Good American Founder Emma Grede Gets Honest With Her Customers

The key to good customer service? Frank, honest communication -- even when the truth hurts.
Good American Founder Emma Grede Gets Honest With Her Customers
Image credit: Courtesy of Good American
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This story appears in the December 2018 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

When Emma Grede launched size-inclusive fashion brand Good American in 2016 with cofounder Khloe Kardashian, she had an instant hit. Sales topped $1 million on day one. But to build on the momentum, she knew she’d have to continue being honest about the company’s products, mistakes and decisions. Over the past two years, Good American has done that -- expanding into new product categories partly by delivering on customers’ requests, and by being open about what the company can’t deliver, too. Grede urges other founders to adopt a similar transparency: Create a stellar product, and don’t BS your customers. 

Related: How Sheryl Sandberg Inspired These Fashion Founders to Ditch Their Corporate Jobs and Launch a Startup

What do entrepreneurs need to focus on for 2019? 

I hate to say it: authenticity. But it’s true; consumers love a no-bullshit approach. Honesty is what people are craving. It’s why we’re seeing so much success with so many small brands. They’re not trying to be everything to everyone. I was looking at this new [fashion] brand Something Navy, by [Instagram influencer] Arielle Charnas. She’s got just a million followers, but her sales are astronomical because she’s genuinely communicating with those select few. Understand your communication channel, be there every day, and be honest. 

But as you learned, maintaining authenticity isn’t always the easy road. 

We quickly realized that the movement toward body positivity was a superficial one. Retailers wouldn’t put their money where their mouth was. They’d want to carry our product, but only a few sizes, rather than our complete range of 00 to 24. When you’re a startup, any order feels like a big, juicy order. But we had to say no. [The brand sells only in stores that commit to carrying every size.] And it’s served us well, because now our customers know that when they find Good American, they will find all sizes, all the time. 

Related: 'She Was One of My Business Idols,' Says This Fashion Entrepreneur About Her Mentor and Net-A-Porter Founder Natalie Massenet

Once a brand builds that trust with a customer, how can you turn it into additional opportunity? 

Just keep your ears open. We dig through comments on social, and we listen to the big data patterns. We recently noticed that sizes 14 and 16 were being returned twice as much as our other sizes. So we investigated and created a new size, 15. When you listen to what the customer is saying—with words and dollars—patterns emerge. And we’ve been good at acting fast. 

What if you can’t move as fast as you’d like? 

Never underestimate how smart your customers are. When things go wrong, tell people you’re working to correct it. It causes people to go, “OK, fine; we trust you.” For example, our standard price point -- $169 for a pair of jeans -- is prohibitive. People have been asking for a cheaper option from day one, and finally, after two years, we launched a $99 jean. It took us that long because it’s a matter of scale and making sure the product fits our standards, so we’ve been telling our customers: We are working on it. We shared that process with them. But we’ve also told them that we’re never going to put out a $40 jean.  

Related: How Lauren Conrad and Hannah Skvarla Curated Handmade Goods From Around the World to Build Nonprofit The Little Market

So talk is cheap if the product doesn’t match. 

Brilliant communication alone is nothing. Spend time and energy refining things. In today’s atmosphere, a lot of entrepreneurs think about getting a product to market fast and doing a big marketing push. But who cares? You either have something people want to buy, or you don’t. 


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