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Q&A: Dani Daniels Delivers a Masterclass in Entrepreneurship

Recounting her storied career thus far, Dani Daniels says the short version can be summarized as a journey from “performer” to “entrepreneur.” In between those two words, however, there is a long story — what she calls “the extended version.” It begins with a shy, timid performer who had just entered the industry.

“I didn’t know what I was doing,” Daniels admits. “To be honest, I only knew what it was I didn’t want to do. Most people build a name for themselves and then have these crazy demands.”

Daniels did the opposite, starting right off with the crazy demands, which she says earned her a reputation as a diva. In her mind, she was just being selective because she only wanted to dip her toe into the biz and not cannonball.

“I called it being true to myself,” she explains. “I constantly checked in with myself mentally when something new came along. Was this something I wanted to do? Was I comfortable with it? If I did it, would I be happy about it in 10 years? In 20? When I’m old and crotchety?”

Daniels slowly expanded her repertoire, from girl/girl-only to being open to boy/girl if the men involved were on her pre-approved “yes” list. While establishing a professional reputation as someone who shows up on time and comes correct, she used her time on set to observe the production process closely. Sometimes she would arrive early just to watch directors shoot other scenes or to spy out how they approached casting, how they ran a set, whom they hired as staff and why, and what paperwork was generally needed.

“Like any job, most people in the industry are kind,” she says. “Other performers taught me how to do things I had never done before with my body. Directors and staff showed me fun tricks and tips. It turns out that people who love what they do, love to share and teach. I was lucky to encounter very little jealousy or trickery in the industry.”

On the rare occasions when she did come across a sour personality or a nefarious individual, she made sure never to shoot with that person or company again. For everyone else, she made a point of coming to set every day as if she was showing up for a job interview or blind date. That meant having clean hair, being shaved and showered, having a wardrobe with multiple options, giving off good energy and smiling.

Daniels also didn’t wait around for people to offer her jobs. She began asking if she could direct films — and was honest about her initial inexperience — or for leads on feature dancing opportunities. She learned, and expanded her skill set over time.

“So many people in this industry love to help others succeed; kindness and a low ego go a long way,” she underscores.

Now, Daniels opens up about her viewpoint on life, her career and how she balances so many responsibilities, in this exclusive Creator of the Month interview.

XBIZ: In your storied adult entertainment career, what significant career milestones are you most proud of, and what helped you achieve them?

DANIELS: I started my personal website, DaniDaniels.com, early on, though the first company that hosted it was shady, so I left. I learned from it and moved on. The second company, ModelCentro, was excellent. They taught me a lot, and I still use them. Unfortunately, no matter how much I tried, I didn’t have enough time in the day to shoot for companies and shoot for my personal website. Balancing it was hard when you got a call from a mainstream porn company and lived in LA. I would put off my own content and keep taking bookings for mainstream porn companies.

There was nothing wrong with mainstream porn companies; I loved them and still do! I just wanted to expand my brand and my income, and I couldn’t see that in mainstream porn without signing an exclusive contract, and even that has a shelf life. Exclusive contracts were never something I was personally interested in. So I left.

I moved to New York, a place I had always wanted to live. I thought that if I separated myself from LA and Vegas, I could force myself to focus on my own stuff. I saved some money and started shooting content for my website full-time. Keep in mind, this was before OnlyFans and premium Snapchats were a big thing. Performer websites were not nearly as popular as they are now.

I then met and ended up marrying my best friend, Vic, and grinded hard for a few years. Feature dancing kept my bills paid on the weekends while I shot content for my website during the week. Vic helped a lot, too. He gave me advice and cheered me on, had coffee waiting for me on my bedside table every morning and worked hard so I could follow my dreams. I had to teach myself to stay focused: when you shoot mainstream porn, you have a call time. When you shoot for yourself, you’re the performer, director, editor, PA and lighting guy. You have to force yourself to get out of bed and get to work. That’s tough when you live in a 600-square-foot apartment with two Frenchies and a loud Sicilian husband who doesn’t precisely tiptoe around the house.

Little by little, my website numbers grew. I could stop feature dancing — the late hours were killing me — and focus 100% on my content. It was the best feeling in the world the day I could fully support myself with the companies I created. My husband Vic quit working for other companies, after I begged him for years with lots of blowjobs, and we joined forces. He helped me with the company’s back end — he still does — and I paid him with many more blowjobs. I still do. Marriage perks!

As for my coffee company and my merchandise, I give a large amount of credit to my husband. This is the true story: I wanted to expand my brand and bring in income streams, besides my website, that could last much longer than my adult career. As my husband says, “Throw enough shit at a wall, and something will stick.” Each thing we have produced started with the two of us at a tiny hole-in-the-wall bar in New York, having a Scotch or three and me giggling, “You know what would be a great idea for a shirt?!” The next morning I would wake up with a hangover, and Vic would already be working on producing whatever wild idea I had come up with the night before.

