, too.” Plans are in place for Mr. Jade and Jade Group to enter the Metaverse later this year. “Without the social media you can no longer imagine the new world order,” says Şen.
Among other ambitious plans is the launch of Jade Coffee and Jade Chocolate in USA. “I think America is ready to know the right real quality,” smiles Şen. Fashion is also area of interest for the Group’s growing portfolio. Turkey is the third largest exporter of fashion goods in the EU. The stylistic influence of Turkish historical heritage at the crossroads of cultures continues to guide some of the most “it” brands in the US. Şen is working to introduce a new menswear line to the market. It will be available online-only first with plans for brick-and-mortar expansion within three years. “It just has to look good, even better – very good.” However, profit is not the main driving force behind Şen’s global ambition. “I think it’s a pity when people with a great vision take it to their grave. I believe we can make beautiful things bloom in this world; when people finally can love each other and where our descendants would then realize even greater dreams. That’s the goal I’m still working towards.”