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Emma Grede: The Multihyphenate Powerhouse Disrupting Business Norms

Emma Grede: The Multihyphenate Powerhouse Disrupting Business Norms

Emma Grede is a veritable multihyphenate. She’s co-founder and CEO of Good American, founding partner of SKIMS, chairperson of the 15 Percent Pledge, and the first Black woman shark on Shark Tank. 

Need a second to let that sink in? You’re not alone. 

In an INBOUND conversation with NBC’s Zinhle Essamuah, Emma was quick to point out that this was never the journey she thought she’d take. “I never thought about myself as an entrepreneur,” she says of her career path. “I didn't grow up wanting to start businesses.” Fast forward a few years later, and the woman is a serial entrepreneur if we’ve ever seen one, disrupting markets through product innovation and embracing diversity. 

Here are five key takeaways from her fireside chat at INBOUND:

  1. START BY SOLVING A PROBLEM: "When I think about the businesses that I invest in, the commonality is: it's always about solving a problem," says Emma. "It's a great place to start because I often think that if I have a problem, chances are, other people are experiencing the same thing.” Take Good American for example: when the team first founded the company, there was a void in truly inclusive women’s fashion. “I set out to solve that problem, to approach it in a uniquely different way,” Emma says. This approach has enabled her to disrupt markets through creating innovative, solution-oriented products.
  2. Disrupt, don't pioneer: “What I do is take a category and I go in and I disrupt through creating real innovation in product,” says Emma, on the difference between pioneering vs. disrupting. “And then I work to surround myself with the best possible people that make me better.” Use innovation as the fuel to disrupt an existing category, and the possibilities for refreshing, remixing, and shaking things up for good are endless.
  3. Preparation meets opportunity: "I think what I've been really, really good at in my career is being very prepared," she reflects. "There's nothing flash-in-the-pan about it. But in a way, I kind of love that story because everything that I've done for the last 15 years has led up to this moment. And I find myself in a really unique position, being a really good marketeer, being a really great product-led person, and happened to have this understanding of entertainment and the world of Hollywood and how that can really accelerate a brand."
  4. Obsess over your customer: "I wake up every day thinking about my customer,” Emma says. The proof is in the pudding: Emma reads every review and comment from her customers. But she knows this isn't for everyone. When starting a business, Emma recommends prioritizing the product and the customer, keeping an ear out for feedback—both positive and negative. That doesn't mean you need to read every single comment out there like Emma does, but make sure you're diversifying the kind of feedback you're hearing. Emma is a strong believer in creating a two-way street with customers, and using their feedback to guide product development.
  5. Own your mistakes—and let them teach you: "I made all of the critical mistakes," Emma recounts. "I underinvested, I didn't bring in the right talent, I over—I guess I put too much onus on myself. I was like, I've done it all before and I can do it all again, not really understanding the complexities and the relationships, and the levels and layers of Hollywood." It's rarely an enjoyable feeling to own up to the errors and outcomes we created—in fact, they're often things we'd rather ignore. But Emma is a proponent of fully embracing your mistakes as a vehicle towards learning from them. "Actually, what that does is teaches you so much," she says. "I understood when I started Good American that I was not ready to have my second failure in this country. And so, I approached it in an entirely different way."

Thank you, Emma. We’re excited and honored to continue rooting for you.



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