Build Your Personal Brand with Bethenny Frankel

Everyone’s talking about Bethenny Frankel. From magazines to television screens, the reality star turned self-made businesswoman has been in the spotlight for nearly eight years. But with her own daytime talk show, bethenny, premiering this September, soon Bethenny will be the one doing all the talking. Taking matters into her own hands, Bethenny is gearing up to turn the tables and shine the spotlight on someone else for a change—you! That’s right. The former Real Housewife is bringing the real woman to the forefront of daytime television, providing practical solutions for life’s little problems and priceless advice for following your biggest dreams.

 You’ve probably read more than a few stories about a celebrity who got their big break because of a lucky coincidence or who just happened to stumble upon their success. You know how it goes. They became an overnight sensation, living happily ever after in their dream house in Beverly Hills. But Bethenny’s success is more than a fairy tale—it’s a story of her strategic climb to the top—and she wants you to know that sometimes the best way to become a working woman is to work for yourself. This month, Dress for Success spoke with Bethenny Frankel to get the exclusive on how building a personal brand can lead to self-made success.

Long before Bethenny was a television personality, best-selling author or talk show host, she was an aspiring entrepreneur with an abundance of ambition up her sleeve. Determined to get into the game, Bethenny started to develop her one-of-a-kind brand early on to lay the foundation for her career. “Life is a chess game, and it’s all about making the right moves. Throughout all of my decisions, there’s been a clear purpose.”

But if you’ve ever played a game of chess, you know it can be difficult to make the first move. That’s why Bethenny decided to go with her heart and pursue her passion for natural foods, attending the National Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts in New York City. As it turns out, doing what you love may be the smartest career move of all. “Going to culinary school for food and healing was the big step because I went to a school that had an angle and a twist. Being a natural foods chef set me apart.”

In 2005, standing out from the crowd became Bethenny’s greatest asset when she was chosen as a contestant on The Apprentice: Martha Stewart. Going head to head with 15 other entrepreneurs for the chance to run one of Martha’s billion-dollar businesses, Bethenny thrived in the face of competition and placed first runner-up. Though Bethenny’s on-camera work didn’t earn her the job, she still found opportunity behind the scenes.

“When I went on The Apprentice, I wanted the job and the money, but I was also trying to market myself. It wasn’t a success, so I used it as a sponge and squeezed the tiniest drop of moisture out so I could to get myself to the next place.”

Bethenny is living proof that life’s most disappointing failures can lead to the greatest opportunities. Instead of dwelling on her almost apprenticeship with Martha, she got down to business and didn’t miss a beat. After all, with great risk comes great reward and Bethenny was ready to cash in on the exposure she got from her run on reality television.

Taking advantage of the connections she made on the show, Bethenny started her own cooking business and made a name for herself in natural foods cuisine. Soon, Bravo TV reached out to the NYC native hoping she would star in their latest show, The Real Housewives of New York City. Rather than jumping at the chance to get back into the limelight, Bethenny took a step back to think about what was best for her career. The budding businesswoman knew that seizing opportunity is about more than acting fast, and wanted her career choices to reflect her personal goals.

“When I was approached by Housewives, it was a difficult decision. I turned it down for about a month because I thought it would discredit me for being on two reality TV shows. But I knew that following those things that kept me up at night and listening to my gut would lead me to the right decision, so I decided to join Housewives.”When the show kicked off in 2008, Bethenny made sure she kept the “real” in Real Housewives and stuck by her personal brand. This time, it was less about business and more about staying true to herself—the down-to-earth, hardworking woman looking for personal fulfillment and professional success. “I was honest about who I was on the show, and it created a relationship between me and my women because I wasn’t trying to be someone I’m not.”

Bethenny quickly learned that honesty really is the best policy when her female fan base catapulted her career and her name into new heights. That’s when Bethenny created Skinnygirl Cocktails, the low-calorie cocktail line for the woman with a social life and a healthy lifestyle. “I developed a relationship with fans, and that trust was really the platform to create Skinnygirl. I knew it could be a brand. If you have a good idea and you’re passionate, you can make anything happen.”

How did Bethenny come up with such a brilliant idea? She found inspiration in the greatest resource of all—herself! “No one wanted to do a low calorie margarita in an industry that was run by and marketed to men. So I decided to do it myself, and all those companies ended up copying me or trying to purchase me.”

