Hearing about a celeb's latest side hustle, whether it’s launching a makeup line or production company, is par for the course at this point. When you already have a legion of fans hanging on your every Instagram post, why wouldn’t you monetise that through a perfume launch?
But it isn’t always clear how much celebrities are involved with the companies that bear their names after the initial marketing push is done. Do they understand the intricacies of running a business? Lauren Farleigh, 30, experienced this uncertainty when she first went on Planet of the Apps, Apple’s new reality show.
“You never know if somebody’s going to be involved in the metrics of their e-commerce business," she said in an interview with Refinery29.
After successfully delivering an initial pitch, app developers on the show have the opportunity to spend six weeks working with a celebrity mentor — Jessica Alba, Will.i.am, Gary Vaynerchuk, or Gwyneth Paltrow — before going in front of venture capital firm Lightspeed in the hopes of getting funded. Only Vaynerchuk, who has invested in everything from Birchbox to Snapchat, began his career as an e-commerce entrepreneur. Alba, Will.i.am, and Paltrow all rose to fame in the entertainment industry before embarking on their successful business ventures. Alba started the Honest Company, Will.i.am launched i.am+, and Paltrow founded Goop.
Of the four mentors, Paltrow was the most natural fit for helping shape Farleigh’s shopping app, Dote. “Adding context and story to the shopping experience is a big part of what Goop does,” Farleigh says.
Dote, which Farleigh founded after working for a mobile gaming company, is a “mobile mall.” The app curates products from over 130 stores, including Sephora, Forever21, and Urban Outfitters, in one place. All you need to do is enter your credit card once, and you can buy a product with a single tap, without wasting time shopping on individual store websites.
As soon as Farleigh began working with Paltrow, any uncertainties she might have had were immediately resolved. “She totally quizzed me on all of our numbers,” the Alaska native said of her initial visit to Goop’s headquarters. “She really is the real deal.”
This isn’t to say there weren’t still some early challenges. “I’ve never met a movie star like that before, so I was really nervous,” Farleigh told Refinery29. “But I know my business so well that as soon as we started talking about business and riffing on content marketing ideas during the first meeting with the Goop team, it was just like a regular conversation and she could be anybody — an investor, a colleague. I won’t pretend there weren’t moments, though, where I was like 'oh, this is so surreal.'”
The relationship between Paltrow and Farleigh has only grown since filming wrapped earlier this year. As last night’s episode revealed, Farleigh earned millions in VC funding and has even added Goop to the roster of stores on Dote.
“When you start something, it’s just you and your computer and your phone,” Farleigh said on the episode. “No one believes in you; no one’s with you.”
With Paltrow and a fast-growing San Francisco-based team, Farleigh isn’t so alone anymore.