Insights with Bethenny Frankel: Trailblazing through life.

Bethenny Frankel is cast in the national spotlight as a prolific entrepreneur, a reality TV star crowd-pleaser, a “Shark Tank” investor, and more recently as a pioneer in international disaster relief efforts that some say put the U.S. government to shame. Since she’s been interviewed by print, broadcast, and digital platforms countless times, “Advisors Magazine” was surprised to hear Frankel’s answer when we asked her, “What is the one thing that you’ve never been asked, but you wish someone would?”

“I guess, what I want,” she said.

The simplicity of her answer is juxtaposed with its depth – and the paradox is that Frankel has built companies and organizations, both profitable and charitable, to help people get what they want.

As far as never being asked the question before, well, it’s not surprising. Society tends to assume that the rich and famous already have what they want.

As Frankel thought more about the question, she said: “I would say more sleep, peace, balance and love. I put love and relationship first.” And then she added, “If you asked me if I’d rather have a gift certificate to Hermes or TJ Maxx, I would say the Maxx hands down.”

Though the latter seemed a bit out of context, it sheds light on Frankel’s relationship with money.

Frank on Financials
Current stats on financial literacy tell us that Americans claim less than glowing scores when it comes to understanding personal and business finance and investing. In fact, nearly two-thirds of Americans can’t pass a basic financial literacy test according to the 2016 National Financial Capability Study by the FINRA Foundation.

Frankel says she’s not surprised by people’s lack of knowledge on financial matters and how it impacts their lives and companies.

“Being a good business person doesn’t mean knowing everything about business. I am very strategic, and business-minded, but not very knowledgeable about financial planning, banking, tax structures, and a myriad of other necessary areas,” she said. “What is important is to know what you know and what you don’t, and to surround yourself with experts. That said, you need to have a very good conceptual understanding of your investment strategy so you can manage the decisions in an educated manner.”

Frankel says she has learned about business “from doing business.” On-the-job training appears to have served her well.

“Business is like case law, and every time you experience something negative or positive, you bank it and use it in future decisions, negotiations, and strategy,” she said.

Likening it to other aspects of our lives that need careful and conscious management to maintain optimum health and performance, she shed more light on her financial philosophy.

“It’s like a relationship with food or exercise – have a healthy relationship with money where you know when to splurge and indulge, you know when to hold back, and that bingeing isn’t healthy. Don’t spend what you don’t have. Most concepts in life are basic,” she said.

hsn324x430Most fans of Frankel know that she has 8-year-old daughter, Bryn – particularly those who have followed Frankel’s life on Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of New York City,” the TV show that propelled her to fame. So how does a mom who ranks among the highest paid reality stars – and is a fierce businesswoman who sold her Skinnygirl liquor company to Beam Global in 2011 for a reported $100 million talk to her daughter about money?

“I simply try to teach her the value of a dollar and how lucky she is compared to the less fortunate. I am strict but indulgent and teach her about relief work to try to give her a sense. Kids don’t understand unless they see first-hand,” Frankel said.

“Timing is everything.”
On a recent episode of ABC’s prime time hit “Shark Tank,” Frankel – who premiered as a guest Shark in 2017 and returned in the role for the current season – schooled the inventors of a new beverage seeking an investment from the Sharks. She told them that they were “in the weeds” when they revealed they were manufacturing their product themselves.

b1 400x525“…If I did not do a deal in my cocktail business, I would have gotten swallowed,” said Frankel, referring to her multimillion-dollar deal with Beam. “Everybody would have – everybody did – copy me, and I knew I needed muscle and distribution,” she told the anxious entrepreneurs.

Many owners would agonize over the decision to relinquish control of their business and many would hang on because they couldn’t sell what they built. Frankel, however, knew it was the right time for her to sell Skinnygirl – but, there was a condition, and one that would pay off mightily for Frankel. “Forbes” reported that as part of the deal with Beam “Frankel smartly negotiated to keep the rights to the brand name “Skinnygirl” … This means she can use the powerful brand name to market other products.”

“Timing is everything,” Frankel told “Advisors Magazine. “You have to know when to hold and when to fold. And you cannot be emotional. I also was a nobody with no money. I needed my first pile, street cred, and couldn’t risk losing everything. It was nothing or everything. Now I can be riskier. Acquiring real wealth is hard unless you have a few big hits.” When asked if she sought the advice of mentors or trusted advisors for guidance, she added, “I have always gone with my gut. I talk to different people, but I run my own game for the most part.”

Since then, Frankel has expanded the Skinnygirl brand to include jeans and other apparel, shapewear, and her latest launch, Skinnygirl Hair & Body care. The new line satisfies the must-haves of today’s health and safety conscious shoppers opting for eco-friendly products touting vegan all-natural plant-derived ingredients free of paraben, sulfates, and silicones – and of course, there’s no animal testing involved.

Running Towards Disaster
In an interview airing on MSNBC last May, news anchor Craig Melvin said to Frankel as he wrapped up their conversation, “You’ve become like this one-woman American Red Cross.” Frankel had just given him a rundown of what she had been working on over the last year.
In 2017, Frankel torpedoed her energy in a new direction with such tenacity that it established her as a trailblazer in international disaster relief. (We should realize by now that Frankel doesn’t just “kinda sort of” do something.)

When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston that year, it caused a reported $125 billion in damage in the Houston metropolitan area and Southeast Texas.

“People were really helpless, and to me that was a massive crisis,” Frankel told “PEOPLE Now,” an online news show from “PEOPLE Magazine.” “I managed to raise $300,000 in-kind and in donations.”

That was the start of Frankel’s disaster relief “bstrong” initiative which has quickly grown via her vision, leadership, and partnerships with other charitable and response organizations.

When Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico months later, Frankel was told it was too dangerous for her to go. She went anyway chartering a plane and amassing supplies for distribution which she helped to hand out. Others watching Frankel reached out to her and offered additional planes and assistance.

b2 400x533Recent efforts of the bstrong relief program include supplying cash cards, food, toys, and supplies for victims of Hurricane Florence in North Carolina, Hurricane Michael in Florida. Hurricane Willa in Mexico, as well as assisting victims of the Woosley and Paradise Fires in California – including delivering truckloads of aid to six American Red Cross Shelters and to search and rescue teams. Frankel travels to disaster locations, often many times per operation, to meet with locals and assist with relief efforts – she’s in 110 percent.

Now here’s a head-scratcher. During our research for this article, “Advisors Magazine” was unable to find national news coverage of the bstrong disaster initiatives besides the aforementioned MSNBC interview; however, Frankel’s team told us that CNN also aired a story covering the team’s relief efforts. Nor did we find any record of acknowledgement from U.S. government officials. Frankel forges on anyway.

What does bstrong give Frankel that her other ventures do not? And, does she feel differently when she is focused these relief and charitable efforts than she does when she’s working on Skinnygirl, “Shark Tank” or reality TV projects, and other ventures? Here’s what she had to say:

“The bstrong global relief effort has had a way more significant impact on my life and the world, and was way more challenging than any of my business endeavors. We have saved thousands of lives in many countries and U.S. territories. We accomplished one of the largest private relief efforts, if not THE [largest], in U.S. history. What we did with no resources and no experience is unprecedented. It was a massive start up and it was emotional and terrifying, yet, so rewarding.”

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