TheGrio's 100: Jermaine Griggs, Founder of multi-million dollar music site

Little did Jermaine Griggs know that the piano his grandmother won on “The Price Is Right” when he was a little boy would change the course of his life in unimaginable ways.

Griggs, who grew up in a single-parent household in a crime-ridden section of Long Beach, California, taught himself how to play that piano by ear. At the same time, he was a budding businessman, selling everything from private music lessons to Avon products.

In 2000, at the age of 16, Griggs combined his two passions with the creation of Hear and Play, a site dedicated to helping users learn to play musical instruments by ear. Within the first 60 days he sold his first online lessons.

Today, more than 2 million people download his piano, organ, guitar and vocal lessons each year, and nearly 300,000 subscribe to his newsletter. Those numbers, said Griggs, translate to a business grossing millions of dollars.

Jermaine Griggs is making history … as a visionary businessman, someone who took a simple idea — music theory and instruction — and used technology to create a business that gives people all over the world the opportunity to learn how to play an instrument anytime, from the comfort of their own homes.

What’s next for Jermaine?

Griggs plans to bring Hear and Play to other forms of media by creating an online or TV channel dedicated to music instruction. He also plans to delve into the self-help arena, sharing his insights on life and achieving success.

Jermaine Griggs in his own words …

“Learn how to sell early. I know there are different business models out there, but at some point something (has) to be sold,” Griggs advises aspiring entrepreneurs. “They say nine out of 10 businesses fail. I think a lot of it has to do with not valuing the power of selling.”

A little-known fact…

About 8 percent of Americans play a musical instrument, according to 2009 U.S. Census data.

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Q: What’s next in this chapter of your life?

A: In the music realm, we hope to tackle every major instrument and genre, becoming a one-stop shop for playing music by ear. We also hope to expand offline and create “Hear & Play Learning Centers” in every metropolitan area. On down the road, I see other media like a “Hear & Play” television network being a possibility.

Personally, I’d like to write a book and enter the self-help arena teaching people what I’ve learned over the years and how I’ve managed myself and surroundings to create lasting change.

I’d also like to continue and increase my speaking appearances at inner city schools and organizations, inspiring young people to go after their dreams and to not be handicapped by current circumstances.

Q: What’s a fact about you that many people don’t know?

A: One day, at summer camp, when I was 7, I almost drowned following my friends into the 6-foot water. After about a minute under water, an older girl saved me. Since then, I’ve never followed the crowd.

Q: What’s your favorite quote?

A: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God – your playing small doesn’t serve the world.” — Marianne Williamson

Q: Where do you get your inspiration?

A: God, because it runs through my veins and for as long as I can remember, I’ve been driven to succeed). Mom and grandma (who raised me and imparted many of the skills I use today. The desire to provide an experience and upbringing for my offspring that I didn’t have (outside of love). Books and other people’s experiences — I have a 1,500-plus book collection and enjoy learning from other accounts.

Q: Who are/were your mentors?

A: Growing up, my aunt gave me a book by Les Brown, “Live Your Dreams.” He was my childhood “virtual” mentor. Later, I would become friends with Les and I had the opportunity to work with him.

In business, it was a man named Corey Rudl, who was founder of the Internet Marketing Center. He was one of the first people I knew of making serious money online in the late 90’s. I’d learn through his products and subsequently become good friends with him. In 2005, he unfortunately died in a racing accident at Speedway.

Q: What advice would you give to anyone who wants to achieve their dreams?

A: Learn and value the power of selling. Regardless of the business model, something’s gotta be sold. Even if you’re idea is a free service like Facebook, somethings’ gotta be sold (i.e. – [the] idea to investors, advertising inventory to companies, etc). I largely attribute knowing how to sell, and not being afraid to sell, to my success.