Foundr Magazine publishes in-depth interviews with the world’s greatest entrepreneurs. Our articles highlight key takeaways from each month’s cover feature. This month, we talked with Scooter Braun about his entrepreneurial journey and how he’s reclaimed himself. Read excerpts from that in-depth conversation below. To read more, subscribe to the magazine.
In 2019, Scooter Braun was named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People. His company, SB Projects, is a multimedia giant, representing huge names in entertainment, such as Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Tori Kelly, Demi Lovato, J Balvin, and Idina Menzel.
Braun was just 24 when he decided to risk everything to launch Schoolboy Records in 2007.
He signed two then-unknowns to his label and released both of their albums in 2009. Rapper Asher Roth’s album Asleep in the Bread Aisle dropped early in the year. His hit song “I Love College” helped Braun produce and release an album for his second act, a kid from Canada he’d discovered on YouTube named Justin Bieber.
“Justin Bieber was the most talented, gifted kid I’d ever met,” Braun says. “It was so insane how great of a singer he was, how soulful he was, what he could do on the drums naturally. He taught himself guitar, drums, like he was a phenomenon. I wish people gave him the credit he deserved as a child because he deserved it—there’s no way I would have been able to achieve that with someone else.”
But none of it came easy. After 2 years working his connections and spending his own money, Braun was broke and paying rent for Roth and Bieber. While adhering to his fake-it-till-you-make-it mantra, Braun was really cracking under the pressure.
During a phone conversation with his dad, Braun broke down in tears. His dad simply said, “You haven’t listened to anything we’ve told you. And you’ve always found a way. … See it through.”
The next day, Roth released “I Love College,” which soared up the charts.
Since then, Braun has signed multiple superstars, including Carly Rae Jepsen, Psy, and Ariana Grande. He grew Schoolboy Records into SB Projects, a multimedia and entertainment company with subsidiaries that include Schoolboy, Sheba Publishing, SB Management, and Silent Labs.
After years of unbridled success, however, Braun was still waking up every day wondering if this was the day it would all disappear.
“I didn’t really experience burnout,” he says. “What I experienced, though, was, I was so focused on protecting tomorrow that I wasn’t present to the problems that were happening today.”
After 13 years in the entertainment industry, Braun began to ask himself, “Do I still love doing this?”
It was 2020, and the pandemic was hitting the entertainment industry hard. Grande’s album Positions was about to drop. But Braun needed time.
“I was confused. I was lost. And I was depressed because I didn’t have direction.”
He called up Grande. “She told me, ‘You were there for me so many different times. It’s time for me to be there for you. If this is what you need to do, go.’”
He checked into a weeklong retreat called The Hoffman Process. The experience, he says, was transformative.
“I chose me and I chose being present with my children, having conversations that I needed to have from what I learned there,” he says. “And for the first time since I was seven years old, I liked my name Scott again. I used to tell people, ‘I don’t really like the name Scott. I go by Scooter. I don’t think I should have been named Scott.’ When I got out of the place, I loved it. And it was because they helped me understand me.”
Building a Family Instead of an Empire
Braun uses these lessons to build both his company and his talent roster. He wants to build a family instead of a company, and he credits that feeling of family with taking his company through some of its toughest times.
When a suicide bomber killed 22 people at Grande’s Manchester, England, concert in 2017, he and his team rallied to pull together the One Love Manchester concert. And he credits Grande with incredible bravery.
“Those are the big moments that people can see. And they are defining moments, and they build a really, really strong relationship,” he says.
But he doesn’t discount the smaller moments that help build a team, as well. “No one sees the quiet conversations when someone’s broken, when someone says hurting, and you don’t help someone by telling them that you’re not broken. You don’t help someone by saying, ‘You know, you just got to tough it out.’ You help someone by showing your own vulnerability and telling them that you experienced the same thing.”
Yielding to Fate
Braun now finds himself humbled by the life he’s been given. And while there’s no doubt his talents as an entrepreneur have carried him to success, he has realized he must recognize the role that fate has played, as well.
That’s true of his business and of the talent that helped build it.
“The first time I saw Justin, the first time I saw Ariana, the first time I heard ‘Gangnam Style,’ I was like, ‘I know what that is.’ I used to think, ‘Oh, I do this. I do that.’ Now I believe that part of it is me and part of it is they were placed there for me. Because we’re destined to do something together.”
When The Hoffman Institute had an opening just before the biggest album of the year released, Braun believed that was fate calling, too.
“It was the universe saying to me, ‘What do you want to do? You want to stay on the same roller coaster that’s given you all the success and all this praise and this notoriety of Scooter? Or do you want to choose Scott for the first time since you were a kid?”
And if he could go back in time and tell young Scott anything?
“I would just tell him ‘You’re good enough. You don’t have to prove anything. You’re good enough. You’re great because of you, not because of the things that happened to you.’ I just want him to know that your greatest gift is your sensitivity, your greatest gift is how hard you feel. And I would just want to look at him, give him a hug, and be like, ‘You’re great.’”
Want more? Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Scooter Braun by subscribing to the Foundr Magazine.