The rest is history. Bethenny’s passion for healthy living turned into a booming business when her name and her career became one and the same. Today, Skinnygirl is a full-fledged health revolution and the Bethenny brand is blossoming into a symbol of self-made success. “Bethenny will go on to become a brand for empowering women to do things they never thought they would do, and reach goals they never thought they could reach.”

So as you continue to explore new ways to take your career to the next level this month, think of the opportunities that you currently have in your life and how you, like Bethenny, can use them to catapult your career to the next level.  When one door opens, don’t wait for it to close before thinking about how you can make your career bigger and better—use that open door to open the next… and the next!

If there’s one thing we can learn from Bethenny’s career, it’s that every decision counts. Check out these three tips inspired by Bethenny’s story to make sure your next move is the right one.

1. Start strong. A network of support and professional connections are key to success.  “Everything is like a house: It has to have a good foundation, and if it doesn’t the whole thing crumbles.”

2. Think ahead. “Have a plan for what you’re doing rather than just doing it as you go, but don’t get bogged down in the plan. There’s a fine line.”

3. Choose wisely. Take opportunities into careful consideration. “Don’t just grab a shiny object. Decide what to do next, and do that to the best of your ability instead of doing everything.”

The Success Diaries: Ceci Johnson

Dear Ceci Johnson, “The Big Dreamer,”

As you fantasize about what it would be like to start your own business and dream about what that path would possibly look like if you became your own boss, allow me to help shed some light on what that big unknown could be like for you. While everyone’s road is unique, here is a glimpse into what the world of entrepreneur could be like. I want to share with you the best business advice I’ve learned along the way that you can apply to your own experience on your road to success.

The first and most important step is don’t let the one thing that prevents most people from taking the leap get in your way: Fear. I’m a firm believer in the saying “you never know until you try.” And if you don’t try, how will you know? So let’s face your fears and get started!

First, you’re wondering what that road will look like, right? Will you even like it? Well, one of the major things I’ve learned is that success doesn’t happen overnight. I truly thought that if I launched a beautiful website, everyone would hire me and I’d be so successful. Well that didn’t entirely work. I quickly learned that’s only ONE piece of the big puzzle.

I thought success looked like a straight line that only went up. But in reality, success looks more like a roller coaster, complete with ups and downs and wild curves and swerves. You have to weather the ride and keep standing strong through it all, no matter what.

Starting your own business means a commitment to never giving up and pledging your life to a thing called dedication and persistence. You are going to get on a ride that will be exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. It will be challenging, exciting, addicting, and tiring – but most of all rewarding. This incredible fulfillment will keep you getting out of bed each morning to keep on going. My husband once told me that starting a business is equivalent to pushing the heaviest boulder up a steep hill. I always remember this and I think when times get tough, I have to keep pushing and not let go. Otherwise, the boulder may roll backwards and crush me, taking with it all my hard work. Do not let that happen!

When you start down this road, never lose sight of your original vision – the dream that started it all. Keep your eyes on the prize and don’t let anything distract you. The more you grow, the more exposure you will get, be aware that more people will want something from you (often for free). Because of your nature, you may then want to help, but just remember, “Love doesn’t pay the bills”. Align your in-kind donations and charitable efforts with those opportunities that make sense for your brand and give you the most ROI (return on investment).

Always protect your brand and know that it’s OK to say no. Politely declining jobs that aren’t the right fit will be the best thing you could ever do for your business. Accept the fact early on that you can’t be everything to everyone. You are not a commodity.

If you want to build a luxury brand, don’t say yes to DIY clients, they will only be a time-suck and keep you from working towards your dreams and achieving your goals. Take a moment to ask yourself, will this really help my future goals? Is this worth my time? If you answer no, then politely decline and feel 100% confident in your decision because you’re working towards something bigger than that! Your laser-sharp focus will reap you bigger returns in the long run, trust me.

Always do your homework and understand your competitive landscape before you start, especially when it comes to pricing. Record how much time you really spend on your work. Put a fair price on your hourly rate from the beginning. Don’t be afraid to raise your prices because you are worth it. If you don’t think you are worth this, then how will your customers? Know your value and always stand behind it.


