Love her or hate her, Bethenny Frankel knows how to build a successful brand.
“I have amazing ideas and I execute and I’m honest and I’m straightforward and I’m cutthroat… I’m just not the one who’s going to be complaining about ‘woe is me,’” Frankel said at Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit, when asked about the challenges of being a female entrepreneur.
Female entrepreneurs can distinguish themselves from others simply by working harder, according to Frankel. “Most people don’t work hard … Most people move the papers around the desk metaphorically and think they’re working hard,” she said. “It’s about working hard.”
The founder and CEO of the Skinnygirl Lifestyle brand shot to reality TV fame on Bravo’s “Real Housewives of New York City,” but Frankel shocked fans in August when she announced she was leaving the TV franchise to start her “next chapter.”
“I went with my gut to leave,” she said at the All Markets Summit on Thursday.
For the 48-year-old entrepreneur, philanthropist and author, that next chapter was signing a multi-year deal with MGM Television and Mark Burnett to develop TV projects. Frankel and Burnett are no strangers. She’s appeared in Burnett’s “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart” in 2005 and as an investor on “Shark Tank.”
Frankel said she met with 10 networks and streaming providers and has sold two shows.
“Most of the shows are around women, business — some are around food. But mostly entrepreneurs and women. But not in a touchy feeling way but in sort of a hardcore way, if that makes any sense,” Frankel said of the shows, noting that the new TV projects will be unscripted.
Going with your ‘gut’
Frankel said she’s always relied on her gut instincts when it comes to making business decisions. “I wing it as I go,” she said.
She used those basic instincts when she sold her low-fat liquor company, Skinnygirl Cocktails, to Beam Global in 2011 for a reported $100 million dollars — but kept the licensing rights to the name.
That shrewd business decision has served her well. Frankel’s Skinnygirl empire has since expanded to include salty snacks (think Skinny Popcorn), non-alcoholic beverages, salad dressing, coffee, skincare, haircare, candles and most recently clothing. Her line of Skinnygirl jeans sold out the day it debuted on HSN. Frankel said she would be open to selling the business.
Frankel said “The Real Housewives” used to be a platform for Skinnygirl but it was also a “risky” one. When she left the show for three years, Frankel said a number of business opportunities opened up for her, including being a guest shark on “Shark Tank.” “I had to push my way through and get on ‘Shark Tank’ despite ‘Housewives,’” she said.
She shot down any idea of returning to “Housewives” again saying, “That audience I already know. I want to connect with a new audience.”
As a woman in the male-dominated liquor industry, Frankel said she “has always been about female empowerment. I don’t see gender, race.” As a guest shark on “Shark Tank,” Frankel said a business must have amazing ideas and be able to execute in order to have her jump on board.
The self-made entrepreneur went on to become the only “Housewives” star to make the Forbes list of top-earning reality stars. It’s a far cry from her humble beginnings in Queens, New York, where Frankel describes her childhood as “difficult,” growing up with a mother who was “always drinking.”
“I don’t understand money,” she said, adding that there were just a lot of highs and lows growing up. “I grew up in a gambling household.”
Alexis Christoforous is co-anchor of Yahoo Finance’s “The First Trade.” Follow her on Twitter @AlexisTVNews.