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How Rachael Ray Grew Her Brand Way Beyond the Kitchen

Entrepreneur Network partner Kelsey Humphreys chats with Rachael Ray about extending her reach and diversifying her brand.

Even if you’re not a foodie or a fan of talk shows, chances are you’ve heard of Rachael Ray. The everyday cook started promoting her 30-minute meal idea locally at a store in upstate New York. Someone from the Today show happened to stumble upon her work, and as the story goes, a few guest segments on the morning show later, she was offered her own show.

Though adamant she’s not a chef, she’s clearly an expert, and coming up with over 5,000 recipes gave Ray unique insights into tools and products that were missing. This lead to the invention of multiple products, such as the Moppine and the oval Pasta Pot. She now has over 365 SKUs of cookware on the market in partnership with the Meyer Corporation.

Most impressive, though, is how far she has extended her reach outside the kitchen.

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The beloved television personality sits at the helm of a media mothership, with an estimated worth of $75 million. She has multiple shows in production -- sometimes as many as five at a time -- and has written 27 cookbooks. In addition to her books, she publishes her magazine, Rachael Ray Every Day, which, along with rachaelraymag.com, reaches over 53 million readers per month.

In addition to your local home goods store, you can also find products from Ray, an animal lover, at the pet store.  A portion of the proceeds form the 40 Nutrish SKUs of dog and cat food is donated to The Rachael Ray Foundation to benefit animals in need.  

Finding Ray in those places may not be that surprising, but she also puts on a food and music festival as a part of South by Southwest each year. Her Feedback festival, which will celebrate it’s tenth year this month, showcases some of her favorite musicians, beer, wine, cocktails and some of her own culinary creations.

Another interesting recent expansion is the Rachael Ray Home Collection, which launched successfully last fall and is expanding this month to offer multiple lines of kitchen, dining, living and bedroom furniture.

I can hear you asking, pet food? SXSW? Why is a celebrity chef designing furniture? And how does she do it all so well? After talking with her about her brand recently, the answers became clear. If you want to expand and diversify your brand successfully as Ray has done, read on.

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She knows her audience.

Ray knows her viewers, readers and fans. As she told CNN in 2007, “Our pots and pans have to be heavy-bottomed and sturdy but also affordable.” The same accessible-but-quality rule applies to her new furniture pieces as well.

“Our price point is pretty much nothing over two grand. Everything our brand sells has to not be the cheapest, but it has to be the best value of its kind,” she told me. She added that all of the pieces are multi-functional and beautiful, quoting one of her catchphrases, "you don't have to be rich to have a rich life."

“Your home environment should reflect that as well,” she added.

She solves their problems.

Ray has a knack for understanding and solving the everyday person’s problems in the kitchen -- why not in their homes as well? Frustrated by pieces that were either not functional or overpriced, Ray began doodling ideas. Design had just been a hobby until a conversation with her friend, now general manager of the collection, Michael Murray.

“We started talking about, wouldn't it be great if sofas came with rectangular cushions? If you could always hide cords in everything? If you had pieces that were designed to work in either bedrooms or living rooms? If drawers pushed through and were two sided?” she recalled. “I'm most proud of it because it does what I try and do with kitchenware design: solves problems.”

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She does work she loves.

Music, food, chatting, design -- these are all things Ray told me she would be doing whether or not she got paid for it. Love of the work makes it easy for her to put in long hours, and it makes her products believable. If she didn’t truly love music (which she talks about in almost every interview she does) the Feedback festival wouldn’t work. “People smell phony.” she told me.

“You have to love what you do. If you don't, you're in the wrong job. Start over.” she explained. “[The furniture collection is] making me joyously happy, because now I get to keep doing what I love to do as a hobby, I get to add it to my repertoire of what I do for a living.”

She stays focused on her mission.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the words “Accessible” and “Can Do” are plastered on the walls somewhere at Ray HQ (in a chic way, of course). Ray explained that those values guide everything in her organization.

“Everything we touch or pitch, from producers to writers to editors, everything that our label and brand and company and all of our media, everything, is about accessibility,” she explained. Her brand also wants people to feel excited about small adventures every day, not saving their lives for weekends or summertime “even if it's making something new for dinner.”

With those guideposts, it’s easy to understand the new ventures, and the possibility for many more additions to her business in the future.

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If you want to grow your brand outside of one niche, know your audience, solve their problems, make sure each addition aligns with your existing brand, and make sure each addition is something you actually enjoy.

“Again, as long as people are happy with [my work],” Ray said, “I'll keep doing it, 'cause it's fun.”  

Watch more videos from The Pursuit on the show's YouTube channel.

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