5 Business Confessions of a 'Real Housewife'
Courtesy of the Bravo network, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills is the sixth installment of the reality TV franchise, which has gone from strength to strength since it exploded onto U.S. screens back in 2010.
There are currently nine franchises, and each one has its stand-out star. London-born serial entrepreneur Lisa Vanderpump is arguably the top draw in the Beverly Hills edition.
But, fan-favorite Vanderpump is no ordinary housewife. She’s a restaurateur who has set up some 30-plus establishments, which include bars and clubs stateside and overseas. Vanderpump is an executive producer of her spin-off show, Vanderpump Rules, and she’s a tireless animal and human rights activist who has appeared before the U.S. Congress, the United Nations and petitioned the Chinese consulate -- an impressive résumé by anyone’s standards.
Underestimate Vanderpump at your peril. A reality TV star she may be, but she’s all business, as I found out when I interviewed her recently. While Vanderpump is liberal with her personal life (she is on a reality TV show, after all), she swears by a solid set of rules in business -- Vanderpump rules.
Vanderpump always . . .
1. Injects personality into her businesses
For Vanderpump, personality is “prime real estate” in business. All of her businesses -- from PUMP Restaurant to Vanderpump Pets -- bear her signature handiwork, typically in the area of aesthetics, interior design or both.
“It’s essential that my input is pretty dominant,” said Vanderpump, who encourages budding entrepreneurs to follow her lead. “Always bring your own flair and personal touch. After all, you are the ingredient that makes your business unique,” she explained.
2. Stays in her "lane"
When it comes to business, Vanderpump knows her “lane” and she stays in it.
In an interview with Harpers Bazaar last year, Vanderpump said, “I’ve yet to find brilliant eye pencil that stays on the inside of my eyes.”
When I put it to her that some of the best inventions are born out of an entrepreneur’s firsthand experience of “pain points” and asked if eye pencil is an item that could be next on the Vanderpump production line, she replied, “Unfortunately, I think there are many people with cosmetics companies that are way savvier than I am. So, I’ll leave that to them.”
With her trademark quick wit, Vanderpump added, “But if anyone finds me [brilliant] eye pencil, send me a truckload of it because the ones I use always come off. Who knows? Maybe I blink too much!”
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3. Believes there’s more to life than business
As passionate as she is about her multiple businesses (she has five), Vanderpump is an animal lover and is particularly fond of “man’s best friend” (she has eight).
Although Vanderpump is quick to point out that she's “not a tree-hugging animal activist,” she’s an outspoken critic of the Yulin festival, an annual celebration in Yulin in southern China in which tens of thousands of dogs are kept in cages, inhumanely killed on the streets and served as “dog hot pot.”
“When I saw [the Yulin festival], I knew it was wrong and I’d do everything in my power to stop it,” said Vanderpump. Holding true to her word, Vanderpump has not only used her celebrity to ask members of the U.S. Congress to formally condemn the festival, she also spearheaded a peaceful march before the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles.
Activism is so close to Vanderpump’s heart that she has even used it as a negotiation tool on Real Housewives. “Between seasons of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, I said to the producers, ‘I’m focusing on the fight against Yulin. If I come back, will you document my philanthropic efforts?’ They agreed. So, I said, ‘Sign me up!’”
Vanderpump never . . .
4. Sells (or endorses) a product she knows nothing about (or doesn’t believe in)
A wine connoisseur, Vanderpump has launched Vanderpump Rosé and LVP Sangria, but she’s all too aware of celebrities and businesspeople who lend their names to products and brands, whether they believe in them or not. She isn’t one of them.
For example, when she was approached by an agent who asked, “Will you endorse swimming pool cleaner?” Vanderpump responded emphatically, “No, I won’t because I don’t know diddly-squat about that! I’m not going to bring out something that’s not authentic or something that’s not a part of my life.
“I’m a restaurateur and I certainly know a thing or two about wine. After years of living in France, I’ve been an advocate of sangria and rosé. Even my Real Housewives of Beverly Hills tagline from a couple of years ago was ‘Life isn’t all diamonds and rosé, but it should be.’ When people know that it comes from an authentic place, that’s what makes a brand successful.”
The restaurant business is a notoriously tough nut to crack. As the co-owner of the Villa Blanca restaurant in Beverly Hills and West Hollywood restaurants, SUR and PUMP, what is Vanderpump’s advice to aspiring restaurateurs? “Create warm, comfortable surroundings that people want to keep coming back to. All the components are as essential as the menu. Ambience, music, lighting and service are equally important and you should put a lot of emphasis on them. Beyond that, explore every avenue, see who your competition is and make sure you don’t get in too deep with rent that could become unsustainable,” she says.
5. Takes her (continued) success for granted
With Real Housewives of Beverly Hills having been renewed for its eighth season and Vanderpump Rules currently in its sixth, Vanderpump (who has appeared in 250 episodes over seven years) is riding on a crest of a wave, but she’s not one to rest on her laurels.
“Who knows whether Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and Vanderpump Rules have much more longevity? Depends on the viewer and how that plays out,” she said philosophically.
“But, I have something in development -- a scripted show as a producer and co-writer. That might be exciting for me. I’ve certainly enjoyed the production aspect [on Vanderpump Rules].”
Vanderpump’s vision for the future
While Vanderpump is perhaps best known for her reality TV appearances, business is what she knows best. She endorses a skin care line (Epione), she’s the co-owner of a luxury pet accessories brand (Vanderpump Pets) and even has her own brand of emojis (Vandermojis by Lisa Vanderpump).
Business ventures aside, Vanderpump has her sights set on doing more activism in the future. “I’d like to be a goodwill ambassador,” she said. “With the Yulin festival, my ambition is to stop and ban dog and cat meat worldwide. I’m trying to live my life with kindness, empathy, compassion, a good glass of wine and a great sense of humor!”
With international business success from Britain to Beverly Hills, this English rose -- with a penchant for rosé -- is anything but an ordinary housewife.