Don’t ask Bethenny Frankel what she does—because the real question is, what doesn’t she do? As a self-made entrepreneur, her career description ranges from multi-New York Times bestselling author and TV producer, to Founder & CEO of Skinnygirl, a lifestyle brand boasting practical solutions for women. Additionally, she’s launched her own eyewear collection called Bethenny Eyewear, and a new line of wine labeled Forever Young. Not to mention her real estate transactions, her recent HBO Max business competition series The Big Shot with Bethenny, and a partnership with iHeart Radio to create Just B with Bethenny Frankel, her runaway hit podcast. Wait, there’s more.
Bethenny’s tenth book, BUSINESS IS PERSONAL: The Truth About What it Takes to Be Successful While Staying True to Yourself, including anecdotes, personal stories, and advice on how to succeed professionally (plus a range of other topics), will publish this May.
Sounds like a full plate, right? Not for this powerhouse. Bethenny also devotes an exceptional amount of her time to giving back. Her BStrong program is a disaster relief initiative that provides real time emergency assistance to individuals and their families in crisis. BStrong’s mission is to embolden people struck with tragedy by providing gift cards, emergency aid, food, and shelter. The breadth of her philanthropic efforts is astounding.
Yet, even with all of this to oversee, Bethenny’s private life is thriving too. She’s been engaged to businessman and film producer Paul Bernon since March 2021 and her most important “job” of all is being a present and nurturing mother to her 11-year-old daughter, Bryn.
We caught up with Bethenny to learn more about how she manages her one-woman empire and what really makes her tick. It might just surprise you…
You founded Skinnygirl in 2009 and sold the cocktail portion of the company a couple of years later. What’s your current involvement with the brand and where do you see it heading in the future?
BF: I'm not involved in the cocktail brand anymore. The cocktails were an instant success, because I created a whole category by being the first person to use the word skinny. Suddenly it was on every menu. With that said, I still own 100% of the Skinnygirl brand, which is thriving and growing. With the other categories— (including cookware, bakeware, drinkware, supplements, apparel, and food & drink) —I started small and I’m growing them authentically and organically each year. So, it's a different trajectory. I don’t just slap my name on things. I'm very involved, very connected, and very attached. It's not easy to constantly have to be promoting, but it's also what makes it genuine. As a result, the brand has great loyalty, which is important to me.
It feels like there are a zillion podcasts out there, including many focused on business, what sets Just B apart from the pack? What characteristics do you look for in a guest?
BF: The truth of the matter is, I've been fortunate to have amazing guests like Hillary Clinton, Matthew McConaughey, and so many more. Our conversations are what make the podcast successful, which includes my natural curiosity about a person's story and the questions I ask. People keep saying to me, “No one has ever asked me that before. I'm going to use that.” My listeners are also obsessed with my rants. I could be talking about something very serious like divorce and something ridiculous like cilantro in the same sentence and people love them equally. The rant has become a breakout star. I got a massive response to the one I did on divorce—thousands of letters.
As far as the guest, it doesn’t have to be somebody rich and famous whom everybody knows. For example, I’m interviewing Dorothy Hamill; she was the face of a sport, but she’s not the same as having Cameron Diaz. I choose the individuals I want to speak to. I don’t do what I think will sell. I don't rat people out. I don't go for the low-hanging fruit. People need to trust me. It could be, with any luck, Warren Buffett or Mark Zuckerberg, or someone much lesser known as long as they’ve built something, and I find them interesting. My podcast is a passion project. When I started it, I had no idea that there was any metric. I didn’t know that we could be the top five of anything. I didn't even know there was a top five. I did it because I like talking to people, and I'm excited to hear what they have to stay. I’ve remained true to that.
You’ve invested in and flipped many homes. How did this interest develop? And what draws you to a specific property?
