At Vitiello Communications Group, we believe everyone’s story is worth telling. Wonder Women is a blog series that lets me introduce you to amazing businesswomen doing remarkable work. In this series, we amplify the success stories of women who live and work in New Jersey. Their contributions to the Garden State include professional, civic and personal endeavors that enrich our community. Meet Beth Burke, Owner and Executive Producer of BSTV Entertainment. Be sure to catch our new lightning round at the end of the Q&A.
Q: What’s one leadership lesson that’s helped shape your career?
A: Get out of your own way! When I was at HGTV, a woman who was significantly older than me got the VP job I wanted and felt I deserved. I was resentful, and disrespectful to her. To her credit she probably put up with my attitude for a lot longer than she should have. She called me into her office one day and said, “Beth, if you would stop resenting me for one minute, you might learn something.” I was so impressed by her honesty. It impacted me so profoundly because I realized I was acting as if I know everything. I don’t! Her honesty opened my eyes to getting out of my own way, and I’ve tried to do ever since. Don’t think you have all the answers — learn from the people around you — young, old, whoever it is.
Q: Given all your accomplishments, what advice would you give to a woman who aspires to achieve the level of success you’ve achieved?
A: You can’t be afraid to take chances. You must take that leap. For example, I had a steady corporate job, three small kids, but I wasn’t happy or fulfilled and I wanted to be my own boss, so I jumped and succeeded. Don’t be afraid. Go for it.
Q: What are the three traits that you think are vital to be a Wonder Woman in your industry?
A: It’s funny because the TV industry isn’t the same as when I started. You can watch TV on your phone, laptop, and iPad — so you have to be nimble and pay attention to your industry. I’ve been lucky enough to have some conversations with Bobbi Brown who lives in Montclair. She says, “Evolve or die.” Number 1 is keep evolving. Number 2 is connections and networking. It’s so easy with LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. Number 3 is being financially savvy. You need to be able to stand on your own and make your own money. That’s important whether it’s in a marriage or in a company.
Q: What services do you provide?
A: As a production company, we sell television shows. We come up with show ideas and pitch them to networks, just like you would pitch any client you want to be in business with. They buy your idea and then pay you to execute it. We’re always trying to come up with new ideas to sell to the networks. In the beginning when we didn’t have any money, my husband would edit all our shows. We did everything out of the house and tried not to fall into the trap like a lot of entrepreneurs do—getting the cool office and employing people. You have to do everything yourself until you make money. And even then you have to put money in the bank for a rainy day. This summer we’re celebrating our seventh year in business, and for five years we saved, saved, saved and did everything ourselves. My partner, Blake, and I are executive producers. Most production companies hire an executive producer at high rates. Not us; we did it ourselves. Now we’ve gotten to the point where we do hire executive producers, but they’ve got to be the best. It’s a niche profession, but at the end of the day, it’s a sales job. I believe in myself and when you have a couple of successes, the self-doubt starts to wear away. With success and age comes confidence, and one success leads to another.
Q: How do you use communication to lead and to grow your career and business?
A: Everyone loves email because it’s super quick and efficient, but I love a good phone call. Whenever I’m in the car on a trip I’ll always call someone, usually business friends or acquaintances. Of course you want to talk about business, but sometimes you want to talk about their kids, or a show that you watched. For me, one of the benefits of watching a lot of TV (for research) is to find what people like. I can talk to anyone about TV. That’s something I love to connect with people about, and I do it through a good phone call. Also, I love FaceTime. And in our office, we do happy hour a lot on Fridays, so I just love to walk around and talk to everybody.
Q: What personal quality fuels your most significant accomplishment?
A: I’m not sure if this is a personal quality, but it’s a personal motto: “you gotta bet on yourself.” That’s what I do all the time. Recently, my husband and I — well we have one bathroom in our house and three teenagers. A house that we wanted came on the market, and of course it was more expensive than we could afford, but we bought it. The day after we got the bid, I got an order for 26 more episodes of Trisha’s Southern Kitchen, which is one of our shows, and I thought – that just proves it. If I didn’t put the bid in, and we didn’t get the house maybe I would not have gotten that order. You have to bet on yourself and believe you’re going to succeed…and that’s what I do.
Q: What woman inspires you and why?
A: I am so inspired by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the U.S. Representative in Congress from New York. I think she’s an all-around badass, and she is so inspiring to me. As a young woman who is so articulate and smart, she’s trying to change the world. I continue to be impressed by her every single day. She rolls with the punches with such grace. I look forward to seeing what she does with her career.
New Jersey Lightning Round
From one Jersey girl to another, answer these questions:
Q: Taylor Ham or Pork Roll?
A: Taylor Ham.
Q: Wildwood or Seaside Heights?
Q: Yankees or Mets?
Q: Giants or Jets?
Q: Does Central Jersey really exist?
Do you have a question for Beth or me about being nimble in business? Ask it here in our comments or reach us on Twitter @baburke or @JillVitiello.