When times get tough (and they definitely will) remember to take a step back and utilize the power of the number 24:

“Your hardest day only lasts 24 hours.” – Charles D. Hoffman
Give it the old 24 hour rule.

Responding emotionally in business never gets you very far. So it is best to utilize the 24 hour rule. Take some time to think things through, settle down and get your facts straight. Taking care of the situation first thing in the morning versus the night before (when your upset customer is calling you screaming at 9pm), is more productive and equally effective. Remember not to take things personally whenever you can – especially when it comes to your business. Now, I don’t mean you shouldn’t have emotion or passion in your work, I’m saying that there will always be challenges (and challenging customers) and when you take them personally, you are letting your emotions get in the way. Just remember it’s not personal. It’s just business. Solve the problem with a rational mind not an emotional one and you’ll be on the right track.

Embrace that you will be working a ton of hours like never before. Being your own boss doesn’t mean a free ride to fancy lunches and days on the golf course while everyone else does all the work for you. It’s entirely up to you and your determination to accomplish the level of success you dream about. You have to be ok with giving up your social life in the beginning and know that you might have an occasional melt-down on Friday nights (or any night for that matter) when your business isn’t going the way you had thought it would. Instead of drinking cocktails with your friends like you used to, you may be stuck at your computer working on a deadline. Working late nights might become the norm and waking up at 3 a.m. when inspiration strikes may occur frequently (keep a note pad handy).

Know that this dedication will pay off in the long run. Even though you feel totally alone, as you are emotionally at your low and wondering to yourself, is this all worth it? Just comfort yourself and remember if it was easy, then everyone would be doing it. It’s a special group of individuals that have the entrepreneurial gene. And you are going to make the world a better place, one step at a time.

As your business grows, you will find yourself in great demand and your ability to multi-task and wear many hats may start to become very difficult to juggle and sustain at the speed you desire. Acknowledge that you are only one person and the demands you are putting on yourself are not right for one single person to handle. It’s either time to hire or scale back.

As you wonder, “should I hire an employee to help?” consider this golden advice, “when you hire a person, you hire a problem.” Everybody comes to the table with their own issues and requirements that you now have to deal with.  You must dedicate extra time to work with them and manage them clearly. You can’t expect to hire someone and for them to automatically be perfect, require no training or management and just know exactly how your mind thinks. This takes a lot of time management and time away from what your original passion was. Setting clear expectations and planning ahead will be your saving grace. Be sure to take time to think and create mindful systems that work for all parties. This initial time you take to do this for your business will be the foundation for how you set yourself up for growth in the future.

Consistently listen, crave feedback and ask the best question in life – “Why?” I always say that curious minds are the smarter minds. Understanding why is everything in business. You will go far if you continually ask why.

Don’t be afraid of failure. I always am mindful of these helpful words of a good friend, Simon T. Bailey, “Failure isn’t final. It’s only feedback. And feedback is the breakfast of champions.” When you are open and listen to feedback and then apply that feedback to your business, you are continually improving. Once you think you are at the top and start to check out, you’re irrelevant. Someone new will pop up and steal the spotlight from you. You must never give up and keep on refining your company as you go. Continually evolve. Improve. Reinvent and innovate in all you do.

Keep your focus, drive and determination strong and it will bring you success. But above all, don’t let all this success get the best of you. Check your ego at the door. Be humble. Be kind. Be grateful. Be respectful. Never forget where you came from and those that helped you along the way. And most importantly never be too busy to say thank you.

Still dreaming big,
Ceci Johnson (10 years later)

P.S. My biggest mentor was my father, Charles D. Hoffman. Below is a cheat sheet of all his best quotes that I hope will inspire you along your way. Print it out and put it somewhere where you can be reminded of it daily. Hope his words of wisdom help you as they have me.


Ceci Johnson, Founder & Creative Director of Ceci New York 

Ceci New York is a couture invitation studio that is considered the industry trendsetter and tastemaker, spanning not only the worlds of weddings but also events, corporate branding and other fine paper goods. At the helm is celebrated artist, designer and visual stylist Ceci Johnson who brings the ultimate in luxury branding to clients around the globe. In addition to her highly regarded design house, Ceci’s online lifestyle and fashion magazine,, has fast become one of the leading resources for the discerning bride. See more at


Empowering Your Style with Mikki Taylor

“A quintessential authority on beauty and style.”