BF: When I bought my first big apartment in New York City, I didn’t know I could completely customize it. I didn’t realize you could pick your faucets or your caulk color. I was always the person who lived in a studio apartment that you bought the way it was, and the closet was the way it was, and it was really glamorous if you switched out your microwave and got some nice towels. So, I ended up renovating that apartment, and I really had a knack for it. I’m very decisive about it—the way I am in business. Right away, I know what I want to do and what I don't want to do. I could think longer on a bowl of pasta at a restaurant. I paid around $5 million for the place and sold it for $7 million in one day, all cash, full ask.
After that, I renovated another place, kept gaining more and more experience, and I continue to invest in properties and flip them in markets that I predict will go through the roof. I do really well because I'm good at getting things done economically. I'm good at using space. And I'm creative and fast.
Real estate is not a business for me. I couldn't do that. There are too many details involved and I’m too organized, but I do really like it as another passion project. I like looking. I’m always curious and love to calculate that something is going to increase in value or that a specific area is going to be hot. If I see something that I feel is such a deal I can't pass it up, I’ll buy it. It's an investment, but—at the same time—I would never purchase a home I wouldn't live in myself.
Your commitment to philanthropic relief efforts across the globe has been incredible. As a celebrity, you could have sat back and thrown money at these disasters. What incited you to roll up your sleeves and take on the actual work?
BF: If you throw money at these things, you might as well flush it down the toilet because the big companies that post links to donate can't work as immediately, as hands-on, and in such a lean way. With us, 100% goes to the effort. We’re right there while it's still going on, in many cases, and our model is efficient; we execute. Nobody has been able to do what we’ve been able to do on the same budget. With these major organizations, you're just giving your money to someone who’s going to take a large percentage of it; it's very bureaucratic. No disrespect, but we don't do that. I don’t want any awards. I don't care about that stuff. My only focus is getting the money from the people donating to the people suffering; it's very simple.
If you care about your money, treat it like a business. What is your ROI? You wouldn't buy a stock and just throw the money in the air. You have to know where your money is going, and we’ve been very transparent from the beginning. I don't pretend that I'm an expert. We figure out what the problem is, what people need, and we formulate a plan. Sometimes our goal is to raise $100 thousand and we hit $3 million. Things change based on what's actually happening, but we never make promises we can't deliver on.
In an interview with Forbes you said, “In my life, I only ever write a book if it’s just sort of dying to come out of me.” What prompted you to author your first business book? And what can readers expect to learn from it?
BF: Through talking to so many entrepreneurs on my podcast and also discussing so many of my own stories, I found that people kept saying, “It's not personal, it’s business.” And I kept thinking, business is personal, which really inspired the book. It sounds ridiculous and tiresome, but when you do a juice fast, at the beginning you might be hungry, then you cleanse for a couple of days and all of a sudden you're not hungry anymore. Once you start to get hungry again, the juice fast is over. It’s kind of like the book process, you're writing and you're expelling all of this information. You're up at night remembering these stories and takeaways—everything you’ve learned along the way. Then, just like that, one day you're not doing that anymore. The book is done. It’s really me pouring out the majority of the crazy stuff that's happened to me in business, which is so great because it's a roadmap that people can learn from.
What does motherhood mean to you?
BF: Everything. It's the point of entry for every single thing I do. It’s always about Bryn. The second that a business opportunity gets offered to me, my whole team knows that if it’s a day I have Bryn, it’s off the table. It's probably slowed my business down or impacted it in a negative way at some point, but that’s what you do when you have a child, because you want to be the best role model you can be. Motherhood affects your whole outlook on the world—your safety, your health, all of it.
I can’t live without… Obviously my daughter Bryn, my fiancé Paul, and my dogs, but superficially…matcha lattes, kombucha, salty snacks, my Biologique Recherche P50 1970 lotion, my weighted blanket, my bed, my own bathroom, and my own separate closet.
My last meal would be… Eggplant parmesan with angel hair pasta.
I’m currently binge watching… All Narcos, all the time.
My ideal vacation spot is… Miraval or Rosewood Mayakoba. I also love St. Barts and Portofino, Italy.
Two items on my bucket list are… Visiting Morocco and hosting Saturday Night Live