Skims Co-Founder Emma Grede on Negotiation Skills and Supporting Women

This story is part of the Behind the Desk series, where CNBC Make It gets to know successful business leaders to find out everything from how they got to where they are, what gets them out of bed in the morning. and their daily routines.

For Emma Grede, growing up in East London in the late ’80s and early’ 90s meant one thing: a dream of growing up in the fashion industry.

“It was all about models,” Grede, 39, told CNBC Make It. “British fashion was really booming.”

Today, she has undoubtedly made this dream come true. In 2018, she co-founded the Culver City, California-based shapewear brand. Foam with Kim Kardashian – who Recount the New York Times in April that the company has a valuation of $ 1.6 billion.

Grede is also the co-founder and CEO of the Los Angeles-based company Good American, a large-scale brand that she launched with Khloé Kardashian in 2016. The company is on track to achieve $ 155 million in sales in 2021, according to a company spokesperson.

But Grede’s journey has not been easy. In 2008, seven years after graduating from London College of Fashion, she decided to start an entertainment marketing agency, ITB Worldwide. She was only 26, with little to no industry experience – and it showed.

As she recounts, the agency took off after spending countless hours on the phone honing her negotiating skills, securing brand partners like Dior and clients like Kris Jenner and Natalie Portman. In 2018, ITB Worldwide was acquired by marketing agency Rogers & Cowan for an undisclosed amount.

Today, Grede also sits on the board of directors of 15 Percent Pledge, a nonprofit that encourages retailers to pledge at least 15% of their shelves to black-owned businesses. Last month, she became the first black female investor to appear on ABC’s “Shark Tank”.

Here, she explains why she took that entrepreneurial leap, how she honed her negotiation skills, and why she prioritizes supporting other women – especially women of color – in business.

On starting your own business: “You have to do things that scare you”

I never had the ambition to create my own business. I didn’t know anyone growing up who had their own business. The frustration of being poorly paid [in my entry-level job after college] and feeling like I’m not in control of my own destiny is ultimately what led me to create my own thing.

And I have a rule: you have to do things that scare you. I think it’s so important for growth.

For six or seven months, I had to do everything myself from scratch. I’d go out and win the business, take care of the business, then go back to the office late at night and bill to get paid. I hired people who I paid more than myself because I needed to make up for my own shortcomings or gaps in my knowledge.

Some people will say, “I’m the CEO. I am the best dog. I should be the most paid. For me, it never was. I wanted to win by any means possible.

At the end of ITB, we had offices in New York, Los Angeles, and London, and over 150 staff. I was able to sell this business, which was a big step. You make your own luck, don’t you? This is where preparation meets opportunity, and I was just very prepared. I knew everything about my space.

On Sharpening Your Negotiating Skills: “It’s All About Relationships”

It’s all about relationships, and I’m very good at creating and nurturing them.

You have to park your ego at the door and be humble. You are basically there to win someone else’s business. It means knowing everything about them and [your] competetion.

Growing up, I learned to listen more than I speak. This is a very great skill in building relationships: you have to hear what the customer is saying and respond to them. I can’t tell you how many pitches I’ve won in my life just by telling the client. They would say, “You understand exactly what we need.”

Be super nice to everyone, no matter where they are in the food chain. Some of these children with whom I worked 15 years ago were assistants in the best agencies at the time. Now they run their own agencies.

I am an interested person. I really care about your story. When you come from an honest and genuine place – customers, clients, business partners – they feel an indescribable connection.

On Raising Business Women: “I will support as many black women as I can afford”

People say, “Wow, [Good American] feels like such a diverse business. “Well decisions are made by a black woman. I have black women in leadership positions.

Part of your responsibility when you are successful, especially as a woman, is to understand this journey for other women. It’s so hard for women no matter where they come from to raise [start-up funds], especially for ideas centered on women.

For women of color, the numbers go down even further. Part of the reason I wanted to go for “Shark Tank” [was] So we could start to see how many black women have amazing ideas and bring them to the fore.

It wasn’t that long ago that I was trying to raise funds. To have the opportunity to sit in front of amazing women entrepreneurs and share their business ideas, it was amazing.

I will support as many black women as I can afford. But it’s really about becoming the norm.

Update: This story has been updated to reflect comments from a spokesperson for Good American on the company’s expected sales in 2021.

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