The Breakfast Club's own DJ Envy shares his advice on how to set up your side hustle

On this episode of In The Know: Money with Marsai Martin, we're breaking down the side hustle. Breakfast Club host and real estate investor, DJ Envy is here to chat with Marsai about maintaining multiple streams of income all while pursuing a dream.

Video Transcript


MARSAI MARTIN: Welcome back to another episode of "In the Know-- Money with Marsai Martin." These days it seems like everyone has some sort of side hustle, right? Whether it's selling used clothing on eBay or Depop, moonlighting as a Lyft driver, or a Wag! dog walker, or just making some extra money babysitting for your neighbor. See, there are numerous ways for you to make a little money on the side.

Maybe your desire for a side hustle is just to have a bit more spending money at your disposal, or maybe it's because you want to put it towards bringing your passion project to life. Whatever it is, everyone has the ability to be resourceful. And today we have DJ Envy, who is not only a successful radio personality and music producer, but also is a real estate investor.

So tell us about yourself and your story.

DJ ENVY: Oh, well, I'm DJ Envy from "The Breakfast Club." I do a show that's syndicated in 110 markets, all the radio stations across the country, and some overseas.

MARSAI MARTIN: So have you ever had a side hustle?

DJ ENVY: I have a million and one jobs. I don't consider them all side hustles because they're like work. But yeah, I'm big into doing a bunch of things so if one thing ever falls off, those other things can take care of it, just like in the pandemic. I tell everybody try to have as much income as possible coming from so many different places that if something does happen, you're OK.

MARSAI MARTIN: All right. Like, what kind of steps do you take to make sure your hustle doesn't put your full-time job at risk?

DJ ENVY: I mean, people say you have 24 hours in a day. So it's just a matter of knowing what the main hustle is. Like, I tell everybody all the time. And I probably would never say this to my boss's face, but you know, I would do radio for free. Like, I enjoy it. And if you enjoy something so much, it's not work.

MARSAI MARTIN: All right. Well, what was one of your aha moments when your side hustle became like a full-time gig? Like, something that you did, and you're like, oh, well, this could be like a-- this could be like a thing.

DJ ENVY: I think it was I was in the mall with my mom, and somebody recognized me. And they said my DJ name, which at the time was DJ Shrimp, because I was really 5 foot 2 as a kid, and I was DJ Shrimp. And then I went from 5' 2" to 6 foot, but anyway. But they came up to me and was like, DJ Shrimp. And I was surprised they knew who I was. And at that point, I was like, wow, this is really working. And I think that was my aha moment because I was just a kid from Queens, New York. I had no idea that anybody knew who I was.

MARSAI MARTIN: Yeah. I mean, I feel like that very first time that someone recognizes you, it kind of just-- I don't know-- it's just so-- it's a crazy moment. It's a very surreal moment. And it's just-- it's one of those realization things like, wow, the things that I'm doing are really making an impact. So yeah, I think it's definitely like a booster to keep going.

But I love acting. I love producing. I love creating. But I mean, things could happen and stop very fast. And I feel like the pandemic definitely showed us that things can happen in many weird ways. So what would be your advice for someone who wants to start a side hustle or something that just makes them money?

DJ ENVY: I would say, first, do your homework. Make sure you know whatever business that you want to do you have to know. Another crazy little story-- I've done tried every business that you could possibly imagine. So I came up with this idea to create a car wash, right? And I went to the car wash on Saturdays to see how it did.

But that wasn't necessarily doing my full homework because I only went on Saturday. I didn't go on Sunday. I didn't go on Monday. I didn't go on Tuesday, no other day. So when I decided to get into the car wash business, I realized that Saturday was the only day that it was packed and the rest of the days it wasn't packed. So what wound up happening? I couldn't pay the bills. I couldn't pay the mortgage. I couldn't pay anything because there was only one day that it was packed. So I would always say, do your homework in a business, and do your homework thorough. And ask a lot of questions.

MARSAI MARTIN: All right. Well, what would you say are the pros and cons of having a side hustle?

DJ ENVY: I think when you say side hustle, it usually means that you can't put your total effort into it. That means you have a full-time, whatever you're doing, and the side hustle is just a little bit of what you're doing. So I would say a con is that you can't really put that much energy or effort into your side hustle.

I think the pro is once you get it working, you don't have to put as much effort in. And hopefully, it'll keep bringing you revenue and bringing you profits. So for a lot of my side hustles, they kind of go on their own. Once they get started, they kind of just-- the money just comes in on your own. I don't have to put as much effort in. But effort is always needed.

