TODAY Show and QVC personality Jill Martin has seen her career –– both in front of and away from the camera –– get a major upgrade during the pandemic, and it’s all because of her basement hustle.
Martin, who’s been with The TODAY Show for 13 years and QVC for 10, was sideline reporting at the New York Knicks game on March 11, 2020 –– her mother’s birthday –– when it became clear her and everyone else’s life would see significant changes for the foreseeable future.
Soon after, Martin, 45, began operating a multimillion-dollar broadcasting and fashion empire from the basement of her glamorous and spacious Hamptons home with makeshift studios.
“The past two years have been the messiest and there’s been such tremendous loss for everyone,” Jill, a 10-time Emmy winner, told Forbes via Zoom. “My personality is to try to find silver linings. I think we didn’t all realize what we were capable of and skill sets that lie in us that were able to be found, transformed and put into action.”
Martin’s basement setup allows her to be the “Jill of all trades” viewers have been accustomed to seeing take on different roles on The TODAY Show for many years as she fulfills her current TODAY Show and QVC obligations from the luxurious bunker.
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“I am the props department, the art department… I have a microphone here, I have a teleprompter, I have return, you can’t believe it,” said Martin, who worked her way up after being an intern for Live with Regis and Kathie Lee and an assistant to the executive producer on The Maury Povich Show.
Although she’s happy to make it into the studio occasionally these days, the ease of working at home seems to be an easier fit for Jill, as opposed to how things were pre-pandemic.
“I used to believe that working 24/7 equated to success and what I learned is, your mind needs to go bored in order for you to be your most creative,” Martin said. “That balance is very important in the formula for success. I was doing the Knicks, QVC, and The TODAY Show and literally, this isn’t an exaggeration, I was working seven days a week, 20 hours a day; so that was unrealistic.”
Jill used to take a two-hour ride to Pennsylvania for her seven minutes of airtime on QVC then sleep in the car on the way to The TODAY Show.
The comfort of working at home has allowed Martin to sell a lot of a very comfortable product she created, the Lounger Oversized Sherpa Hoodie, which she launched in the fall of 2019.
With the Sherpa Hoodie, which she proudly sported during our interview, Martin was able to cement her position as a top QVC producer by selling over 120,000 units in less than 24 hours.
“My goal was always the same: to make shopping and organizing and life easier, more accessible and elegant for the viewer. I’m not good at a lot of things, but my skill set allows me to do that,” Jill said of her stunning Sherpa success.
The product’s creation came two years ago after Jill asked a blanket manufacturer what their two best blanket materials were.
“I said I wanted to have some holes, I wanted to have a hood in case it’s raining, I don’t want any fit points, I don’t want it to be fussy, but what are your two best blanket materials? They said Sherpa and Wellsoft. I said great, we’ll make the outside Sherpa and we’ll make the inside Wellsoft,” Martin said of the hoodie’s birth.
The new sheik item was given out as a press gift for the 1883, a Yellow Stone Spinoff, premiere.
Jill has an analogy for her success with both products and broadcasting, throwing sticky spider toys at the wall.
“You have to take ‘No’ to get ‘Yes'”, she said. “I got in my life out of 1,000 spiders I threw at the wall, maybe 12 are sticking, but those 12 are major spiders. I would take all the nos, all the tears, and all the heartache for those yeses, but you have to have thick skin and the ability to take it which with me comes with getting older and getting more confidence.”
Martin also learned a lot from NBA executive and former coach and player Pat Riley when she worked as a sideline reporter for the Miami Heat 20 years ago.
“I say I’m sorry, I say I don’t know. Those are all important,” Jill said. “To say I don’t know is a very important and confident business approach. Pat Riley taught me this, he was my first boss at the Miami Heat.
“I asked, ‘What’s the best advice that you could give me?’ And he said, ‘I’m not the smartest person, but the things I don’t know, I surround myself with the people that are best at that.’ He’s not threatened by them, they’re the best at that. And I have taken that approach. If I don’t know something, I get the best person to do that.”
Recently, Jill’s “Steals and Deals” TODAY Show holiday special aired on Peacock. In her 12 years of hosting the twice monthly TODAY Show segment she’s brought in over $60 million in products sold through The TODAY Show‘s online store.
The criteria for “Steals and Deals”, which has long made it a success, are five or six items that fit into a theme, are at least 15 percent off, and that you can’t find anywhere else.
The success and national recognition of “Steals and Deals” paved the way for Jill’s latest TV project, Shop TODAY with Jill Martin, which airs monthly on NBC, and like most things she’s been up to the past two years, straight from her basement.
“It’s really ‘Steals and Deals’ pumped up,” Martin said. “It’s a half hour show of me by myself, which I’m used to talking by myself with QVC.”
Shop TODAY is broken up into four segments: “It List”, “Instant Refresh”, “Shop the Stars”, and “Buzzworthy”.
Jill was able to land a huge guest for the “Shop the Stars” segment of Shop TODAY when she took a shot in the dark and sent actress and Goop CEO Gwyneth Paltrow a message.
“She goes to the office every day, she tries every product, she was our first guest,” Martin said. “I actually DMed her and got a note to her to say, ‘I know I’m not a proven show yet, I want you as my first guest, I authentically use Goop, I use a lot of your products, would you please be my first guest?’ And she did.
“I was so grateful to her for that. She told us how the products came about and how Apple (Paltrow’s daughter) gets involved.”
Jill is co-hosting the Third Hour of The TODAY Show all week, filling in for Dylan Dreyer, who’s on maternity leave.