These are the words used to describe none other than author, speaker, television personality, and Editor-at-Large of Essence Magazine, Mikki Taylor.

Dedicating her life to helping women realize their true inner and outer beauty, Mikki’s priceless tips on beauty, style, and health have guided women on the path to personal and professional success for more than thirty years. This month, the bold, brilliant, and business-savvy Mikki spoke with Dress for Success about how finding personal style can lead to professional success.

In 2010, Essence announced the retirement of their groundbreaking Beauty and Cover Director to the world, leaving millions of fans disappointed at the departure of their beloved Mikki. Although this chapter of her career was coming to an end, the daring diva was ready for change and was not afraid to spice things up. “I knew that there were so many facets to Mikki Taylor,” she recalls.

Without missing a beat, Mikki hit the ground running, launching her own company, Mikki Taylor Enterprises, LLC. “Mikki Taylor Enterprises is brand Mikki. It comes back to my major goal, and that is empowering women.”

For Mikki, empowering women means helping them find their own flair for fashion and unique style, a platform which led her to quickly become the go-to glamour guru for women all over the world.  But Mikki always knew that her calling was about more than just finding the perfect stiletto; Mikki set out on a mission to help women who are looking for guidance and advice in every aspect of their lives, women who are looking for self-discovery.

“Self-discovery is one of the greatest gifts there is. I enjoy helping women discover how fierce, fabulous, and fascinating they are. There are many women inside each of us. My goal is to help women discover them all, and use the gift that’s been given to each of us to really make a difference, not only in our own lives, but also in the lives of others.”

Mikki’s mission is rooted in the belief that when a woman discovers the amazing and accomplished being inside of her, she’ll want the whole world to see her inner power too. Like Dress for Success, Mikki believes that how we look on the outside should be a reflection of how we feel on the inside, and that our greatest source of empowerment is self.

“You’ve been given one temple and I think how  you posses it is self expression. If you feel good you look good. At the end of the day, the question really is ‘What do you want to say about yourself?’”

Mikki encourages every woman to allow style and self expression to help  propel their journey towards success, but cautions that one doesn’t have to be a fashionista to develop personal style.

“Don’t take trends too seriously. You’re more than a season of style. Style is something that comes from within you. Identify it from within, and then work it. You can nod to the trends but don’t be victimized by them.”

Already wondering where you can find more treasured advice like this? Don’t worry, Mikki’s got you covered! In 2011, she published her second book, “Commander in Chic: Every Woman’s Guide to Managing Her Style Like a First Lady.”

Inspired by First Lady Michelle Obama, “Commander in Chic” gives women the tools to live life to its fullest potential, and it’s got Mikki’s fun, fresh personality written all over it.

So, what’s next for the legendary Mikki Taylor? Believe it or not, Mikki isn’t planning on slowing down anytime soon. She has plans to write several more books, and, in the meantime, she’s traveling as a part of “Versailles‘73: American Runway Revolution,” an innovative new documentary by Deborah Riley Draper currently out on DVD. Mikki’s also featured in the P&G documentary, “My Black is Beautiful.”

“You can count on seeing Mikki Taylor in every medium from social media to television to print,”the power woman explains. “My goal is to support, inspire, and simplify women’s lives. It will never be called work.”

What can we learn from Mikki’s journey that can help us along our own journeys toward self-defined success? Mikki teaches us that personal style can help us find professional empowerment.

Here are three tips from Mikki to help you kick-start your own career:

1. Identify your purpose. You owe it to yourself!

2. Move fear out of the way, so you can do great things beyond your imagination!

3. Surround yourself with wise women. They are your counsel as you move through your journey to success!

Keeping it Moving with Kimora Lee Simmons

Catch Kimora Lee Simmons in “House of Fab,” on the Style Network!


