When Gwyneth Paltrow hired former Martha Stewart CEO Lisa Gersh to help run her startup Goop, she says she gained not only a partner, but a teacher. “It’s been incredible to learn how to run a business and to have a partner who is also my mentor,” Paltrow told Katie Couric at the Fast Company Innovation Festival today.
Now, Gwyneth Paltrow is paying it forward to the next generation of newsletter-driven, female-centric endeavors by mentoring Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner as they ramp up their own email project, Lenny. “I talk to them all the time. I’m their Lisa Gersh–a much dumber version,” Paltrow joked.
“Jessica and Reese are friends of mine…I think it’s wonderful. We’re living in such an exciting time where women feel that they have the capability and the permission to expand and to go into different areas,” Paltrow said. “It’s wonderful to see women feeling entrepreneurial and bullish about what they can bring to the market and to the culture.”
Couric also asked the Goop founder if she worried about competition from other celebrity brands.
“No, I really don’t,” Paltrow said, “My mother [actress Blythe Danner] really raised me not to be competitive. I remember when I was first starting acting, feeling competitive: ‘Oh no, if I don’t get this part, that’s it.'”
But Danner told her daughter that “there’s really a piece of the pie for everybody, and you just need to focus on what you’re doing, you need to work hard, and don’t look to the side because you know you want everybody to do well,” Paltrow said. “I think we all are doing very different things, we all are focused on different markets and so I think it’s great and we help each other.”
For her part, Gersh believes that brands gain their strength not simply by being attached to famous names, but for what they stand for. “I think you look at businesses that are being launched, I know they’re associated with celebrity, but they’re really associated with a set of values,” she told Couric. “A brand is a set of values, so you look at Gwyneth’s values, everyone understood what that was, they understood the aesthetic, whether it was the conditioner for your hair, whatever it was, you understood what those sets of values were,” Gersh continued, referencing Paltrow’s propensity for pared-down, high-end style. “You look at Reese [Witherspoon’s Draper James], everyone understands it’s a Southern sensibility, everyone associates with that.”
“When you’re thinking about it,” Gersh continued, “whether you’re a celebrity or anyone else, you need to have that set of values before you can go off and build a business, because you’re building it around a brand, which is a set of values. Once you have that set of values, you can start to build a business around it–I think you have to first figure that out.”
Keep up with the Fast Company Innovation Festival on our live blog.