Jermaine Griggs, 26
Founder and CEO of HearandPlay.com
Growing up in a rough neighborhood of Long Beach, Calif., Jermaine Griggs caught the entrepreneurial bug at age 7 when he got a summer job selling stationery door to door. “I figured out that I could employ other kids [and make a] dollar for myself,” he recalls. When he was just 17, Griggs launched HearandPlay.com as a piano instruction website, and now more than 2 million aspiring musicians download Griggs’s online music lessons every year, and more than 200,000 students receive his regular newsletters. But Griggs isn’t stopping there. His future plans include speaking to inner city youth all over the country, encouraging them to have big dreams, and showing them how to reach their goals.
Why Go into the Music Business?
“Around 16, I had built up a reputation as this wunderkind church musician. A few parents asked me to teach their children how to play the piano. I immediately figured out that I was teaching the same thing to each student, which was pretty boring, so I created workbooks. I didn’t know the big fancy name for this back then — leverage — but I certainly knew how it worked. I discovered the Internet a year later, learned HTML, and HearandPlay.com was born, offering my four homemade workbooks to the world!”
His Poverty-to-Profits Story
“I grew up pretty poor and had a burning desire to change things. I love seeing something come from nothing. With just $70 to invest in HearandPlay.com (for the domain name), I really believe it doesn’t take a lot of money to make money. I’ve never had investors, no injection of capital, no lines of credit. Cash simply created cash. We’ve never had an unprofitable year.”
What Lies at the Heart of This Entrepreneur?
“Entrepreneurship is in my blood. But it had to be cultivated and it has been. My bookshelf is filled with well over 1,000 books.”
Griggs Was Blessed and Befriended By…
“An Internet marketing great — the late Corey Rudl, founder of the Internet Marketing Center.”
His Most Influential Book
“Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.”
His Most Influential Quote
“‘Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.’ -Benjamin Franklin”
Griggs Tells Other Would-Be Entrepreneurs
“Understand the power of ‘selling.’ You have to sell at every stage. You have to sell yourself. You have to sell your idea. You have to sell your vision to your future team and partners. Even if you offer a free service, you have to sell because you compete with tons of alternatives.”
Technology He Couldn’t Live Without
“My CRM system, which houses my customer and mailing list of over 300,000 [people]. If I woke up one day without the ability to stay in constant contact with them, I’d be screwed.”
The Most Awkward Question He’s Been Asked
“My grandma asked me the other day when I plan to go back to school.”
SLIDESHOW: See all 10 Superstar Entrepreneurs Under 30
Interviewed by Rieva Lesonsky, AllBusiness.com Editor-at-Large