One of the most alluring aspects of beauty is the importance of both an individual’s inward and outward radiance. Jamie Kern Lima, founder of IT Cosmetics, is the essence of embodying authentic beauty. Despite its overwhelming success, however, it was initially rejected by the cosmetic industry due to Lima’s less-than-traditional take on beauty. But Lima relied on her intuitive ability to stay true to her purpose, overcome numerous obstacles and ultimately achieve enormous success.
A former Denny’s waitress, Lima relentlessly built her brand until she sold her company for more than $1.2 billion. She then became the first female CEO for a L’Oreal brand in their 100-year history.
She is the New York Times best-selling author of Believe IT: How to Go from Underestimated to Unstoppable (at the top of the charts for nine weeks) and donated all the proceeds from her book sales to charity.
The nation fell in love with her heart of gold at her recent virtual book launch, Becoming Unstoppable with Jamie Kern Lima, which aired from Tony Robbins’ studio. The free event attracted a record-breaking audience of over 217,000 who tuned in to hear a slate of high-profile speakers, such as Robin Roberts, Sara Blakely and Jay Shetty. The inspiring business woman talks to us about the power of believing in yourself, finding your path and sticking to what you believe in.
AUTHENTICITY ALWAYS PREVAILS
Jamie Kern Lima: It was a long journey even to get the partnership with L’Oreal. They acquired 100% of IT Cosmetics for $1.2 billion cash in 2016. I started the business in my living room and had always had the CEO title. We grew it to over 1,000 employees and went through years of hundreds of rejections. It was a really tough first several years. By the time we started meeting with L’Oreal, I just had this gut feeling that we were going to partner, but every meeting would end with a no. They would give advice and feedback. Some of it was really helpful, and some of it never felt authentic to IT Cosmetics.
By the time they did actually want to acquire us, it was because we created something that was so different from all of their brands. We used models of every age, shape, size, skin tone and skin challenge. We didn’t make crazy expensive packaging that no one could afford, we put really amazing formulas inside really accessible packaging. In those three years of meetings, I gained a great mentorship relationship with their head of acquisitions in North America. She had been with L’Oreal for 35 years at the time. When we actually did get bought by L’Oreal, initially they weren’t going to let me keep my CEO title. She actually ended up fighting really hard internally for me to keep it. When they did acquire us, I became officially the first woman to hold a CEO title in their 100-plus year history. I think this woman, Carol Hamilton, fought so hard for me to keep my title because I think she should have been the first woman to hold a CEO title based on her business and passion. We hear antiquated stories about women being competitive, but I think that when we all bring other women to the table, we all rise higher that way. I think it’s super important.
TRUSTING YOUR GUT AND QUIETING THE NOISE
Jamie Kern Lima: I don’t know if I really thought it wasn’t going to work out. I’ve done so many things wrong building the company, and I share a lot of those, too. One of the things I did right was develop this ability to be fearless about failing and getting rejected. Because of that, I was able to keep getting back up all of those times.
For example, I kept having a feeling that we were supposed to be on QVC. I was trying to change the beauty industry, using real women of all ages, shapes, sizes, skin tones, skin challenges, like me, with hereditary rosacea. Let me just show real people on national television, call them beautiful and mean it. Let me shift that definition of what beauty is.
For almost three years, QVC said no. We finally got this one shot for 10 minutes. We were only selling one to two orders a day, but we had to sell over 6,000 units of product to hit their sales goal or not come back. We had to take out a loan to fund the inventory. When that moment came and the clock started, I knew if it wasn’t going well, they could cut our time. We’d have to take all the inventory back and go bankrupt. But if someone was going to turn their television on and see me, I wanted them to see me showing women that look like them, calling them beautiful and meaning it even if they bought nothing.
I remember the moment my bare face, bright red rosacea came up on national television. I went over to all the different models. There was about a minute left in the presentation, and I didn’t know how it was going. I knew they hadn’t cut us yet. All of a sudden, I heard the host say, “The deep shade’s almost gone, the tan shade’s almost gone.” At the 10-minute mark, this giant “Sold Out” sign came up across the screen and I started crying. We built the biggest beauty brand in QVC’s history to this day.
Her True Story
Jamie Kern Lima: A lot of people think my story is “a Denny’s waitress turns billion-dollar entrepreneur.” That’s of course what happened in my journey, but my real story is a girl who went from not believing in herself to learning how to; a CEO who went from doubting she was qualified to knowing to trust her gut and vision. I think that when we learn how to do that, that’s how we go from underestimated to unstoppable. My hope and prayer is that this book inspires everyone to do that.
Jamie Kern Lima: I am so excited about everything with Believe IT. I said no for five years and when I finally wrote the book, I wrote every single of the 80,000 words. Right now, I’m in the space of just enjoying, celebrating and getting filled up. I’m trying to be where my feet are right now. I share in Believe IT that I realize that the deep-seated “not enough” mindset is something that I’m working on right now. That’ll probably be a lifelong journey, like it is for all of us, of truly feeling enough. I’m trying to just be right here, right now with everything happening with Believe IT. I feel so grateful.