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AMY PORTERFIELD: “Jamie, Jamie, $1.2 billion, from an idea that you sketched out on an airplane, coming back from your honeymoon with your husband.”
JAMIE KERN LIMA: “Yeah. And an idea that everyone said sucked, for then, three years after.”
AMY: “Okay, do you guys hear that? Okay. That's the point of the story that gives me chills. She just said, ‘For an idea that everybody said sucked for three years and told me, no, no, no, no. You should do it like this. You should do it like that. Not like this.’ And she knew—there was a knowing in her. It didn't mean that the noes didn't hurt. It didn't mean that she probably started second-guessing once in a while here or there, while you're lying in bed, not wanting to get out. So all those emotions still happened, but you still had the knowing, and you stuck with it.”
INTRO: I’m Amy Porterfield, ex-corporate girl turned CEO of a multi-million-dollar business. But it wasn't all that long ago that I lacked the confidence, money, and time to focus on growing my small-but-mighty business. Fast forward past many failed attempts and lessons learned, and you'll see the business I have today, one that changes lives and gives me more freedom than I ever thought possible, one that used to only exist as a daydream. I created the Online Marketing Made Easy podcast to give you simple, actionable, step-by-step strategies to help you do the same. If you're an ambitious entrepreneur, or one in the making, who's looking to create a business that makes an impact and helps you create a life you love, you're in the right place. Let's get started.
AMY: Today, I'm so honored to have my friend join me and bring inspiration and tangible guidance on how to build a successful company from the ground up. Her name is Jamie Kern Lima, and she's the co-founder of IT Cosmetics, a billion-dollar makeup company. She has a motivating story and is truly an example of hard work, determination, and persistence. On top of that, she has a heart of gold. Jamie is going to share her journey and how she handled hearing, “No. No, thank you. Not at this time,” over and over again.
Now, the reason I think this topic of being resilient, even when you hear no, is so important right now during COVOD-19 is that you might get some resistance, right now, during a pandemic, in different ways than you're used to. So I knew this episode was going to be really relevant to where we are right now. You're probably going to hear people be more hesitant to take the leap and try out your service or try your product because they're just fearful. And I want you to hear what persistence looks like and what resilience looks like so that you can keep serving those that are fearful, but you're showing up for them in a bigger way because you know they need you. So I hope that this episode is a reminder to believe in yourself, no matter what anyone says or does, and remember that there are customers out there who need you right now. So if you do hear no, I want you to get back up, dust yourself off, and keep moving forward.
Also, Jamie’s going to share some of her top needle movers that she felt really helped her build her billion-dollar business. You're going to get so many ideas, and you're definitely going to be inspired in this episode, so get a pen and paper ready. I want you to take some notes. With that, please help me welcome my friend, Jamie.
Jamie, thank you so much for coming on the show. You don't even know. I am absolutely thrilled to have you here.
JAMIE: Amy, I am so excited. Thank you for having me.
AMY: Well, I have been a fan for so long, and now I feel very honored to say a new friend as well. And it is really special because I have wanted my audience to hear directly from you for so long. Now we're making it happen. So if you're okay with it, I want to start at the very beginning, and I want you to tell my audience a little bit about the business that you created and really the story of how it all came about.
JAMIE: Sure, yeah. I'm honored to be here and to share and, yeah, I mean, so many people out there, I'm sure so many women and men in your community, are sort of at that spot where either they're about to create a business or they're in the first couple years of it. And it's funny, Amy, because with my story, it's like a lot of times you see the outcome or read the headlines, and it seems like, oh, it must have been easy. She must have got lucky, or maybe it's like she comes from that kind of family or money or something, right? And it's like, oh, no, none of those things.
IT Cosmetics, really, the whole idea—and you and I have talked about calling an when things are on your heart to do or to show up and serve—the idea for IT Cosmetics really came out of that. I never knew I was going to go into the beauty industry, and I didn't know anybody in the beauty industry.
And I was working as a journalist, a television news anchor, because I just love other people's stories and telling their stories. And I thought I was going to do that my whole career. And I started getting hereditary rosacea, which is a skin condition that often makes your cheeks and your face bright red and kind of creates these patchy areas of skin that feel like sandpaper, and there's no cure for it. So I would be anchoring the news, and I would hear in my earpiece from the producer in the control room. He would say, “There's something on your face. There’s something on your face,” like expecting that I could just fix it in the live broadcast while [unclear 06:04]. And any time I would glance down in a little compact mirror in the commercial break or whatever, I was like, oh, it's the rosacea. It's the makeup breaking up and showing it coming through.
