When Bethenny Frankel joined the cast of “The Real Housewives of New York City,” she had no business acumen and no money, she says — but she knew when a contract didn’t feel right.
The reality TV alum, who went on to found lifestyle brand Skinnygirl and became a self-made millionaire entrepreneuraccepted a payment of just $7,250 for the first season of the hit TV show Bravo, she said in a recent Instagram reel. But she didn’t let the network take a percentage of everything she did on her own, a decision that “changed my whole life,” she added.
“The contract said $7,250, which I didn’t dispute,” Frankel said. “I was nobody. I had nothing… But somewhere deep inside I understood conceptually, that [the percentage clause] was wrong, and that I was going places. And I was going to do something, and nobody [else] was going to own some of it.”
Frankel crossed out that section of the contract and Bravo agreed to her terms, she said.
That was 2008. A year later, Frankel founded Skinnygirl, which was initially built around selling prepackaged, low-calorie margaritas. In 2011, Frankel’s company was the fastest growing spirits brand in the country, according to market research firm Technomic, as reported by the Huffington Post and others in 2012.
Shortly after, Frankel sold Skinnygirl Cocktails to Beam Global for an estimated amount $100 million, keeping the rights to the “Skinnygirl” name. That’s when network reps realized they’d made a mistake, she said.
“When the Hollywood Reporter article came out on me, and the Forbes cover came out, because I had sold the cocktail part of my business for a lot of money, Bravo woke up, the music industry entertainment woke up, reality TV woke up.” said Frankel.
Frankel’s financial success prompted Bravo executives to demand future reality stars donate part of their non-televised activities income to the network, she said, “They created what the industry now calls the ‘Bethenny Clause,’ which means anyone who gets on reality TV has to give the powers that be a percentage.”
After the acquisition, Frankel expanded the Skinnygirl brand into popcorn, salad dressings, supplements, and coffee. Today, it also includes clothes like jeans, dresses, and jackets.
In the years that followed, Frankel’s career — which included several other business ventures, a philanthropic endeavor and appearances on ABC’s “Shark Tank” — taught her a valuable lesson, she said: ” Play the long game.”
“I wasn’t a businessman. I had no institutional knowledge or experience in any of this. I read a contract, something didn’t seem right to me, and I took it down,” Frankel said. . “And it changed the entertainment industry and its practices. So never assume someone is smarter than you.”
Disclosure: CNBC has exclusive off-network cable rights to “Shark Tank.”
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