Michelle King

Since launching the Skinnygirl cocktail in 2010, founder Bethenny Frankel has made it her mission to expand the brand’s portfolio with the launch of numerous food and beverage products, as well as the recent launch of the Skinnygirl Jeanswear range.

“I don’t have some grand plan. I mean, people can get stuck in their plans. People talk a lot too. I don’t like a lot of excuses. Just stop talking and go do what you want to do,” she says.

Frankel is better known for her roles on various reality TV shows including Bravo’s Real Housewives of New York City, ABC-TV’s Shark Tank and Bethenny and Fredrik – a show produced by Frankel’s own production company B-Reality.

Frankel says that the secret to her success lies in her willingness to try out different things: “You’re going to make mistakes. It’s not going to be perfect, but usually when you jump, you fly.  You just have to go for it.”

I recently sat down with Frankel to understand how she is growing the Skinnygirl brand and what women entrepreneurs can do to get their ideas off the ground. Here she reflects on the lessons learnt in building the Skinnygirl empire.

Focus on the numbers.

When Frankel tried to sell the Skinnygirl margarita to established liquor companies they turned her down. Even publicists were not interested in the idea. “I just ended up doing it myself. I focused on moving the product and it sold. People can lie, but the numbers don’t lie,” she says. In 2011 Frankel sold the Skinnygirl liquor brand to Beam Inc. for a reported $100 million.

Despite her success Frankel says that the challenges associated with getting an idea off the ground never really go away. “It’s actually still hard now because people don’t see you in different categories that you see yourself in. You just have to get out there and show them.”

Beat critics with execution.

Recently Frankel had to face the critics again with the launch of the Skinnygirl Jeanswear brand, as people raised concerns that the word ‘skinny’ was the wrong message to send women. “They said things like, ‘That isn’t going to feel inclusive’ and ‘Bigger girls won’t like it.’ And then they get it. They understand that it means unleash your skinny girl. Everybody, size 18 or 22, is a skinny girl. It’s all how someone feels. It’s a state of mind,” says Frankel.

Ignoring the critics, Frankel maintained her focus on creating a brand that caters to a wide range of sizes. As a result, the Skinnygirl Jeanswear collection will launch in September 2018. For Frankel being relentless in pursing your idea is the key to success. “ Don’t get caught and stuck in your own idea. Or what your friends think. An idea is nothing compared to the execution. Eventually people will fall in line,” she says.

Compete with no one.

A key challenge with getting an idea off the ground is knowing what idea has the greatest chance of success. Given this I asked Frankel how she determines which ideas are worth pursuing. “I’ve gotten into trouble when I listen too much to what partners or retailers say that people want. No one knew that they wanted a bottle of ready to drink low calorie cocktail. I came up with that idea because I thought it solved a problem,” she says.

Frankel believes that one way to know if your idea is worth pursuing is to check out the competition. “I have a business that I’ll be launching in a couple of months and we’re competing with no one. That’s when you’re excited and say, ‘Wow, I have this idea and no one’s doing it.’”

Make the most out of your time.

Make the most out of your time. Given Frankel’s wide range of business interests, I asked her if she could share how she balances motherhood with entrepreneurial life. “I value time and that means I am very organized. There are no stupid mistakes in my calendar or things that I shouldn’t be doing,” she says.

Rather than trying to find the perfect balance, Frankel says the key to managing her time is knowing when to pivot. “Today I had multiple shoots and meetings so I stacked them all. That means tomorrow I can go out to the Hamptons with my daughter and just be a mother. You have to be able to shift when you need to,” she says.

Michelle King is a leading global gender equality expert, with a focus on advancing women in the changing world of work. To stay up to date follow Michelle @michpking.


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