While Reese Witherspoon might be a familiar face thanks to her famous roles in movies like Legally Blonde, you might not realize she’s also an accomplished businesswoman. After becoming frustrated with the roles she was being offered, she founded her own production company in 2012, producing the critically acclaimed Gone Girl.
However, she took things even further with the launch of Hello Sunshine in 2016. The company is dedicated to creating media for women, driven by women, that shares women’s stories. While this is an inspiring feminist enterprise, it also provides a number of valuable lessons on how to successfully run a business.
If there’s a problem, fix it
Witherspoon’s companies were founded because of a simple issue: as she got older, she realized the parts available to her were becoming low-quality and uninteresting. She recalled:
It was getting laughable how bad the parts were, particularly for women over 35. And that, of course, is when you become really interesting as a woman.
This was a problem she realized she was able to fix, and that’s a great way to start any business. If you identify an issue that doesn’t appear to have an effective solution, you can almost guarantee there will be a market for whatever idea you come up with to solve it. That’s exactly what Witherspoon did.
Don’t be afraid to challenge the existing narrative
To succeed in the business world, you might have to disregard some of the things you took as gospel truths. Always be willing to challenge existing narratives; you don’t have to reject them just because they’re there, but many aspects of life are only still in place because nobody’s thought to get rid of them yet.
Take the issue of female representation in Hollywood. Hello Sunshine refuses to take funding from major studios, because they often turn down the idea of making more than one movie per year with a woman at the center. This is something Witherspoon refuses to accept, and so far it seems like she’s correct to do so.
Find your lucrative gap in the market
What if the major Hollywood studios are correct, and there isn’t a market for female-driven movies? Statistics show that isn’t the case. As Hello Sunshine’s CEO Sarah Harden puts it:
[Women] make 85% of purchase decisions. They drive 75% of financial decisions. They’re 50% of the box office.
It seems Hollywood has been operating on faulty assumptions.
This isn’t just a victory for feminism; it’s also a great business decision. Hello Sunshine is catering to a market with very little representation, which means the company has a huge potential audience for anything it creates. This is a major advantage, and it’s something everyone running a company should be looking out for.