Bethenny Ever the Entrepreneur

All too real:  being skinny doesn’t solve supply chain problems. Updated!

True confession – and, Mom, feel free to tune out right here: yes, I’m addicted to all things Housewives, though there’s precious little Real in any of it, except for Bethenny Frankel, who has paid her reality dues. Up from the scrum of  The Apprentice with Martha Stewart, she was booted out because of her personal style. In the past six years,  Frankel has turned lemons into skinny margaritas  by leveraging that style into a cooking (but not much eating) brand. She made it onto the Real Housewives of New York on the basis of her aspiration to be a housewife. Now that she is, with a wedding present of her own show, Bethenny Ever After, she has got exactly what she has wished for, for so long, so hard and so publicly.

UPDATE: On March 21, the Wall St. Journal reported that Bethenny Frankel sold her Skinnygirl brand to the spirits & wine division of Fortune Brands.  This being a private sale, we don’t know how much Bethenny got. But it we’ll be watching to see how she navigates the transition.

Did she ever.  The show is just as much about her rapid evolution as an entrepreneur as it is her immersion into motherhood and spousedom (mostly playing out in the confines of her Tribeca condo, a space so overlapping with roles and relationships that I’m dumbstruck why she doesn’t escape twice a month to her in-laws’ tranquil home in small-town Pennsylvania. Can’t she just consider it her country house and let them be good to her? )

On Monday, Bethenny and husband Jason hash out their roles in her fastgrowing company.  She’s frustrated that retailers ran out of her Skinny Girl Margarita product. How could this happen? Where is the product? We have to plug the leaks in the supply chain!

Jason knows that the supply system isn’t dry…it just needs another pump. Nobody is going to commit to produce more product than they reasonably think will sell, he tells her. The fact that 70,000 cases of Skinny Girl Margarita evaporated from the shelves last year  means that this year, the company should sell…1.2 million cases.  Bethenny is stunned into uncharacteristic  silence. And Jason explains to her, and the camera, that this is the classic entrepreneurial dilemma:  just because you have a great idea doesn’t mean that you can launch it. And just because you can launch it doesn’t mean that the force of your personality and personal determination carry over to sustained growth. 

Thank you, Jason. This is precisely the dynamic that I believe keeps so many women from growing their businesses beyond their own four walls. They might start their companies for lifestyle reasons – especially to gain more control over their schedules (until they realize that clients are just as demanding as children, and sometimes less rational).  Execution transforms your great idea into a thriving business. 

Traditionally, women don’t get much hands-on operating experience.  Bethenny is a chef with a specialty in organic food.  A product spinoff sounds like a natural fit. Except, it isn’t. It’s a whole new business.

Women own 40% of all privately held. U.S. firms.  But, women-owned firms are smaller and don’t grow as fast. Only 3% of all women-owned firms rake in $1 million a year or more; 6% of male-owned firms reach that goal.

Bethenny’s probably well past the million-dollar mark, and hooray for her. Not to heap too much on her already-overflowing organic plate, but just by being transparent about she and Jason work out the issue of their growing company, she can do a world of good. And that’s the reality, even if you’re not a star.
Image courtesy of Morguefile contributor mzacha.

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