How ‘Bachelorette’ Star Kaitlyn Bristowe Leveraged Reality TV Fame Into Multiple Successful Businesses

Her post-‘Bachelor’ mission is building brands that make women feel empowered.

13 min read

In this series, Instagram Icon, Entrepreneur speaks with the individuals behind popular Instagram accounts to find out the secrets of their success.

In 2015, seven million people watched Kailtyn Bristowe on her season of The Bachelorette.

Bachelor Nation has been going for 17 years strong. And in recent years, there has been something of a straight line from appearing on the franchise to becoming a social media influencer, driven in part by fans curious to watch, and brands eager to capitalize on — in the parlance of the show — the post-TV “journeys” of their favorite contestants.

Including Bristowe. The 33-year-old former dance instructor has 1.7 million followers on Instagram, but she says it was important to her not to just be a face for someone else’s products, but to create her own. 

Since starting her hair accessory line Dew Edit last summer, she has put out a total of 100 products and nine collections, some of which have sold out in minutes. The company has grown a following of 105,000 and counting on Instagram. Her podcast Off the Vine yields an average of one million downloads per episode, and she is currently working on a new venture, a wine line set to launch later this spring.

In conversation with Entrepreneur, Bristowe shared her experience of emerging from the reality TV bubble and the importance of authenticity when building an on and off-line community.

Related: Chriselle Lim Started Out as a Wardrobe Stylist. Now She Has More Than 3 Million Social Media Followers.

What was it like transitioning from being in the public eye because of the show to developing your own brands outside of it? How did social media make that possible?

On the show, they are filming you almost 17 hours a day, seven days a week. And what people are seeing at home is an hour and a half every Monday. They can get a sense of their personality, but nobody really gets to know the real you. I didn’t know what kind of platform I was going to have, or that I could turn it into a business or multiple businesses. I didn’t understand the power of social media, so I just used it to show people a more behind-the-scenes approach at my life. I enjoyed that, and then I saw that money could come in. And then I also saw that I could build something more important here rather than just one-off, making money, ride the wave kind of things.

When did you realize you didn’t want to only promote someone else’s products, but make your own?

From the get-go out of the show, I was excited by the money that was going to come in rather than building the longevity of a community of followers. So I thought, that’s exciting, I can get a paycheck to talk about this waist trainer, for example, that I don’t even use, but I’ll take a picture. People didn’t respond well to that.

I don’t know if I want to call it a backlash, but I looked at it as constructive criticism. I saw the followers drop, people were asking, “Why are you pushing this?” People can see through it. They didn’t believe that I was using this waist trainer, especially when I always talked about how, at that time in my life, I hadn’t worked out in like a year. I was showing them that they couldn’t trust me. I slowly started seeing how they want real things, and they want to believe in what you’re talking about.

So from that moment on, I turned down money to [make sure I] only promote things that I used and believed in. And to show up as Kaitlyn, not as an influencer. [It’s important to me to] just be real with everybody, whether it’s having a moment where I’m actually crying or talking about my anxiety or sharing my new relationship. I try to just be as real and open as possible.

What has it been like starting these brands? Why were these the right products for you to pursue?

Starting a business obviously was very new to me. I was always wearing a scrunchie in my hair — I don’t feel like they ever left my wardrobe, even when they weren’t a thing. People always kind of teased me for it, but then I started seeing celebrities wearing them. All these people started to rock the scrunchies, and I thought this was a great opportunity to jump on the scrunchie train and share it with my followers.

I’ve just been absolutely overwhelmed by the response and the support, and to me, again, it’s a testament to making something that you love and sharing it with your audience. They can truly see that you’re passionate about something.

To me it’s more than a product; it’s been a bunch of women coming together and making friends and being part of the scrunchie gang, and being on social media and just building each other up through something as small as a scrunchie. And for the wine, I used to work in a restaurant, where I would actually train servers and do wine courses. And I have always loved learning about wine. To me being on the other end of it just felt like such a natural transition.

What do you want people to think of when they see your brands?

It’s a little bit different for each one. For the scrunchies, my personality is quirky and fun and bold and that’s [the feeling that] I wanted the scrunchies to have. When it comes to wine, I definitely feel like I’ve matured, and diving into the business world has changed me in a way where I feel like I have more responsibility. My actions have impact.

I think it comes in conjunction with me now being in my 30s and having my priorities change. I wanted the name, the design and the brand to represent the changes I’ve been feeling the last couple of years. Everything I do — whether it be the podcast, the wine, scrunchies, my live spring break tour — I always want it to be about empowerment and bringing women together and feeling strong.