Her name rings through the halls of fashion greats all over the world and reverberates against the jagged sidewalks of name-your-city, USA. Like many other icons of our time, she operates on a first-name basis and her business savvy has catapulted her beyond what others in her field have been able to achieve. On television, she’s a glamorous, fearless, fierce business woman and mother. But when the cameras are gone, the world will learn, as I did, that Kimora’s life parallels many of our own. The K.I.M. (Keep It Moving) method has proven that forward movement for Kimora has been her key to success and the unstoppable pursuit to do what hasn’t been done is what makes Kimora, Kimora.

In 2010, the media world was abuzz with news of Kimora leaving Baby Phat and while many speculated on the reason, the process of the transition was much more than a business transaction.

 “Leaving Baby Phat, as it may have seemed, was a business matter – it happens everyday in business. However, for me, it was more than that. It was about closing a chapter in my life, moving on, and evolving. It was about the new possibilities and believing in myself to use what I had learned to achieve more.”

Fashion immediately consumed Kimora’s life when she was discovered at the young age of 10 years old and set the foundation for pure, unadulterated hard work. “I’ve never done anything risqué or outlandish to propel me to this place. It was simply hard work and understanding my passions. You see my love for fashion in everything I do: my television show, my books, my beauty brands, everything. When a woman can find her true passion, she can create and recreate herself and her life any way she wants.”

Overcoming hurdles and obstacles reminds us of the parallels in Kimora’s life to our very own, parallels that may not be so apparent on the TV screen or in magazines.  “This was something I was going to do in spite of myself – when people told me ‘you cannot have this, you cannot be a woman of color in fashion, or a woman this young as an executive’, I did it anyway. We all have to find that passion and overcome ourselves to achieve our goals.”

Many women find themselves in a place where they’re not sure of what move to make next. I can certainly relate – after years of struggling, trying to find my own place in the world, I finally figured out what made me happy, what gave me the will to press forward. Kimora knows the same feeling. “You know you’re in the right place when you can feel it,” she explains. Finding your purpose is about growth, change and intentionally seeking positively charged environments. Women have a sixth sense about these things. When you’re on the right path, you just know.”

But a change towards a new path can cause fear to rear its pesky little head: sweaty palms and tear-filled internal battles seem to wage inside of you. But fear, as Kimora suggests, can be a good thing. “We all live with some element of fear – but when you embrace it, you find that fear no longer becomes something you run away from, but something you run towards. It’s beyond the fear that you find your heart’s passion. It’s beyond the fear that life really begins.”

Dress for Success has helped propel thousands of women towards new lives and, as our inaugural Dress for Success Power Woman, Kimora exudes what the organization is all about: empowering women. “In everything I do, I want to show the power of a woman – and I want to do it in a way that is contrary to what society says is ‘empowering’. I met a woman at a Dress for Success affiliate that stood in front of me and showed me [drug] tracks in her arms. She told me it had been three months since she last did drugs. Do you know how empowering that was for her? Moments like that remind me that while our stories may all be different, they all have the power to change lives. I’ve learned so much from their stories; it uplifts me so much.”

Kimora has carved out her own path in the fab lane and has experienced one success after the next: a model, a mogul, a mother, executive producer, best selling author of Fabulosity: What It Is and How to Get It, president and creative director of, and founder of Shinto Clinical, a skincare line whose name means “of the Gods.” Kimora’s power extends beyond the boardrooms and cat walks. Kimora understands the ebbs and flows of womanhood, and in that, she is a piece of our lives that make us proud to know her.

“When you begin to think of yourself as one and as a whole, you understand the global impact we can all have. You are a unit of a bigger picture – I find pride in seeing women overcome things. To be able to stand in front of someone and say, ‘this is who I used to be’, shows the brilliance and balance of being a woman.”

Follow Kimora on Twitter at @OfficialKimora and visit her site

Kimora’s K.I.M. (Keep it Moving!)
When life tries to stop you, you have to learn to keep it moving! Here are some tips from Kimora on how to propel yourself forward!

1. Reinvent yourself, as many times as necessary. Never become complacent!

2. Believe in yourself: you were built for this!

3. Set goals, plan them out, and execute. You have to work hard!

-Alisha L. Gordon is a Masters of Divinity student at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga. She is the author of Pieces: Finding the Missing Piece is Easier than You Think, an avid writer, teacher, public speaker and social media maven who has an affection for faith and culture. Follow Alisha on Twitter @AlishaLGordon.