I wish I could say I did all these mainstream merchandise companies and products by myself, that I was some unstoppable force of business ventures, but that would be an absolute lie: a significant percentage of it was Vic, sitting in a tiny office in New York City for days on end — while I shot content at home — researching, making phone calls, staying up late and waking up early. He’s the unstoppable force. Together we make one pretty epic team of two workaholics that won’t take no for an answer, and it helps that we both are madly in love with each other. He also, like I said, works for blowjobs, and that keeps my costs low. Kidding! Kind of.

Some things “failed,” though I don’t like to use that term because every failure is a tremendous learning experience, and some have been massive successes. I have been faithful to myself even with my merchandise, with everything we have produced. All are things we love, such as coffee, humor, sporty comfy clothing, BBQ sauce, spice rub, my energy bars, etc. All are easy to promote and produce because of that love.

I’m fortunate to have found a supportive partner who loves me unconditionally and helps with my career. I wish that for everyone in the industry. Vic even has helped some of my friends in the industry, making my heart so happy. I have learned so much from the industry, and I feel like I have gained confidence and a strong business mind. Not to mention all the fun — safe! — sex experiences along the way. Hey, I warned you this was the extended version!

I’m proud of building a brand, only doing what I wanted to do in the industry — and not being convinced otherwise — and staying true to myself. Although “Dani” is a fictional name, it’s still me. What people see on the internet, social media, my websites, podcasts, that’s all me. I’m happy that I can give my fan base a taste of my true self and who I am.

There are so many other things, too. Winning XBIZ Female Performer of the Year, my fan-voted awards, my feature movies winning movie of the year honors, being a centerfold for magazines, winning Feature Dance Performer of the Year, directing for top companies, starting my own websites, creating my coffee company, my merchandise… I guess it all comes down to this: work ethic. Evolving. Adapting. The business mind this industry has given me. And the fans — I am forever thankful for my fans that have supported me for these 11-plus years.

XBIZ: As a multifaceted entrepreneur, what are your primary revenue streams these days?

DANIELS: My website, DaniDaniels.com; my Onlyfans, DailyBush.com; my merchandise companies — clothing, food products, sex toys, etc. — my surprise box subscription service, ShopDDbox.com; my coffee company, DDroasters.com. Companies I have invested in privately. My artwork and art gallery. Pornhub, advertising deals, paid promo and more.

XBIZ: Discuss your strategies for time management and staying organized, given all that you do.

DANIELS: Ha! Time management… my husband will tell you I am always running 15 minutes late. I have zero concept of how long things take to do or time management in general. Something that I think takes 15 minutes will take an hour, and something I put aside a half day to finish will take me 30 minutes. I guess I get lucky, and it all somewhat evens out?

I’m big on lists. Daily tasks. Weekly goals. But I’m in no way perfect. It helps that I’m OCD, but I’m also human. Some days I’m a workhorse; some days, I drag ass and need a pep talk. No one’s perfect. But I always keep an eye on my goals. It also helps to love what you do.

Something I can recommend is to bank content. Shoot a lot. Especially when you are feeling creative and motivated! Overshoot — and please back up your hard drive with a second hard drive. If I aim to shoot three solos a day, I’ll shoot four. I try to push myself, so when I need the extra update when I’m traveling or not feeling well, I have it.

If I stopped shooting content tomorrow, I would have enough scenes on my website to last me five more years. That’s from pushing myself a little extra every shoot day for seven-plus years. But don’t make it into an unhealthy habit; we all need days off too. Listen to your body. Check in on your mental health. Don’t feel guilty if you need a day off; ensure you’ve earned it.

I also love to compartmentalize days: Monday is a shoot day, Tuesday is an art day, Wednesday is a podcast day, Thursday is a mental health day and so forth. Dedicating a day to a section of my life works very well for me, rather than trying to balance it all bouncing around like a pinball.

XBIZ: Talk about your art. How do you find inspiration? What’s next for your construction of a new gallery?

DANIELS: Ah yes, my art. When I’m not proudly showing my butthole to the internet, and in case I don’t have enough on my plate, I am also an artist. I go by my real name, Kira Lee, and I have an online store where I sell mainly my prints and commissions: KiraLeeStore.com and KiraLeeArt.com. I don’t talk much about my art through “Dani,” not that I’m ashamed; I guess I wanted to give it a realistic chance. I didn’t want people to buy my art because they were “Dani Daniels” fans, although that still happens. I wanted people to buy my art because they were emotionally connected to, well, my art.

