Good American CEO Emma Grede launched the brand alongside business partner and pal, Khloe Kardashian in October 2016. What started as the largest denim launch in history (the brand famously sold $1 million worth of product in one day), has gone on to become a fully inclusive fashion line with hundreds of millions in sales.
Grede is also involved in several other brands including being a founding partner of Skims, alongside Kim Kardashian, which just doubled its valuation to $3.2 billion, and Safely, a green cleaning brand.
But when she isn’t launching and running companies, she’s investing in entrepreneurs on ABC’s Shark Tank, now in its 14th season, and enjoying life at home in Los Angeles with her husband, Swedish entrepreneur Jens Grede, and their four children.
“Being on Shark Tank has made me one of the favorite moms at school!” Grede tells Entrepreneur. “I had no idea how many kids watch Shark Tank. My child said his friends think he’s lying that I’m on the show.”
Here, Grede talks to Entrepreneur about her life as a CEO and what we can expect on Shark Tank this season.
What made you want to bring your money to a public forum like Shark Tank?
When they first approached me, I was a little unsure about it. But it is important to me to support female founders and founders of color, so it made sense to use the platform to shine a light on these entrepreneurs. We are seeing more Black women entrepreneurs on the show than ever before, and it’s been all-around super positive. The power of TV, right? We, as a brand, are so invested in digital and DTC [direct to consumer] that is it nice to see entrepreneurs shine on this medium. I’ve really enjoyed my interactions with the entrepreneurs and investing in women in the early stages of their ideas.
What is your favorite part of being on the show?
Working with the entrepreneurs! It is so crazy, how you forget how hard it was in the beginning.
What can we expect from you this season?
Another fantastic look! No, seriously though, I went into Shark Tank with a clear mission. I was looking to invest in women and female-centric ideas that perhaps other investors don’t see as a [winner]. It is so hard to raise money, walk into a room with a female-centric idea, pitching a plus-sized customer to a bunch of dudes in suits in New York. How am I going to convince these people that have no idea of what the problem is to invest? I looked at my own journey and wondered how I can help these entrepreneurs.
What are you looking for when investing in entrepreneurs?
I’m very founder focused. There are a lot of people who have great ideas. There are only a few who can take an idea and turn it into a $100 million business.
As CEO of Good American, how many people do you manage?
I’ve just come out of my management meeting! I directly manage 12 people — and some need more management than others. Kidding aside, I have an incredible management team. I’m not a micromanager. I think it’s important to hire the best people and then get out of their way.
What are you focused on in the day-to-day?
When I think about my role, I’m focused on strategy and focused on product. And, of course, hiring. Hiring. Strategy. Product. Hire the right people and then don’t meddle. I am not skilled in negotiating film contracts, but I hire the right people who can.
Although the Kardashians have hundreds of millions of followers and basically invented “influencing” as a modern-day profession, they’re also tabloid fodder. How have you managed to navigate the outside noise and keep the focus on the brand?
Distractions will be inevitable in any business, but I’m not easily distracted. I focus on making our mission and purpose a reality every day. Making sure that stores take that full-size range. Making sure that everything we do is about reinforcing inclusivity and diversity. There will always be moments that are rattling to every founder, but you need to stay focused on your mission. Khloe can drive a customer to purchase something once. But people don’t come back to buy $150 jeans unless the product works. We don’t waver from our mission. We offer a best-in-class product. Kris, Kim, Khloe…yes, they are enormously famous women, but they are also business people. And they are in their businesses. They don’t just put their names on these brands. We speak daily.
When you first launched and knew that it was going to be fully inclusive and you were going to demand that retailers take the complete size range, did you get any negative feedback from industry vets or people warning you not to go that route?
There were so many naysayers. I didn’t go back on the mission, but I also wanted to be profitable. I’m a girl from East London, I needed to make money. I think what was so disappointing in the beginning was the lack of people understanding the need. Women at a certain end of the size spectrum were just being ignored. 67% of women in the U.S. are considered a “plus-size” population. I never wavered once from thinking that this was a viable business idea. We could have focused on being DTC, but we knew that the mix of DTC, wholesale, and retail was going to be the best experience for the customer. We were lucky to find great partners.
What’s next for Good American’s growth?
We are about to open our first-ever store in Century City [California]. It’s currently under construction and should be opening next year. I’m so excited for everyone to see how we can bring true inclusivity to [the store].