Make It

Why Emma Grede, the First Black Woman Investor on ‘Shark Tank,' Believes in the Power of ‘Hustle'

Christopher Willard | ABC

For the first time in the 12-year history of "Shark Tank," a Black woman is sitting in one of the investment chairs.

Emma Grede, the 39-year-old co-founder and CEO of denim-brand Good American and founding partner of Kim Kardashian's shapewear-apparel line SKIMS, is set to appear as a guest Shark on Friday's season 13 premiere of the ABC business reality show. Grede, the show's first-ever Black woman investor, will join returning Sharks Mark Cuban, Barbara Corcoran, Kevin O'Leary and Lori Greiner.

On the show, Grede told ABC News on Thursday, she looks for two primary qualities in an entrepreneur when deciding to make an investment: passion and hustle.

"I respect hustle," said Grede. "But hustle comes from a lot of different places."

Grede's own path, she said, is proof. At age 24, after working for a fashion show event production company, Grede took a leap and launched her own marketing agency, ITB Worldwide. She credited her ability to land clients like Kris Jenner and Natalie Portman to her confidence and courage — whether it was earned at the time or not.

"I think everything I didn't know led me to a place where I had that naiveté," Grede said. "I didn't know what could go wrong. And so in a way, I just got on with things that, right now, just would seem scary or stupid."

Her connection with Jenner helped Good American off the ground: When Grede came up with the idea for a size-inclusive denim line, she identified Khloé Kardashian as her ideal business partner. Jenner facilitated an introduction, and on Good American's launch day in 2016, the company pulled in $1 million in revenue, according to Glamour UK.

"Success begets success," Grede told ABC News.

On "Shark Tank," though, Grede said she won't necessarily be searching for entrepreneurs who "mirror" her own success story.

"It's much more about supporting women, Black women, founders of color," she said. "We all know the stats. The investment and the fundraising is low on the ground for certain groups, especially women. And so for me, that was really my focus."

Appearing on the show, she said, feels like a full-circle moment: Not long ago, Grede was the one trying to convince others of her passion and hustle.

"For me, it was literally a dream come true to be on the panel," she said

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