I'm a realistic investor: Sunny Leone

Sunny Leone on rolling out her non-fungible tokens, being a 'control freak' as an entrepreneur and making a profit out of doing things that she loves

Kunal Purandare
Published: Oct 16, 2021 06:41:26 AM IST
Updated: Oct 21, 2021 09:38:22 AM IST

I'm a realistic investor: Sunny LeoneSunny leone, actor-entrepreneur
Image: Siddharth Jaiswar

Sunny Leone is among the first from the Hindi film industry to join the NFT bandwagon. The actor says she is “99 percent ready” to roll out her collection; superstar Amitabh Bachchan has announced that he will launch his artworks in November.

NFTs or non-fungible tokens represent ownership of digital assets—photos, videos, songs, texts, paintings, almost anything. They can be bought using cryptocurrency, and their trading can be tracked on public blockchains. Globally, NFTs have been grabbing headlines for the outrageous prices at which they are bought and sold.

Leone, 40, who already has a range of perfumes and cosmetics, stakes in clothing line iAmAnimal, and Cloudwood, a platform that helps connect talent with casting agencies, is bullish about NFTs and cryptocurrency. In an interview with Forbes India, the actor speaks about her investment philosophy, qualities of a successful entrepreneur and building her brand. Edited excerpts:

Q. What prompted you to get into NFTs?
The whole crypto [universe] and everything [related to it] is the new direction where everybody should be heading. We are lucky enough to find a company where we can curate different images and pieces of art that we own.

Q. Prices of NFTs have plateaued. Sceptics say the bubble will burst. Does it make you wary?  
I am not worried about this at all. Once we drop our collection in India, it is going to be amazing. Because we will be able to capitalise on and monetise something that the rest of the world is already doing. So, wherever that bubble is going… I don’t think it’s necessarily going to burst, it’s only going to expand.

Q. Does the crypto mania excite you? Do you follow trends and prices?

Not always the prices that are going up and down. But I do understand how cryptocurrency fluctuates and how it operates.  

Q. Crypto has its critics too…
It is accepted in the entire world. India is on the back-end of acceptance. But everything is going to take a different direction really soon. We accept cryptocurrency with our company.

Q. You are partnering with Mintdropz, a Silicon Valley-based startup, to launch your NFT platform. Tell us about the partnership.
We are creating our own platform and connecting the dots so that we can have the best artists, and we are able to understand how we are going to sell and drop our different pieces of art when the time comes. It is a collaboration with an international company.

Q. You have a line of perfumes and cosmetics (Star Struck By Sunny Leone). Is that an extension of you as an actor?
I wanted to expand our world into something that doesn’t necessarily need me to function. It’s not an exit plan or strategy as yet. But it’s definitely a passion. As far as fragrances go, that’s where we started three-four years ago. Now we have dropped 20 new SKUs [stock keeping units] and they are amazing. We are excited about those. And we are about to launch new lines and ranges of our makeup collection too.

I'm a realistic investor: Sunny LeoneSunny Leone with husband
Daniel Weber. They work in tandem and discuss every business proposal
Image: Milind Shelte / India Today Group via Getty Images

Q. You recently launched a new perfume brand, Affetto...
It’s a premium brand of deodorants and high-end fragrances. The amount of care that has gone into the packing and bottling, and how everything looks and feels… it’s pretty!

Q. How closely are you involved in the final product?

I am involved at every step. Everything is run by me, including the final product. I am a little bit of a control freak. I do all the testing myself. Most of it goes through me first.

Q. When did the entrepreneurial bug bite you?
When I was six or seven, I was selling lemonade at the end of my driveway. In those days, I would sell things door-to-door, bothering everyone on a monthly basis. It was either raising money for one of our teams at school or to get new uniforms. In the winter, during snowstorms, my brother and our friend would shovel snow and make money out of it. I was that kid. Since then I have always been working and figuring out how to make money.    