I went to art school, but I was insecure about my art for many years. Surprisingly, since you can see every inch of me nude in 4K online, right? An ex saw them stashed away when we moved in together. He told me to show them publicly and keep painting. Looking back, he and the confidence I gained from my adult career helped me grow the balls I needed to showcase my art. I showed in several galleries in New York City and even opened a gallery in Florida. The positive response has been overwhelming; I’m constantly fully booked with commissions and struggle to keep my gallery stocked.

We had a structural safety problem recently with the building we were leasing and had to emergency move out. I’m just so glad everyone was OK and safe. We just closed on a building we bought and I plan to open a forever gallery and a brick-and-mortar DD Roasters in Florida in the fall. Of course, with lots of help from my husband, Vic!

XBIZ: How is your coffee brand going and what is your approach to marketing, production, branding, distribution, etc.?

DANIELS: It’s been massively successful. My husband Vic is a diehard coffee lover, and I love to drink the stuff. We started it because, like I mentioned, Vic made me coffee every morning and sprinkled cinnamon and nutmeg in the beans. I would joke, “You should sell this shit, babe, it’s so good!”

Friends would come to visit and ask him for his recipes. We would travel and miss our coffee at home. He did a ton of research, and we started DD Roasters, and now we have multiple blends. We even did a special blend with Doom’s Whiskey, blending this project with another project of ours. Oh, the cinnamon and nutmeg, one? That’s the “Breakfast in Bed” FYI.

Vic loves to find beans and blends from around the globe, and we chose DD Roasters as a nod to Dani Daniels with the “DD.” Marketing-wise, I promote it and people love it because it is high-quality deliciousness, not some cheap gimmick blend that I slapped my name on. We’re passionate people just trying to make excellent, quality stuff we love. People keep buying our coffee. I guess that means it’s good, right? But the best part is that I love seeing Vic happy with his passion project. Vic goes from farm to import to roast to packaging. From start to finish, it’s all us — mostly him — and it’s high-end, delicious coffee.

Oh, and as I mentioned, we are opening a coffee shop in the fall. Next-door to my gallery. Excuse me while I take a moment to jump up and down and clap my hands in excitement!

XBIZ: Describe how you and Vic achieve a collaborative balance with your business dynamic and real-life relationship.

DANIELS: Vic and I are married, but we are also best friends. We have similar interests. Similar moral codes. We are both, ironically, workaholics. We have similar goals and dreams. It makes for an easy relationship. He supports my porn career. He makes me feel supported and loved through action and communication. I wish that for everyone. We work together, and we make a great team.

We also are a married couple and have a real-life relationship together. Imagine it like being happily married to your business partner.

Communication is so important. Talking things out, even if it’s difficult to say. Finding a partner that’s also your best friend. Someone you want to evolve with. Someone you want to grow with, spend your life with — and have sex with. Lots of lots of sex with.

XBIZ: Talk about your podcast and TV show. What goes into preparing an engaging interview and captivating conversations that entice folks to tune in?

DANIELS: The TV show was so much fun to shoot! I wanted to show fans that sex workers are real people. That this is a job. And that we have a lot of funny stories to share as well. I’m hoping to do a second season sometime in the future. We were going to do Season Two and then Covid happened, but you can catch Season One on Amazon!

My podcast, “The Two Onions Podcast,” was for fun. I wanted to give my fans something free. I constantly said, “Buy this, buy that, swipe up!” And I wanted to gift them something as a thank you for supporting me. So sometimes my husband and I interview friends, with very little planning involved, but most of the time it’s him and I sitting around and chatting. Being us. Being real. Authentic conversations. Real life. People seem to enjoy it and even complained when we tried to take a break from it, so we are back shooting it weekly.

XBIZ: Discuss your indie content creation and what kinds of videos, interactions, photos, etc. your fans most enjoy purchasing.

DANIELS: I shoot what I enjoy, and that’s forever evolving. I think my fans like it because they can see that I’m genuinely enjoying myself in a bit more fetish-driven content than when I shot mainstream porn. That was also authentic, but I’ve been having fun with cosplay and, more specifically, fetish, as well as femdom, humorous and naughty housewife scenes. It’s so much fun to write my scripts and scenarios and have a blast shooting them! I think it’s important to shoot what you enjoy, in mainstream porn and for yourself. Fans will find you — and wouldn’t you rather find a fan base that enjoys what you enjoy?

XBIZ: What’s next for you in 2023 and beyond, that you’re most excited about?

DANIELS: Continuing to grow, learn and evolve. I can’t wait for my energy bars to hit the U.S. market. They’re in India only at the moment, and it’s insane the amount of positive feedback we are getting. I’m looking forward to the coffee shop and my new gallery. I’m showcasing my DD Roasters coffee, ShopDDbox.com merch and partnership with LovGun and Doom’s Whiskey at XBIZ Miami. I’ve been having so much fun shooting content in my new home in Florida.

I’m excited to see what the future holds and love every second of my career in the adult industry. I hope my rambling inspires someone to do what they love and seek adventure!

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