MARSAI MARTIN: So you mentioned that you work on real estate very well. And honestly, I just bought my first apartment in Inglewood. Not for me to live in right now, but just to really have because real estate is also a very big thing, not just in me, but in my family as well. And I just want to know because not a lot of 16-year-olds do that. Can you please explain what real estate is to the kids out there?

DJ ENVY: Yeah. Well, you know, first of all, congratulations. The fact that you have your first apartment, condo, crib at 16 is freaking amazing.


DJ ENVY: So kudos to you and congratulations. And I wish I had my mind like that at that age, but I didn't. And I would tell people this. I love real estate. And the reason I love real estate is because I feel like you can always get paid, and you can use real estate to continue to get money.

So I just break down two scenarios for everybody out there listening. One is I call it the cheap house scenario, right? So the cheap house scenario is this. I purchased my first home-- investment property, I should say, in Detroit. Now, the reason I say Detroit is because Detroit at the time, the properties were only $10,000. I bought that property for $10,000. I held it, and I wound up selling it for $180,000.

And this is what you do once you get a little bit of money like that. Then you buy a two-family house. Now, you probably-- a lot of people say, well, Envy, what's a two-family house? How can I afford a two-family house? Let me break it down. This is how people-- this is how you live rent free.

You buy a two-family house. Let's say a two-family house is $200,000, right? And you say, well, how the hell am I going to buy that? I'm going to explain. Usually, you have to put 10% down. 10% of $200,000 is $20,000. So that means you owe $180,000. $180,000, you have to pay that off in 30 years. Paying that off in 30 years, your mortgage or your rent will be $2,000.

You live on one floor. You rent out the top floor. The person that pays the rent on the top floor pays your mortgage, your taxes, and all your bills. So now you're living rent free and you own the property.

MARSAI MARTIN: So do you already have like homes for your kids then, basically? Like, your four-year-old, he can-- you know, they already got stuff that is settled for them by the time they turn 18.

DJ ENVY: Correct. So I did what you did. So for instance, instead of-- I didn't do a Sweet 16 for my daughter. She didn't want a Sweet 16. I bought her a home. I bought her an investment property. And all the money that she gets from that investment property is hers. And you know, one day when she-- you know, when she's 21, and she decides what she wants to do, all that money is in a bank for her. That's her home.

My son, he's 17. He's in high school. He has the same thing. He has a property that he has. And you know, when he gets older, I'll teach him the process of owning a property and what to do. And then when he gets a certain age, he has all that for himself.

And I try to do that for each one of the kids so they have their own. So if something ever happens to me, they will have something coming in regardless. And that way they understand and learn.

MARSAI MARTIN: Do you think it's easier or harder now that social media and internet sensations are a thing to create a side hustle for yourself, or even just a new hobby in general to make money?

DJ ENVY: I think it's easier. I mean, you could do a viral video today, and all of a sudden you're an internet influencer. You know what I mean? And people are willing to pay you to promote their products and things on their page. So I think it's a little easier.

But I just think you have to be careful of what you do. You can't do too much where people just know you're doing it for a check. People have to understand and really realize that you're doing it because you have a love for it. I think if people out there know DJ Envy, they know Envy is into his real estate. He's into his cars. And he's into his family. Anything else out of that just seems weird. Like, if I got on here and said, "Hey, I'm smoking a cigarette, and try these new cigarettes," I think people would laugh at me and be like, Envy did that for the check.


DJ ENVY: He don't smoke that stuff. I mean, you know? Certain things, it has to fit your brand. And it has to be real, because if not, people see right through it.

MARSAI MARTIN: That is all for this episode of "In the Know-- Money with Marsai Martin." Now you should feel more empowered to go forth and embrace your side hustle, or anything that you've got, because-- trust me-- it'll be worth it for that extra effort.


So I would definitely say my passion turned into a career when I actually really started "Little." So when I did "Little," that was my very first time just trying to understand the true meaning of producing. And honestly, I was wearing two hats, because I was in front of the camera acting, and then behind the scenes, I had to like check things, and figure out what I was going to say, and the lines, and checking other people's lines.

And Will Packer and everyone at Will Packer Productions was there. And he-- like, just watching him and like seeing like how he understands his craft so well made me realize like, this is something bigger than just acting in front of the camera. He'd be like, what do you think, Marsai? And I was like, you really care about my opinion on stuff?

And then when we finished "Little," I was like, I want to keep doing that, like, that is something that I want to keep doing. And I feel comfortable in it. It feels like I'm supposed to be here. And between me and you, like, I like it the same way I like acting, you know? Ever since then, I was like, let's start our production company. And that's how we came up with Genius Entertainment. And the rest is history.