How This Once-Exec Assistant Brought One of Hip Hop’s Biggest Brand Portfolios to Near-Billion Dollar Status
Listen up, Ladies! Superstar Sean “Diddy” Combs’ leading lady claims the best ways to climb the corporate ladder is to work hard, level the playing field, know your self-worth, and…carry a clipboard? Dia Simms is divulging all the delicious deets to achieving the sweet taste of success.
A long-time power protegee to hip hop music mogul and brand innovator Sean “Diddy” Combs, smart, savvy businesswoman and entrepreneur Dia Simms is a woman to watch. Having played an instrumental and influential role in the rise of Combs Enterprises, including subsidiary Combs Wine and Spirits, Simms was appointed the president of the hip hop-based portfolio brand by CEO/Founder Sean Combs in 2015 and has successfully built the brand to an estimated $820 billion-dollar worth in just a few short years.
A sharp mastermind and versatile creative head, Simms led the charge in strategic marketing, brand innovation, and execution of Ciroc Ultra Premium Vodka, DeLeon Tequila, and other spirits-based innovations for Combs Enterprises. Having worked with Combs since 2005, Simms’ unparalleled track record as an ingenious entrepreneur and shrewd business badass allowed her to spearhead and catapult Combs Enterprises to global brand success. Under
Simms’ leadership, the once-obscure Combs Wine and Spirits has exponentially grown and prospered. A power player in acquiring DeLeon Tequila in 2013, Ciroc Ultra Premium Vodka has also experienced over 1000% growth, morphing into one of the world’s most recognized vodka brands on the market thanks to Simms' business-building talents. Combs Wine and Spirits has since received a plethora of business awards, including the highly-coveted Diageo Golden Bar Award for “Best Spirits Advertising” and Diageo’s 2011 Global Marketing Brilliance Award for “Best Synergy 360.” Combs Wine and Spirits also reaped recognition at the 2014 Pro Awards for “Best Holiday Campaign” and “Best Cause-based” Campaign.
Making the Corporate Climb – Two Steps at a Time
Born in the quaint Northern California seaside town of Monterey, the Atlanta based business brainchild had a rather humble start and unconventional career trajectory before entering the star-studded, exciting world of hip hop. Before being discovered by hip hop star Combs, Simms worked for the U. S. Department of Defense, in advertising sales, event and club promotion, and for the pharmaceutical industry, respectively. Initially hired as Combs’ executive assistant and right-hand woman in 2005, Simms quickly climbed through the arduous ranks of the rap arena, eventually distinguishing herself and scoring the commanding role of Chief of Staff. But, she was far from done. Always the youngest in the room, Simms was then promoted to Combs’ executive team, including that of General Manager of Advertising and Marketing and then on to Executive VP of Combs Wine and Spirits. Network Journal has named the bubbly, soft-spoken business builder in their 40 Under 40 Class of 2010. In 2011, Essence Magazine fittingly named Simms “Leader of the New School.”
Moving Forward While Giving Back
Aside from building bespoke businesses into billion-dollar brands, Simms has been flexing her philanthropic muscles at The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurs, which provides entrepreneurial education and “know-how” to business-aspiring high school students. The busy brand-builder also sits on the board of The Boys and Girls Club of Harlem. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Morgan State University, her master’s in Management from the Florida Institute of Technology, and even holds a Level II certification from the Defense Acquisition University. She was the first person ever to be appointed to the role of President at Combs Enterprises.
Welcome to the Boy’s Club
A steadfast supporter of knowing your value when it comes to business, the brand-building icon knows a thing or two about being the lone female in a male-dominated industry, as she recalls entering a roomful of business with Combs. She asserts her greatest advocate and the proponent is the entertainer and entrepreneur himself. “Sean goes out of his way just to level-set the room. There are so many times where he will introduce me and say, ‘She is the president of Combs Enterprises,’ and the men in the room will say, ‘Are you going to get some coffee?’” A major creative force in building Comb’s immense empire to an estimated $820 million, according to Forbes magazine, Simms has maintained a professional dedication – and delivered – to a diverse and distinctive enterprise that employs over 220 individuals. Her innate ability to bring Combs’ innovative ideations to life, Simms supercharged the growth, success, and recognition of a powerful portfolio of companies, such as Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment Group, Sean John, Combs Wine and Spirits, AQUAHydrate, The Blue Flame Marketing Agency, Revolt Films, and Revolt Media and Television. Simms attests her early days working as an eager and ambitious music promoter in her 20s inadvertently armed her with the indispensable tools to successfully navigate “a man’s world.”
The “Clipboard Effect”
Named to Ebony’s “Power 100” list in 2017, Simms says the secret to success is the elusive “clipboard effect.” In an exclusive interview with Forbes last year, Simms recounted how she would invariably carry a wooden clipboard to all the events she was promoting and bestowed the unorthodox bit of advice upon her younger female colleagues because it patently signals “I’m here for work.”
Simms was an integral, grassroots driven advocate for leveling the playing field, with respect to equal pay and diversity of staff. She has often been found propagating that women in business have shown significant increases in productivity, creativity, and overall brand success. His unrelenting work ethic and incessant thirst for knowledge and learning new things are what keeps Simms grinding full speed ahead. “I look for information everywhere I go. I really believe that everybody has something to learn and something to teach.”
A recent recipient of Billboard’s “Women in Music,” list, Simms voluntarily stepped down from her prestigious role at Combs’ brand conglomerate late last summer to enter the budding cannabis biz.