Being a businesswoman takes courage, but it is so freeing. Owning your own business makes you independent and lets you make choices based not on fear but on passion, desire and good sense. Even people starting out feel that excitement and that empowerment and that self-pride in being successful at business. And the more success you achieve in business, the more validation you feel, the more confidence you feel in yourself. It’s incredibly empowering.
I truly don’t see gender. I don’t think about it. Being in a boardroom with all men and one woman doesn’t really phase me. And I think women going into business should put the question of gender out of their minds. Good ideas are heard, passion and drive and hard work are rare, no matter who you are.
Business is like gambling. You need to know when to hold and fold ’em and when the tables are hot, you need to have the courage and drive to press your bets.
And, of course you need a little bit of luck.
Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned that I hope will help you hedge your own bets:
Make your idea the best idea, and throw everything behind it.
Ok, so you have a great idea. You have to ask yourself: How many other people have this great idea? Are you the only one who can do it? 10 people could have the same general idea, but it’s the person who executes it the best who wins. Make sure that you can get in and out first and fast enough, that you can line up good press and marketing. You have to own that idea and make it happen first without someone else coming in first and doing it bigger and better than you.
Do your homework, but don’t overthink things.
The most important thing you need is a plan for your money. You can’t just keep spending. You have to know whether something’s worth the money, and trust me—things are going to cost much more than you imagined. So prepare a business plan up front to keep you on track.
That said, you hear about so many big companies that have focus groups and ad teams and all this stuff, and then they come out with a one calorie soda or something that turns out to be the biggest bomb. You can overthink things and over-research things but at a certain point you just have to get going.
Get in business with good partners.
Be honest with yourself about what you can do and what you can’t do. If you don’t know something, find people around you who do. Everyone wants to look like they know everything, but there’s power in admitting what you don’t know. It’s empowering to say, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out who does and find a solution.”
Understand the sacrifices before you jump in.
Women need to have a real understanding of how much work it takes to start a business before they dive in. If you have two kids and are without the means to get help taking care of them, it might be a lot harder for you to get things up and running. I couldn’t have done the work of Skinnygirl without the resources I have now, and without the time and drive of people around me. It’s much more challenging if you have more responsibility in your personal life.
Having a daughter means that if there’s a school play or if my daughter is sick, then I’m home with her. The last time my daughter was sick, I stayed home and canceled everything, and the one meeting I had was here at the house. But I’ve earned that right and flexibility because of where I am now. In the beginning, that wouldn’t have been possible.
Be transparent with your audience.
Anything can happen with any product—your amazing yoga pants might be totally sheer, or people might get sick from a bad batch of spinach at your restaurant. If you make a mistake, you have to own it and explain it. This is especially crucial for me, since my name and my face are so attached to my business. I’m in an unusual situation because people want me to promote everything with Skinnygirl—to be the face and talent—but also to be the CEO of the company, running the company and knowing every flavor and coming up with new ideas. As a business owner, mistakes come back to you, so you have to be honest about them and take responsibility.
Never stop pushing.
Business is really hard, no matter where you are. It was harder than I thought it was going to be. The way I created my success is the hustle—thinking and strategizing and doing more. Once I push over one boulder, I think about the next one I have to push over. You can never rest on your laurels, especially in a startup. There are so many different product categories, so many different partners, so many different directions you can take that anything can happen. Push through it or it won’t work. Skinnygirl almost didn’t work so many times, but you work it out, you figure it out.
Bethenny Frankel is the founder and CEO of Skinnygirl, and stars on Bravo’s The Real Housewives of New York.
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