From Entrepreneurship to Event Planning and Reality TV, Bethenny Frankel has done it all. She is a breath of fresh air with her unapologetic take on life and unique perspective in a world of mediocrity. Her podcast, Just B, is unlike any business podcast and offers new insight into various topics. She uses her platform for good—Frankel’s philanthropic work through her charity BStrong has raised awareness and money for causes worldwide. She is rewriting the rules of success one venture at a time.
Frankel was born into a hustler’s family and was raised on the racetracks where she lived with her father and stepfather, both of whom were horse trainers. From a young age, she was exposed to gambling and was surrounded by ‘unsavoury characters’. Of this exposure, Frankel said, “You’re prepared for anything, there’s competition there; there’s speed; there’s money; the stakes are high.”
Frankel attended the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City at Boston University for two years that later helped her tremendously in her venture as a professional baker.
Frankel recollected her 20s and said in an interview, “I consolidated debt after college, slowly but surely paid it off, and never got in credit card debt again. I walked everywhere except at night. I didn’t go out to dinner unless someone else was paying, and I hustled by cooking for people and selling items in my closet. I would always find ways to work for extra cash.”
Frankel shifted to Los Angeles in 1992 with the aspiration to become an actress. However, her dreams were short-lived, she found out that she not did not particularly enjoy acting as she was not in the power position. Frankel said, “I remember saying, How do I do something where I can be myself?”
She started exploring various roles and worked as a Personal Assistant to Jerry Bruckheimer and Linda Bruckheimer and was also a nanny to Paris Hilton. Simultaneously, she worked as a Production Assistant. She started building her connections and leveraged this network to start her first company, a party planning business named ‘In Any Event’, which was unfortunately short-lived. But that did not dampen her spirit. Her next entrepreneurial project was re-selling pashmina scarves that she acquired from an Indian Manufacturer.
In 2003, she tried her hand at baking and started a business called ‘BethennyBakes’, that focused on ‘healthy cookie’ deliveries in the city of New York. This got featured on a reality competition series, The Apprentice: Martha Stewart in 2005. Frankel made it to the finale in the show. BethennyBakes eventually shut down in 2006, but Frankel retained her role as a spokesperson for Pepperidge Farms low-calorie line.
In 2008, Frankel got her breakthrough and began starring in the reality television series ‘The Real Housewives of New York City’ that opened up various avenues for her as an entrepreneur. Frankel said, “On the show, I was on my own, and I was broke. I wasn’t buying diamonds and getting facials. The decision to go on reality television was single-handedly a business decision. It was frustrating to constantly be referred to as a ‘reality star.’ I didn’t want to be in magazines about what shoes I was wearing, and I didn’t want to just be in the gossip pages. I wanted to be known as an entrepreneur and a businessperson. It was a strategy from Day One.”
After three seasons, she decided that it was time to quit. And one day, genius struck, Frankel said, “I thought, Everybody wants to have a margarita, and nobody wants to feel guilty about it.” Frankel created a prepackaged margarita line, named Skinnygirl Margarita. The cocktail had approximately 100 calories per five-ounce serving while the average margarita ranges from 350 to 750 hefty calories, due to a premix or limeade, triple sec and tequila.
She said, ‘All the big liquor companies turned me down. Publicists wouldn’t even come with me to the meetings because they didn’t take it seriously. So I would go alone and sit in boardrooms with people who probably just thought I had a silly little idea. They didn’t see what I saw.”
But Frankel followed her gut instinct and continued to persevere. She said, “There was only one person who did get it, David Kanbar, a liquor industry veteran. He ended up being my partner. We manufactured the product, the bottle, the cap, and the design and got it to the market in less than six months. It exploded. We couldn’t keep up with the demand.” The company expanded exponentially and is a big brand to date.
In June 2010, Frankel starred in the Bravo reality series Bethenny Getting Married? (later retitled Bethenny Ever After), that documented her engagement and marriage to Jason Hoppy as well as the birth of their daughter. The series premiere became Bravo’s highest-rated one at the time, garnering 2.1 million viewers that Frankel smartly used to promote her skinny girls’ brand.
When she decided to sell the business, Frankel recalled, “I didn’t necessarily want to sell, but Beam Global (The company acquiring SkinnyGirl) was willing to let me be intricately involved. My partner said it would be financially irresponsible not to do it. Ultimately, it was a business decision, not a monetary decision. I partly did it for the street cred, and I think I got it.”
She continued, “Once in a while, you see a person who used to treat you like a dog because you were nobody and they were somebody. You get a little giggle, and you really love it. But it’s more about looking to women and saying, ‘Look at what you can do.’ I took one little acorn of an idea, and when people said, ‘No, no, no,’ I said, ‘Yes, yes, yes.’ I worked hard, I did it on my own, and I busted my ass the whole way. It’s been a long time coming.”