The Goop founder and Oscar-winning actress discusses challenges as a woman in the spotlight, controversy with her brand and advice for young startups at her NRF 2020 keynote address.

If Gwyneth Paltrow could go back to when she started her lifestyle brand Goop Inc., she would be bolder about asking questions. And maybe learn accounting, Paltrow told attendees at the National Retail Federation conference this week in New York City.

Gwyneth Paltrow, CEO Goop

Gwyneth Paltrow, CEO Goop

After a career as an actress, Paltrow founded Goop in 2008 as a lifestyle brand for health and wellness. She describes Goop as a “contextual commerce business,” in which it produces content around topics, such as beauty, travel and food, and sells adjacent products. For example, Goop.com may publish an article about the benefits of non-toxic beauty products and then showcase cosmetics without toxins that readers can purchase on the site.

Paltrow said she looks to the Disney brand as a best-in-class brand that has a similar business model, as Disney creates content and then lines of businesses and products around it.

“The scariest part was not knowing what I didn’t know,” Paltrow said about the early days of Goop, in which she would feel shame in asking questions.

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“I would Google acronyms under the table like, ‘What is AUR and AOV?’” Paltrow said.

In hindsight, Paltrow said she wished she would have given herself permission to be ignorant and asked questions. She encourages women founders and young entrepreneurs to not be afraid to be bold and ask questions.“Invest in yourself and lean into areas that you know you are strong,” Paltrow said. “Anyone can learn anything.”

In its 12 years, Goop has raised $75 million in funding, according to Crunchbase. Investors were attracted to the brand, Paltrow said, because Goop was early in the wellness space and striking a chord with a very desirable consumer.

Goop has grown organically and has solid unit economics (meaning its favorable revenue and costs of its business model), Paltrow said. Plus, commerce led by content works, she said.

Over the years, Goop has had its share of time in a negative spotlight, such as with unsubstantiated health claims for some of its products. Goop has made mistakes, and it now has a regulation team, Paltrow said. The mistakes were amplified, Paltrow said, because her name is attached to it. “Being Gwyneth Paltrow has opened a bunch of doors, but it did creates hurdles,” she said.

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“It would be hard for a commerce brand to have a Netflix show. But I’m involved so it’s a lot easier,” Paltrow added about her soon-to-be series “Goop Lab” on Netflix.

Paltrow also admits that she is outspoken “for better or for worse,” but she does not go around courting controversy.

“If you are in the news, and it’s driving traffic to your site, it’s usually not a bad thing,” Paltrow said.

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