Why brutal honesty is the key to brand-building

With their new book, the women behind the website Betches share the secrets to their success—and yours

Jordana Abraham, Samantha Fishbein, and Aleen Kuperman aren’t the first college students to hatch a brilliant business idea on their ​campus. But their brainchild, Betches, is not just a one-of-kind outlet offering sharp, authentic, and hilarious commentary and advice for millennial women—it has become a wildly popular media empire that includes three bestselling books, nine podcasts, a dating app, and more than 7 million followers across Instagram. It’s a success story that proves you can make bank just by being yourself with your best friends.

Childhood friends Abraham, Fishbein, and Kuperman​​ graduated from high school on Long Island together before attending Cornell University, where they started Betches as a humor blog during their senior year in 2011. Eight years and plenty of accolades later, they’re celebrating the paperback launch of their third bestseller, ​When’s Happy Hour: Work Hard So You Can Hardly Work​, a career guide based on their popular podcast of the same name. ​When’s Happy Hour​ brought the Betches to a recent event at WeWork Now in New York City to record a live episode of the podcast. Moderated by Marissa Casey Fuchs, Goop director of brand partnerships and sales and a fashion blogger herself, the Betches’ reliably frank and funny conversation covered getting real about your aspirations, dealing with growing pains, and above all, trusting the power of your own voice.

Know the difference between your passion and your purpose

The Betches stressed how important it is to be thoughtful and candid with yourself when identifying what your dream job entails. “Just because it’s your passion doesn’t mean it’s your career destiny,” said Kuperman. “A lot of us are passionate about things we might not be that good at. It’s important to realize, ‘​I​​s this where my skills align?’” Before launching a venture, said Fishbein, ask yourself ​why​ you want it. “If you feel like it’s just something to save you from boredom, that’s probably not going to be successful,” she said. “But if you feel like, ‘I am meant to start this business. The world needs my business,’ that should propel you to say, ‘I can do it.’”

Recognize your blind spots…

The Betches are frequently asked how they were able to launch a multimillion-dollar company as college students without any managerial experience. The key, they explained, was as much about trusting their own strengths as learning to recognize where they had room for growth. “In the beginning, we thought we knew everything,” said Kuperman. “As we got older, we’ve realized that it’s so important to ask people who know more than you or hire people who know better than you.”

B​​ut don’t let someone convince you of a blind spot you don’t have

The trio say they have often been underestimated. “We believed in ourselves, but there were lots of people—specifically older guys—who thought, ‘We can help these young girls and make them pay for x, y, and z,’” explained Kuperman. “Sometimes we believed them, and we paid for whatever they were offering—coaching services or whatever. But then we realized, actually, we don’t need their help. We can figure this out on our own.”

With their e-commerce site, Shop Betches, Abraham said it paid to trust their own instincts rather than listening to naysayers. “We didn’t take full control, and when we saw what was being put out there, it wasn’t something we were proud to attach our names to and therefore it didn’t do very well,” she said of the shop’s first run. “We wound up closing that down and re​-​opening in 2014, controlling all aspects of the process.” Added Kuperman, “We thought other people knew better than we did. But​,​ in reality, we knew our audience.”

Know that you’ll have to work hard to succeed—but don’t lose sight of the big picture

Work-life balance is crucial to these bosses, who value company policies like summer Fridays and work-from-home flexibility for their employees. But that balance is not something that’s always possible ​when you’re launching your own endeavor, the entrepreneurs explained. It’s crucial to be realistic about the amount of dedication it takes to build a business like theirs, ​and​ using your personal time to fuel you through the difficult phases where work can dominate your time.

Kuperman offered a realistic definition of work-life balance: “I don’t see it as simply as your life is constantly in balance. Look at it as a whole, over the course of a long period of time. Do you feel like there was a balance there?” Millennials get shortchanged, she said, because contrary to popular belief, they do put in the work—but not for work’s sake. “So what​?​ ​W​​e care about the culture of a company and the perks,” she said. “We ​do​ work hard, and I think as long as you really understand what you like and where you want to be in however many years​​…​ ​that’s what you should be listening to.”

You can listen to this episode of When’s Happy Hour: Work Hard So You Can Hardly Work, taped live from WeWork Now, here.

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