From the Soup Nazi to Skinnygirl margaritas to the cupcake craze, several successful business ventures have been launched or grown with 15 minutes of fame on TV. Here is a list of nine companies that increased revenue and brand awareness after appearing on the small screen.
9 Wildly Successful Brands Born From TV Fame
On November 2, 1995, NBC's Seinfeld aired an episode called "The Soup Nazi," featuring a really good soup served by a cranky cook who told customers "No soup for you!" if they didn't follow his rules for ordering. The show was based on real life Manhattan soup vendor Al Yeganeh, owner of Soup Kitchen International. The restaurant had been rated #1 by Zagat and praised in the New York Times. According to the Seinfeld website, Yeganeh was at first unhappy with the publicity from the "Soup Nazi" episode and feared it would ruin his business. Instead, it made him a cultural icon.
Yeganeh closed Soup Kitchen International in 2004 to pursue franchise and licensing opportunities. He currently operates in 13 locations under the new name The Original SoupMan. He also launched a line of soups that are available in more than 3,000 supermarkets across the United States. His parent company, Soupman, Inc., is publicly traded.
When Bethenny Frankel joined the cast of Bravo’s Real Housewives of New York, she wasn't a housewife; she was a natural food chef. During the first season of the show, she mentioned a recipe for a low-calorie margarita. Inundated with questions from fans, a light bulb went off and the bottled Skinnygirl margarita was born.
In 2011, Frankel, who has written five books about healthy living, sold Skinnygirl Cocktails to Beam Global for an estimated $120 million, according to Forbes. The brand saw triple-digit growth during its first year. Today, fans can buy Skinnygirl wine, sweeteners, vitamins, nutrition bars, undergarments, work out equipment and DVDs, making Frankel the most successful entrepreneur to come out of the Housewives franchise.
Another business launched by Real Housewives is the New Jersey restaurant Little Town NJ co-owned by Albie and Chris Manzo. The Manzo brothers appear with their mother Caroline Manzo, one of the stars of the Real Housewives of New Jersey. She has contributed some of her family recipes to the menu. During Season five, the show featured Caroline Manzo and her sons opening the restaurant, which gave a boost to its success. While food critics were skeptical, the reviews have been positive.
During its six seasons, Sex and the City sparked several trends, but did you know the show is also credited with igniting the cupcake craze? When Carrie and Miranda walked into Magnolia Bakery in Manhattan and walked out with pink frosted treats, the cupcake became as hot as the cosmopolitan.
"Sex and the City certainly demonstrated how powerful the medium of TV can be," says Sara Gramling of Magnolia Bakery. "The inclusion increased Magnolia Bakery's brand awareness around the world. To this day, we have many customers that visit us from around the world as a result of that appearance."
While the original bakery opened in 1996, with breads, cinnamon rolls and cakes on the menu. Cupcakes were added when the bakery had extra batter that was going to go to waste. In 1999, original owners Allysa Torey and Jennifer Appel published The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook: Old-Fashioned Recipes from New York's Sweetest Bakery. Magnolia Bakery added a second location in 2008 and a third in 2010. Today, the bakery is owned by Steve and Tyra Abrams.
Founded in 1969, the Bull & Finch Pub in Boston became internationally known when it was used as the exterior of the NBC sitcom bar Cheers. The show, which ran from 1982 to 1993, made the Bull & Finch Pub one of the city's most popular tourist attractions, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. On the night of the show's series finale, a large party was held outside the bar with two large TV screens broadcasting the episode; the cast watched the finale inside the bar.
In 2002, the Bull & Finch Pub was renamed Cheers Beacon Hill. The interior of the bar doesn’t resemble the TV set, but owner Tom Kershaw built a second location, Cheers Boston, as a replica of the TV bar, including Sam Malone's Red Sox jacket and Cliff Clavin's mail carrier uniform.
California teenager Lauren Conrad was cast in MTV’s series Laguna Beach in 2004 and an entrepreneur was born. The fashionista's popularity on the show earned her the successful MTV spin-off The Hills, which followed her as a student at Los Angeles' Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising and an intern with Teen Vogue.
In 2007, she launched her first clothing line, The Lauren Conrad Collection, at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Los Angeles. Her second line -- LC Lauren Conrad -- debuted at Kohl’s in 2009 and has been a "consistent top performer in our women's category," Donald A. Brennan, a senior executive vice-president for the retailer told Businessweek in 2010.
In 2011, Conrad launched a third line called Paper Crown. In 2009, she signed a multiple book deal with Harper Collins; her first novel, L.A. Candy, was on the New York Times Best Seller List for more than a month. Conrad has endorsement deals with Hasbro, Linea Pelle, AT&T and Avon.
When Rupert Jee purchased Hello Deli in 1990, he considered changing the name, but then The Late Show with David Letterman moved in across the street. The show was doing a segment called "Lets Visit the Neighborhood," and the crew stopped into Jee’s restaurant. After a little interaction, Jee was invited into the studio where he received standing ovation. Jee decided to keep the name Hello Deli to take advantage of the publicity. He quickly became a regular on the show and is still featured on skits today.
Jillian Michaels had been helping others get fit for nearly 20 years, when she was cast as one of the original trainers on NBC’s 'Biggest Loser' in 2004. She quickly earned a reputation as the trainer you love to hate, setting her up for stardom and business success. In 2008, Michaels cofounded Empowered Media, offering workout DVDs, videogames, exercise equipment, diet pills and protein powders. Michaels is also the best-selling author of Master Your Metabolism, Unlimited: How to Build an Exceptional Life, and Slim for Life: My Insider Secrets to Simple, Fast, and Lasting Weight Loss.
Her intense group fitness class, Jillian Michaels BODYSHRED, is taught in Crunch and YMCA gyms across the U.S., and is expanding worldwide. Endorsement deals with K-Swiss and Turtle Mountain’s So Delicious beverages pushed her annual sales to over $200 million in 2010.
In 1995, Rachael Ray was working at the candy counter at Macy's in New York City and teaching cooking classes in the evening. Just six years later, the popularity of her quick-cooking format landed her spot on the TODAY show and led to her first Food Network show in 2001, 30 Minute Meals. The perky cook’s popularity quickly spread and in 2005, Ray signed a deal with Oprah Winfrey’s King World Productions to host Rachael Ray, a syndicated daytime TV talk show.
In 2006, she became a spokesperson for Nabisco crackers. In 2007, WestPoint Home launched sheets, blankets, and coverlets designed by Ray. The same year she signed a deal with Dunkin' Donuts to become its coffee spokesperson, and in July 2008, she launched a line of pet food called Nutrish. With spokesperson deals, TV shows and 21 cookbooks under her belt, she is the second highest earning celebrity chef, with an estimated $25 million in annual sales.