Andy Cohen on the making of a 'Housewives' brand

  • These days, many reality stars come out with books, jewelry, clothing or accessories in the hopes of cashing in, but starting a business is no easy task.
  • Andy Cohen, the executive producer of Bravo's "Real Housewives" franchises, tells CNBC what it takes to be a successful television personality turned entrepreneur.
  • "The viewers are really smart," he says. "When it's organic or a great idea, they just go for it."
Andy Cohen, the executive producer of the “Real Housewives” franchise, in New York City in May.
Source: Purina One
Andy Cohen, the executive producer of the “Real Housewives” franchise, in New York City in May.

There's one proven way to extend 15 minutes of fame: monetize it.

Few know that better than Bravo's "Real Housewives" a reality TV series that includes franchises in New York, Orange County, Dallas, Atlanta, New Jersey and Beverly Hills.

Bethenny Frankel, who stars on "The Real Housewives of New York City," had unparalleled success after using the show to launch her Skinnygirl brand, which started as a low-calorie margarita and quickly expanded into other alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, snack food and now jeans (coming in the fall).

Frankel reportedly netted over $100 million when she sold Skinnygirl Cocktails to Beam Global, the maker of Jim Beam, in 2011.

Excluding cocktails, Frankel still owns the rest of her successful Skinnygirl empire. In 2016, the entrepreneur landed a spot on Forbes' list of America's highest-paid reality stars.

But that doesn't mean everyone can do what she did — not that they haven't tried.

There's been clothing, shapewear, sunglasses, jewelry, handbags, skin cream, cannolis, cocktails, wine, cookbooks, novels, tell-alls, a toaster that never quite got off the ground and even sex toys (which proved hugely popular).

"Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't," Andy Cohen, the executive producer of the "Real Housewives" franchise, told CNBC at a Purina One event in New York City, which promoted the pet food and raised funds for shelter dogs through the Petfinder Foundation.

"The viewers are really smart, they know when it's ridiculous or when it's amazing." -Andy Cohen, executive producer of the "Real Housewives"

"The viewers are really smart," he added. "When it's organic or a great idea, they just go for it. They know when it's ridiculous or when it's amazing."

One of the best — and most underrated — business women is Kandi Burruss on the Atlanta Housewives, according to Cohen, citing Burruss' bedroom accessories, which are sold directly by "consultants" at parties similar to Rodan + Fields skin care or Stella & Dot jewelry.

"They're doing very well and they're really expensive," Cohen said of the Bedroom Kandi products.

Other business ventures that have resonated with viewers included Beverly Hills Housewife Lisa Vanderpump's sangria and rosé as well as New York Housewife Ramona Singer's skin care (relaunching soon), Cohen said, in part because those products are closely associated with the women behind them.

"They're continuing to build their brand," he said of the "Housewives" turned entrepreneurs, "as they should."

Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal owns Bravo.

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