Q. What’s your investment philosophy?
Hopefully to make a return on my investment. It has to do more with practicality and being realistic. Are we using the correct people and keeping things on a smaller scale to have more control, because, like I said, I am a control freak. It’s also about being able to make a profit and work on something that I am passionate about.

Q. What do you look for when you decide to invest in something?
It’s whether I love it or not. It’s as simple as that. When you love what you do, you figure out how to make a profit out of it.    

To be successful is to recognise when things don’t work, and then move on from that and create something that does.”
-Sunny leone, actor-entrepreneur

Q. Were you born with this business acumen or did you cultivate it?

I knew from a young age that I wanted to own my company. I did not know what that was going to be or how that would turn out. I always knew that I didn’t want to work at a desk, doing a 9-to-5 job. That was something I was sure of from a young age. Since then I have always tried to figure out how to make an extra buck.

Q. How would you describe Sunny Leone, the entrepreneur?

I would say I am a realistic investor and I believe in hard work. I don’t think anything comes easy, at least for me it doesn’t.

Q. Previously, you were the co-owner and brand ambassador of a Premier Futsal franchise. You were also associated with online games. Those associations were timely. Are these conscious business decisions?
That would be Mr Daniel Weber [her husband] who’s sitting across the way. We talk about every single thing. A lot of different ideas and a lot of different people come to us. Then we have to evaluate if it’s something that seems fit for us. I realised a long time ago that I might not get what other actresses might because of my background [as a star in the adult entertainment industry] and everything that I have done in my life. So, if I am not going to get it, I might as well make it myself. So that is the philosophy we have followed. With a lot of different things that we have done… I knew it’s not going to come to me, most likely. Maybe now it might, but in the beginning, not even a little bit. So, we decided to make it ourselves. Everything that we have been in control of—where we don’t have big outside partners or someone controlling the brand—we see that we tend to succeed faster and grow the company bigger. Doing it ourselves is something that we take pride in.   

Q. You chose to back Cloudwood, a platform for new talent.
With Cloudwood, being able to showcase someone on a platform that’s honest is the goal. Because without honesty and trust, the platform will not succeed. It’s important that we start highlighting some of the amazing talent that is here in India and even around the world. There are so many talented people that just need a chance.

Q. And there is iAmAnimal, a vegan clothing line.
It’s a clothing line that’s hip, cool and young… something that the young generation who cares about the planet and animals is going to love.  

Q. What makes a successful entrepreneur?
I believe in the test, test, test theory. If you test something and it works, stick with it. If it doesn’t, move on to the next idea. It’s very hard not to put emotion into anything that you are doing, but if it doesn’t work, you have to be able to let go of what you are working on. To be successful is to recognise when things don’t work and then move on from that and create something that does.

Q. Will acting remain a priority? Or will you focus more on your businesses?
Everything is a piece of the pie. We are living in a time when all actors, actresses and entertainers should have all these different things going for them. If you don’t, you are missing out. Thank you to all those people who are not doing it because I make more money then. You need to put those puzzle pieces together to have a successful career in entertainment. It’s a big loss for any entertainer who is not capitalising on any every single facet of entertainment—whether it’s the brand, clothing or personal passions they want to expand on. The acting and shows… that’s like a showcase, but that’s short-lived money. It’s not something that I make money from while I am sleeping. That’s the name of the game, the long game, at the end of the day.

Q. What are your future plans as an entrepreneur?
To see all this flourish. A lot of different things take time to come full circle.

Q. Are there other areas you want to explore to build brand Sunny Leone?  

Production is something that Daniel and I go back and forth with. I think it’s more of a headache than what the profit is. I like more practical investments where I know I am going to keep earning. He’s the same way, but for some reason he wants to get into production. We do produce our own shoots and others as well. It’s something that will happen naturally versus something I want to do. There are lots of things in the pipeline, but these are the only ones that I can talk about.

(This story appears in the 22 October, 2021 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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