Skinnygirl’s Bethenny Frankel Has a New Venture
Bethenny Frankel keeps busy.
From starring on Bravo’s The Real Housewives of New York City, to writing five best-selling books, to founding the Skinnygirl line of cocktails—Frankel, 46, has repeatedly proven herself an ambitious and savvy businesswoman.
Of course, that’s not to say that Frankel hasn’t faced adversity. Speaking at a panel discussion hosted by Dress for Success, a nonprofit that helps women achieve economic independence, she told the audience about going through a divorce from now ex-husband Jason Hoppy that put her through an “emotional crisis” that’s made her feel “depressed, sad, and alone.”
But in true entrepreneurial spirit, Frankel is attempting to turn hardship into opportunity. On Wednesday, she officially launched “B Strong: Find Your Yes,” a Dress For Success partnership that will provide women experiencing a crisis—be it personal, financial, or otherwise—with what Frankel and the organization describe as “emergency assistance.”
The program is designed to help women facing an unexpected hardship, such as a divorce, health issue, or eviction, with legal counseling, mental health services, and even financial assistance. Currently, the services are free-of-charge for those who are a part of the Dress for Success’s Professional Women’s Group.
“After going through my own long, painful and torturous divorce, I was inspired to find a way to help other women in crisis find their own place of yes and strength,” said Frankel, adding that she’s excited for the partnership so “other women know they don’t ever have to be in a situation they can’t get out of on their own.”
Fortune had the chance to catch up with Frankel to talk to her about the new project, and hear more about her experiences as the founder and CEO of Skinnygirl.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarification.
Fortune: You say you started B-Strong to help other women. Has being involved in the project also been helpful for you personally?
Bethenny Frankel: I do think you have to help yourself first before you can help other people, and I’m finally coming out of what feels like hell, to be honest. I feel a little better; I feel that I’m not in this chronic sadness. I was wondering why I was having such a negative experience, and realized to help other people I need to turn the negativity into a positive. So, I just found myself asking Dress for Success to set up a charity for people who are experiencing an emotional or financial crisis. It will have life coaches, lawyers, counseling…we’ve got a good system in place.
So empowering other women is helping you heal?
Yes, and beyond. I don’t think most people can imagine it—they think, “Bethenny is so strong, she has money…” So it’s a way to tell people I’ve gone through hell, too.
What aspects of your business life are you still working to improve?
I feel like I have so much more to learn, and I fail everyday. I have coffee, I have chocolates, I have popcorn… I have all these different brands, but not all of them succeed. I don’t ever pretend to be a know-it-all, well; I do, but only in my personal life. But in my business life I don’t pretend to be a know-it-all. I love to share my failures because then I can help another businessperson not have those failures. And that’s sort of the same thing as this [B Strong]—I’m sharing my personal failures to help other women with theirs.
What type of mistakes have you made?
I make business mistakes every day. When I had my cookie business, I was spending good money after bad. Also, not having a plan. You can’t get stuck in your business plan, but you have to have one, otherwise you just spend money as you go.
You’re a high profile entrepreneur, which has effectively made you the face of Skinnygirl—are there advantages to that?
The good news is that it’s not my name, so I’m not technically the ‘face’ of the brand. Also, people think of me as Skinnygirl so you can kind of use it when you need to, but you don’t always have to be there, unlike Martha Stewart or Rachel Ray, or someone like that—It’s their name, and that can be challenging. That’s a big responsibility. For Skinnygirl, it can live on its own, but I can also be there to nurture it.