Aa a girl watching her single mother sell arts and crafts to tourists coming off of cruise ships in St. Croix, Mona Scott-Young, 48, saw entrepreneurship firsthand. “She worked around the clock,” recalls Scott-Young. “She did it all on her own.” Now CEO of the $30 million multi- media company Monami Entertainment (whose brands include VH1’s Love & Hip Hop and MYX spirits), she uses that life lesson daily: “I still have the fire in my belly.”

A Mother’s Determination
Scott-Young’s father died when she was 9, leaving her mother, Jeanine Ridore, to care for the family. Although she couldn’t read or write, Ridore still found a way to send her daughter to private school in New York City—by working on its cleaning staff. “She managed to do things with none of the resources other parents had,” says Scott-Young. “She always said, ‘Be better than I am.’”

Starting Out
After high school Scott-Young was living on her own and helping her mother pay bills, so college wasn’t an option. A part-time job at Radio City Music Hall inspired her to enroll in dance classes, where she met a group of women involved in artist development and choreography. They hired her to manage a hip-hop group, and soon she was in business as a talent manager. “I hung a shingle outside the basement of a residential building,” she says, “and that was the beginning of my career.”

Creating an Empire
As her client roster grew to include stars such as Busta Rhymes, Missy Elliott, 50 Cent and LL Cool J, Scott-Young took her mother’s “work around the clock” ethic to heart, devising ways to build her clients’ brands beyond music and into television, publishing and other businesses. Her latest project: founding the wine brand MYX Fusions Moscato with rapper Nicki Minaj. “I’m not afraid to try,” she says, “even if I fall flat on my face.”

Live and Learn
Knowing your business from the ground up is paramount to success, says Scott-Young. “I spent nights at the studio understanding what the engineer does versus the producer because I need to be able to quantify that.” And the married mother of two says she’s not ready to slow down now: “When I leave this Earth, I want to say I did everything I possibly could.”—ELAINE ARADILLAS

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