Read on for Bristowe’s five favorite Instagram posts.

“The communities that have been formed because of both my podcast and Dew Edit amaze me! These women not only support me, but they also support each other. It’s so cool to see, and definitely not something I could have foreseen when I thought of starting a podcast or scrunchie line.”

Trust me when I say — the greatest thing you will ever do for yourself is to simply listen to what you actually want from life. Drown out the guidelines, the advice, the ‘shoulds.’ Drown out all of the opinions, all of the ways in which others are telling you how to live, and love, and exist in this world. It won’t be easy, it never is; because this is what they don’t tell you — finding your own version of happiness isn’t this comfortable, miraculous thing. It can get confusing, it will be hard. It’s difficult to be the person who does things differently, who chooses to walk away from from a life, or a love, or a hope that they once wanted. It is never easy to be the person who changes. But it’s the greatest gift you will ever give yourself. It will push you towards figuring out what your own personal version of happiness looks like; and when you grow on your own terms, when you figure out what actually matters to you, what actually ignites your heart, what actually drives you to love yourself more — you live on your own terms. You become the person you have always wanted to be, rather than the person you were always told to be, and that is beautiful. Because when it comes down to it — life is about finding a happiness that works for you. So choose that happiness. Choose the kind of love that feels right, the kind of love that makes you understand why it didn’t work out with anyone else. Choose the kind of life that makes you so damn happy you kept fighting for the things you wanted, for the way in which your heart asked you to believe in more. Choose yourself, unapologetically and without guilt — the way you choose others. Show up for yourself. Give yourself permission to hope, to care, to trust in the things you deeply crave from life. Choose letting go. Choose forgiveness, choose to turn your losses into lessons. Choose to move forward, into the kind of story that fulfills you, into the kind of person that holds your heart just as carefully as you hold theirs, into the kind of happiness that exists because you chose to fight for it, and never stop fighting for it. Never stop. Thankyou @rainbowsalt who wrote this for me. Thank you @jason_tartick for being you.

A post shared by Kaitlyn Bristowe (@kaitlynbristowe) on

“It’s weird that posting a picture on Instagram seems like a big deal, but it was when it came to posting a picture of my new relationship with Jason. There’s already enough pressure to post that FIRST picture, but this one especially. I wanted to make sure to post it when it felt right to me, rather than the pressures I felt about it. Jason was a very unexpected surprise, and one I’m glad I welcomed with hesitant but open arms.”

“The growth and success of Dew means so much to me, and it’s given me the continued confidence to keep going after the things I love! Seeing how supportive my audience has been about my first product has been unbelievable, and, in all honesty, has given me the confidence to also pursue my dream of having my own wine label.”

Couple things. Did you know that you can have Botox and still post a #Realstagram ? Doesn’t make you less real. Did you know you can have microbladed brows, and still do a realstagram? Doesn’t mean you need to call me out. The message behind a realstagram is that, we we are all human, and we are all victims to the suckhole of comparisons. Did you know that social media ISN’T REAL LIFE??? If you guys love me for my confidence, my happiness, and my humor, I want you to love me for my insecurities and my hard days as well. Because that’s real. Sometimes, believe it or not I have really bad days. Anxiety is something very new to me but also very real. We go through things as human beings wether you have a platform or not. And I just wanna say, that no matter where you’re at emotionally today, could be different tomorrow. So feel your feelings. Sit in being sad and uncomfortable, and try to learn from it. And most importantly, talk to someone about it. Today is a tough day. And to be honest what started it was just missing Tucker. I’m counting down the days to see him again. Just wanted to tell ya you’re not alone and you’re not crazy to get caught up in your emotions. You’re human. Now go throw a scrunchie in your hair and give yourself a mirror high five.

A post shared by Kaitlyn Bristowe (@kaitlynbristowe) on

“I grew up in [the] dance world, and with that came the pressure of looking and acting a certain way. I’ve always in some way tried to rebel against the norm, but there’s always been a voice deep inside that pressures me to look my best, not leave the house without makeup, etc. As I get older — and wiser of course — I appreciate natural beauty in a different way. Our perception of beauty is more distorted now than ever, and I feel like encouraging women to embrace their real beauty is a positive way for me to use my platform.”

“I remember feeling so happy in this picture! I was in one of my favourite places, Napa, the wine was flowing, and the weather was perfect! That was the trip where I decided I was going to take the plunge and go ahead with the idea I had been toying with for months: to start my own wine label! No better place to make a decision than where the soil grows some of the best grapes in America.”

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