Emma Grede is a self-proclaimed bookworm.
"There's nothing I love to do more than read," the 39-year-old co-founder and CEO of denim-brand Good American, and founding partner of shapewear-apparel line SKIMS, tells CNBC Make It.
Grede recently appeared on ABC's business reality show "Shark Tank" for its season 13 premiere, making history as the show's first-ever Black woman investor to join the panel.
Her path to success started at age 26 when she launched her own marketing agency, ITB Worldwide. She quickly landed major brands like Dior as clients, opening the door to celebrity clients like Natalie Portman and Kris Jenner.
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From there, Grede launched two apparel lines with Kardashian sister, partnering with Khloé Kardashian on size-inclusive denim line Good American in 2016 before co-founding SKIMS with Kim Kardashian two years later.
Throughout each of her ventures, Grede says, she relies on the guidance of a few key books she constantly keeps by her side. Here's what you'll find on her bookshelf:
1. 'What They Don't Teach You at Harvard Business School: Notes from a Street-smart Executive'
By Mark McCormack
Grede is no stranger to landing the deal, a skill that author Mark McCormack details at length in his book.
Books like this one, Grede says, gave her the confidence to approach and land clients like Kris Jenner. Grede's relationship with Jenner later helped her connect with Jenner's daughter to launch Good American, which pulled in $1 million in revenue on its launch day alone, according to Glamour UK.
McCormack is credited as the founder of the modern-day sports marketing industry. On a handshake with golfer Arnold Palmer and less than $1,000, he launched global sports, events and talent management company International Management Group (IMG). Over a four-decade period, McCormack grew the company into a multibillion-dollar enterprise.
Grede says this a must-read to develop negotiation skills, which she says helped propel her own success.
2. 'Principles: Life and Work'
By Ray Dalio
This is one for your highlighter, Grede says, noting that she's filled her copy of the book with Post-it notes to highlight various "little gems of wisdom" that she likes to return to from time to time.
Those gems include learning how to recognize your weaknesses, clear your mind of distractions and "fail well." Ray Dalio is one of the world's most successful investors and entrepreneurs — and the book contains the principles he developed, refined and used for more than 40 years.
"This is one I constantly reread," says Grede.
3. 'Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't'
By Jim Collins
Can people turn mediocrity into superiority, even if the odds are stacked against them?
That's a burning question for author Jim Collins and his 21-person research team. Together, they read 6,000 articles and generated more than 2,000 pages of interview transcripts in a five-year study of company performances.
Collins identified a set of elite companies that had made the transition from "good to great" in terms of their stock price significantly outpacing the market average — and then sustained that performance for at least fifteen years. Then, he laid out the skills and characteristics that helped them pull it off.
"It's just a mind-expanding kind of book I think anyone should read," Grede says. "Not just those in business."
4. 'Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents'
By Isabel Wilkerson
"Less on the business track," Grede says. "But I also think it's important especially given the moment and the context that we're in as a country right now."
"Caste" posits that an unspoken caste system has shaped America and examines how lives today are still defined by a hierarchy of human divisions — based on race, class, bloodlines, stigma and more.
In 2020, Oprah Winfrey gifted 500 CEOs and leaders copies of "Caste," which compares America's racial hierarchy to the caste systems of India and Nazi Germany.
"This is a book for all of humanity and it is necessary for people who are leaders in our country to understand the origins of our discontent and what caste really means," Oprah said on "CBS This Morning" at the time.
"[Caste] is probably one of the most important books of our time," says Grede. "And I would recommend that everybody read [it]."
Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect that Grede was 26 when she launched ITB Worldwide.
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