East London undoubtedly has produced prominent talents like Idris Elba, David Beckham, Kate Moss, and trailblazing fashion icon Emma Grede. However, the friendly business environment, sprawling luxury high-rises, and high net-worth businesses that have transformed East London into a gentrified hub for creatives were far from what was obtainable when Grede, 40, began her journey as a modest and inexperienced fresh graduate.
With a positive mindset and clear vision, Grede left her longtime neighborhood to the entertainment capital of the world, Los Angeles. This was where she has successfully pioneered three fashion brands, each distinct with remarkable stories.
But Grede acknowledges that the hustling spirit East London imbibed in her was important to making it in Los Angeles.
“There’s something to be said of that background. There’s a real kind of hustler mentality where I came from. I was always a kid on a mission and I really had it in my bones,” Grede told The CEO Magazine.
Growing up, she faced daunting challenges in finding her feet in her dream venture. Mentorship was something she couldn’t access while pushing her way up. Grabbing publications like ‘The Rich List,’ she conscientiously studied how other celebrated and notable personalities ascended the ranks.
Eventually, she secured an internship at Gucci after dropping out of her business program at the London College of Fashion. Through several internships and a short stint as a producer at a fashion show & events company, Grede was able to hone her entrepreneurship skills.
Finding Her Way
Having discovered the challenges plaguing fashion designers in the industry, including difficulty in getting sponsors and investors, Grede came up with an innovative idea for an entertainment and fashion management, marketing, and promotion agency she called Independent Talent Brand (ITB). She was only 24 at the time. Ten years later in 2018, ITB was acquired by investors.
Her emerging years in the fashion industry exposed her to opportunities, ideas, and connections, eventually becoming the turning point of her career in the fashion world.
“I never thought of myself as a creative, but rather somebody that is good at empowering other creative people around me,” she explained. “That’s really where my career has brought me.”
Understanding that her yearning has always been fashion business, Grede pulled together all the resources within her reach and ventured fully into the fashion industry. Despite the dominance of many notable designers and the industry being a well-known difficult space to break into, Grede rolled her sleeves and gradually began putting her ideas into action.
Birth of Good American
One of the most untapped opportunities in the industry is that most brands ignore body sizes outside the traditional sizes, making it difficult for plus-size women to express themselves confidently in their desired outfit.
Grede began searching for a partner with the same vision, and she settled on Kris Jenner, matriarch of the Kardashian family whom Emma often bumps into at fashion shows.
“If you work in entertainment marketing, you’re really not in business unless you’re working with Kris Jenner,” she said.
Grede took her business idea to Jenner, who advised her to pitch it to Khloé Kardashian. Grede then struck a business relationship with the Kardashian sister and this produced Good American, in October of 2016.
Good American made a remarkable $1 million worth of sales in its first release in 2016.
True to its mission of focusing on size inclusivity and body confidence, plus-size women are finding relief in Good American, making it unique in its production of sizes ranging from 00 – 32.
She attributes the success and continued growth of the company to the difficulty in making so many sizes. She acknowledges that Good American is forever indebted to its customers for their success.
Onward to a Multi-Billion-Dollar Success – SKIMS
Good American became the firm foundation that engineered the veritable blueprint for Grede’s next commercial venture success, a partnership between Kim Kardashian, Emma and her husband, Jens Grede. The partnership created SKIMS, a shapewear brand founded in 2019.
“Kim was very clear about her vision from the beginning, and at that point, after four years of running Good American and I knew that she was right about this idea around shapewear in skin colors and underwear in nine different shades,” Grede pointed out.
With Jens Grede leading the day-to-day operations at SKIMS, his wife Emma, who is the company’s Chief Product Officer, focuses on design, production, and merchandising.
After four years, Grede has helped transform SKIMS into a model brand in the industry and pushed the company to its present valuation of almost $4 billion.
Having achieved landmark successes in Good American and SKIMS, it wasn’t surprising that Grede was the best choice for Kris Jenner, who contacted Emma for another business venture, this time around, in a new industry.
Grede, with a keen eye for discovering opportunities, this time around, alongside Kris Jenner and Chrissy Teigen, and inspired by the Covid-19 crisis, stepped into the home-cleaning industry with a new company, Safely, in 2021. Safely, a manufacturer of plant-based cleaning products became the top demand for people desiring safe, affordable, and quality cleaning and care products.
Efficacy, affordability, and accessibility are among the defining attributes for Grede in the Safely business, opting against glass bottles for environmentally friendly and high-quality packaging.
Finding More Purpose
Grede was the guest Shark in the first episode of Season 13 and the fourteenth episode of Season 14, making her the first Black woman investor in the ABC Series show. She is a board member of Baby2Baby – a nonprofit that caters to children living in poverty across the U.S. with diapers, clothing, and all the necessities that every child deserves.
She is also the Chairwoman of the 15 Percent Pledge, a nonprofit initiative calling all major retailers and corporations to work together to create sustainable and supportive ecosystems for Black-owned businesses to succeed by dedicating 15% of their shelf space to products from Black-owned companies.
Through her visionary leadership, 15 Percent Pledge got the commitment and partnership of over 28 retailers, including Nordstrom, Sephora, Ultra Beauty, Marcy’s, and Moda Operandi, and have generated almost $14 billion of revenue for Black-owned businesses.
Grede was profiled in the 2022 and 2023 list of America’s richest self-made women published by Forbes. It is not surprising that running three successful high-net-worth companies and owning 8% stake in SKIMS, 23% in Good America, and 22% in Safely, Grede now has a staggering personal net worth of $320 million.