Simmons, 58, said when he was young, there was no established track for learning how to start a business available to him besides the drug business.
"Other than that there was no training, no real cultural platform to teach people from where I came from to be entrepreneurs," said Simmons, who is originally from the Queens borough. "The idea of building out entrepreneurship, it was not a cultural thing in the black community."
It taught Simmons the basics of running a balance sheet. "I bought something for a dollar and sold it for three," he told Bryan Elliott in an episode of "Behind the Brand" on Entrepreneur. "I bought a lot of it for a dollar and sold a lot of it for three. So now it became a business. I understood the margins, the business."
He also learned "the mindset of being independent and being responsible for your profit," he told Elliott. The lucky ones among the drug-dealing set of his youth eventually found something else to sell.
Simmons isn't the only one to parlay his experience running a drug business into other more traditional channels. "If you look at all of the entrepreneurs, especially from years ago, a lot of them that were African-American had their experience in the street," he told CNBC.