And it was kind of like, a lot of times as entrepreneurs—and some of us don't even know we're going to be an entrepreneur, but all of a sudden we realize, oh, wait, there's this problem that I need to solve or that no one solved or maybe that could really be of service to other people. And it was kind of a moment like that. At first I just thought, oh, I just need to find better makeup. So I would just spend my paycheck and try everything out there, from the department-store brands that are the most expensive to drugstore brands that are the least expensive. I would just try everything. And I realized, okay, either I have to put something on that is so thick that it's like a mask and I don't look like myself anymore, or it just won't cover it. It won't work.
And so at the time, there wasn't all of the ads that you would see out there where airbrushed, Photoshopped models where you didn't even know if they're wearing the product or if it worked. And I just couldn't find anything that would work. And so I kind of had this realization that there must be so many other people out there like me, that maybe they have skin challenges, or they're not makeup artists and they've given up on it, but they want to feel confident and feel like the best version of themselves, but just nothing will work. And so that was really when the idea was born, to create a makeup line and skincare line that wasn't just for people with perfect skin, but was for everybody, whether you want a coverage or not.
And my idea, Amy, which was really crazy—it doesn't sound crazy now—but just a few years ago, there weren't beauty influencers showing their bare skin. There was nothing like that. All you saw was sort of this certain type of beauty model, and we've seen that for decades. And so what was crazy, that I didn't know was crazy until every single retailer told me no for years, was that I wanted to show women of all different skin types and challenges and skin tones and ages and sizes, and I wanted to create products that would really work no matter what. And so I thought, okay, this is great. Nobody's doing this. It's so needed. And so I thought if I pour all of my savings into creating the best product ever, it'll be a home run.
And so I, on my honeymoon flight—my husband and I got married—on our honeymoon flight to South Africa, we wrote the business plan. Had very little money left in savings from our jobs. And I just thought, okay, let's go all in on this. And we quit our jobs, and we poured our money into making the best formula we could. And we hired a great advisory board. And I just thought, okay, when you launch it, it's going to sell.
AMY: I think so many of my listeners could really—I did the same thing. Like, of course, this is going to be a success, and…
JAMIE: Right? Oh, Amy, it was—I’ve worked really hard my whole life. I'm that girl that had four jobs, trying to buy my first car. Bagging groceries, selling popcorn. Like, I've always worked really hard, so I wasn't scared of hard work. But I think any entrepreneur can relate to this. I had no idea how hard it would be to be an entrepreneur in the sense that when it's your own thing, you can't just clock out and then just—you know what I mean?
JAMIE: It's always—you're responsible for everything. And it's obviously such an incredible journey, and you get so many freedoms and blessings with it. But it's such hard work. And so I was learning that really quickly. I learned really quickly that, oh, we were barely alive for three years. The first three years of our business, I couldn't pay myself. And it was super tough. I just thought, okay, I have this great product, because we created our first product that now is one of our best sellers is a concealer. And I thought, okay, it's just going to sell.
And I'll never forget. It was the first time I sent it to Sephora and Ulta Beauty and QVC, all the department stores. All of them said, “No. No, no, no. It's not right. It's not the right fit.” They would give feedback on our packaging, saying it needs to be much higher end. Women want to buy things that are aspirational, not inclusive and accessible, unless you want to sell in the drug stores. And I was like, no, no. The formula is really good, and I want it to be for every woman. I don't just want it to make people feel excluded or like it's unapproachable.
Anybody that's part of your community, listening now, one of the things I wish I had known back then was if you're doing something really different, really new, really novel, of course all the experts are not going to get it. It's never been done before. It's never proven to sell in their stores or online before. And that's kind of what happened. It was like I went through this first few years of just so many noes, no after no after no after no.
And I thought, okay, we're going to sell just online, fully. I’m like, this is going to be great. And my husband read the HTML for Dummies book, because when you’re starting out, you’ve got to figure out every job. You can’t afford to hire people yet, and you don’t know what you’re doing, but you just have to figure it out the best you can. And he developed our first website. And when it went live, I thought, this is going to be it. We’re going to sell so many—you know what I mean? It’s going to be great, and people are going to spread the word. And it went live, and the first day it went live, we had no orders. And the second day, no orders.
AMY: Did you think maybe it was broken?
JAMIE: I did. I told him—oh, my gosh, Amy, yes.
AMY: I would be like, something’s broken here.
