How Bethenny Frankel Used Reality TV To Earn $120M & Create A Lasting Brand

Bethenny Frankel attends the Hanes Keep, Toss and Donate event in NYC, March 1, 2011 Bethenny Frankel attends the Hanes Keep, Toss and Donate event in NYC, March 1, 2011

She’s “skinny” and smart, and now, Bethenny Frankel has opened up about how she used reality television as a vehicle to build and market her lucrative Skinnygirl brand.

The bold brunette — who recently sold her diet-friendly cocktail empire for a reported $120 million — hails from humble beginnings. She originally called a 700 sq. ft. Manhattan apartment home prior to signing on for “The Real Housewives of New York,” but after experiencing mild success as a contestant on the short-lived “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart.”

“I didn’t know where I was in my life,” Bethenny said of her pre-“Housewives” reality, in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “I was still taking the subway to events because I couldn’t afford the $20 for a cab.”

Following her initial reality TV stint, Bethenny accepted a position as a spokesperson for Pepperidge Farm, but was eager to make her own low-calorie brand dreams come to fruition.

When approached by Bravo to join “RHONY,” she turned the network down for two months — scared that the series would “ruin” the beginnings of the brand she was struggling to get off the ground,

Bethenny said she eventually realized a reality show could be the perfect vehicle to garner press for her ideas, and agreed to do the show after careful consideration.

“I went on the show single-handedly and exclusively for business,” she told the mag. “I knew it was a risk and I had the most to lose, because I already had a platform. When I went on the show, no one was going on for business, no one had done anything.”

Bethenny developed an idea for a low-calorie cocktail, but had trouble selling the idea to the liquor business – a challenge the mogul mom was able to overcome with a little time and some elbow grease.

“No one was interested,” she told the mag, of the discouraging response to her Skinnygirl margarita mix. “Instead of giving up, I said, ‘I want this, and I know other women will want this, so I’m going to make it.’… Now, every company I pitched this idea to has either tried to buy Skinnygirl or has copied it.

“I created a sub-category that never existed,” she later added. “I wasn’t an expert — I was just another person bothered by a 700-calorie margarita.”

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