Monica Foster commentary: I found this to be a motivational and inspirational piece for women who have worked in the adult entertainment industry. Rhonda took stock of her past and surroundings, took a deep breath and took lemons and turned them into lemonade. Of course she’s a rare success story but it’s women like her who give me hope as I continue on my path to success, a good life and happiness (though of course I’ll have to work three times as hard considering I’ve never been in Playboy and am not a white woman with blonde hair and blue eyes).
Rhonda Shear is the queen of reinvention. She’s gone from the pages of Playboy, to hosting USA’s Up All Night in the 80′s, to comedy, to a multi million dollar lingerie and bra line sold around the world. She was recently nominated for the prestigious Stevie Award from the ABA for “Most Innovative Company of the Year”. Shear Enterprises, located in Florida, had an explosive 72 million in yearly sales in 2011. Rhonda is leading a new breed of executives in this country called, “Boomerpreneurs”, who reinvent their careers and redefine their lives after 40.
Her successful business came together when she reunited with her childhood sweetheart, Van Fagan in 2001. Shear personally develops and designs each garment and has had great success on both HSN and The Shopping Channel. In this interview, she talks about how she’s personally evolved her brand over time, the biggest challenges she’s had, and more.
How have you been able to evolve your brand over time?
It is a natural progression. My first designs came out of my own needs for things I could not find on the market. Even the Ahh Bra , now international bestseller, came out of my own frustration of being a full busted gal with no bras in the market place that fit my body type. I went to a knitting mill, and had them knit me a bra on a circular knitting machine- no hooks, no eyes, no tags. Apparently other women are looking for the same thing; we have now sold over 25 million units of the Ahh Bra! Now the brand has evolved from our first 9 products to producing over 14,000 skus in a decade. We have around 2,400 skus in our current line, and each of our core styles has been inspired by feedback from customers and from my own needs and ideas.
We just announced another of our bestsellers, the Shear Control panty launching at Sears & Hart stores across Canada. I’m planning to launch lines of swimwear, fragrance, cosmetics, and an exclusive line aimed at Baby Boomers called “Boomer Hottie”, within the next year. Shear Enterprises, LLC has also just launched Rhonda Shear TV, a channel that is available on Roku and YahooTV. Going forward Shear Enterprises, LLC plans to continue growing the business on shopping channels internationally, designing a mobile App, and approaching other outlets.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve had as you moved from being a Playboy model to starting a successful business?
At the end of the day, everything I did for my career in LA – including playboy and dressing in lingerie on my show, prepared me for my career now. I always considered myself a business woman while acting, and performing, and I always had that eye for design while modeling and posing for Playboy. My entire family is in sales, so the transition from having an idea and actually designing and selling it made sense. It was getting people to take me seriously and getting those initial orders that was the hard part. When we first started, totally self-funded, we struggled to make the jump to that next level. Luckily, my husband Van Fagan and I, heard that HSN was looking for a celebrity intimates line to sell on HSN, so I immediately flew to Florida and pitched them in person. We found a niche with HSN, filled it, and grew the category as we started doing business around the world
One big challenge for me, because the LA girl in me wants everything now, is slowing down and reinvesting my money to grow the business, and stay in control of it. Van was very helpful in teaching me the business side and how to focus my creative ideas into a line that is cohesive and works with our cash flow. He believes in slow and steady. We are the tortoise and the hare and it couldn’t be a more perfect match. If you can’t believe in yourself, you can’t believe in anyone- I truly do believe in every product!
Can you explain what it means to be a Boomerpreneur? What would you recommend to others your age who want to reinvent themselves?
Boomerpreneurs are baby boomers who reinvent their lives and redefine their careers after 40.. I can’t imagine retiring and neither can a lot of other Baby boomers in America. It would never work for me. I just love waking up to a new day of business and challenges. It keeps my juices flowing. I posed for Playboy in 1991 at the age of 37, I married for the first time in my life at 46. I was shocked at how my life was just beginning in my 40’s and how happy I’d become in such a little time. I truly believe age has nothing to do with career, love, or success. You can go for it anytime. Boomers are the coolest, and we think young and are learning to live healthy! Reinvention for me wasn’t easy, nothing worthwhile every is right? I know that I can’t pose for Playboy forever, and I leveraged my strengths to create a business that I love.
Go with what you know! If you want to reinvent yourself find an idea that you really believe in and give your whole self to it. Don’t be afraid to try something new online, or create that product idea you’ve been kicking around for years. It will fill you up and give you that life force you thought was gone.
Who have been your biggest influences?
My mother and father who only wanted one thing from me. A college diploma, which I received from Loyola University with a BA in Communications. My staff is a enormous influence as well. I have created a real family environment at Shear Enterprises, LLC hiring local talent from all backgrounds and supporting their advancement as the company grows and new positions are created. My employees cook together in the office diner, attend events at our house and all share opinions and ideas for new products and strategies. Of course my husband, Van Fagan, who I have known since I was 12. After 26 years apart, we started Shear Enterprises LLC as a way to make up for lost time by working together; ours is a true love story, and the American Dream!
How do you manage your time on a daily basis?
I try to take it one day at a time. If I think of my schedule, which is 24/7 being live on shopping channels, it would overwhelm me. I have an amazing staff that keeps me pointed in the right direction. They can track me down anywhere and they all keep me going.
There is never a dull moment at Shear Enterprises, LLC and every day brings some new adventure. I love every crazy minute and can’t wait to see what happens next!