JAMIE: It’s funny. When you work with a friend or family who you know really well, I just flat out said, “You did it wrong. It’s broken. You did it wrong.” Anyhow, several days had passed, and it's just one of the funniest moments that I look back on now. It wasn't so funny at the time. But I remember when we got our first order and I was running around the house, which was our apartment, which was our office, which was our living room, running around, screaming, so excited. Like, this is happening because we got our first order. And then he stopped me, and he's like, “That was me. I placed an order to prove to you it’s not broken.” It was just like, oh, my gosh.
I just remember, really quickly, the fear of how were we going to stay cash-flow positive, how are we going to stay in business? And it was super scary because we weren't getting traction from anybody. And I think that's one of the hardest things is when you're an entrepreneur or you're starting a business, whether it's online or a physical product, it's like one of the things that’s so easy to do is go, okay, who do I want to carry my product? Okay, in my case, it was Sephora, Ulta, QVC, department stores. And it's like, okay, they're the experts. They have hundreds of beauty brands.
And what's really hard is when all the experts are saying no. But then in your gut you just know you're supposed to do this. You feel like I'm—and every time they would say no—I mean, there are times, oh, my gosh, from QVC, from Sephora, where the noes were—I really thought it was going to be a yes, finally. And it would be a no. And I mean, I would cry myself to sleep. Because when everybody's doubting you, it's easy to let that sort of equate to self-doubt in your own head. And one of the hardest struggles, I think, when you're starting out is really being able to get still and just check in with yourself. For me, faith is a big part of my life, and I would just pray about it. And I hear God through my gut, through my gut feelings on stuff. And I just would get still, and I just kind of like had this certainty I was supposed to keep going, even though it didn't make sense and even though every expert was saying no or saying it's not going to work and even though in the beginning we weren’t getting any sales online. It’s like, oh, how much do I wish Online Marketing Made Easy existed and I was able to sign up for it back then.
AMY: I love that.
JAMIE: But I didn't know how to get people to the website, so the beginning years were really tough.
AMY: Tell me this. When you were getting noes, because you have this really good story—not so good, but it crushes your soul—but you're standing behind Sephora. You had just got another no, crying your eyes out. And in those moments when you're being told no, no, no, and you're saying—I know you have really strong faith, and I love that. And some people listening do; some people find that in other ways. But that knowing, when you have that knowing, like, “I'm supposed to stay the course. I'm supposed to keep moving forward,” do you still second-guess yourself? Do you still worry that maybe this won't work? And I genuinely mean this question—or does that go away?
JAMIE: Ooh, yeah. There were nights that were so difficult. And let me say this. Before that big no from Sephora, where I was crying my eyes out in downtown San Francisco on Market Street, I had been sending them product for a few years, and same with QVC and same with Ulta and department stores. So Amy, I would get so scrappy, and just in case this helps all your entrepreneurs listening, I would look up—once I would get a no from the head buyer or whoever, I would look up any person online, via LinkedIn, that work there, and I would send them product. I didn’t care what their job function was. So I had been hustling for a long time. I just felt like if people really tried this product, they would love it and they would spread the word. And so I would just send samples out after samples, just to everyone, and email everybody that I could find. And so by the time I got a meeting in Sephora, it felt like such a big deal, like it was going to happen.
And when I got there and went into the high-rise building—and it was hard to even afford the airplane ticket to get there—and when the head buyer there at the time, who's no longer there and no longer in beauty at all—and at the time, she was a big deal in that world, and I just remember she kept looking at my outfit. And I was like, what does my outfit have to— And I almost felt like—because I was raised in a family that—I was the first person family to go to college and paid for it myself and just all that. I wasn't raised around fancy spaces per se, and Sephora headquarters is beautiful and fancy. And I mean, I wasn't dressed in designer head to toe like a lot of people that were at the time. And I just remember, I'm like thinking, why does she keep looking at my outfit? I'm trying to talk about how this product's going to change women's lives.
And anyways, there was this moment in the meeting where I felt like everything was on the line in this meeting. If you've ever prepared for a big meeting, and you're just freaking out but trying to believe in yourself no matter what, that was kind of where I was at. And I just remember pouring my heart out in this boardroom. And I was saying like, oh—because at that point, we were getting a few orders a day on our website. And at that point, women were starting to post their own before-and-afters online. And I was like, this is great. And that's how we were staying alive as a business was just a couple orders a day.
And I said to her, women are loving this product, and they're spreading the word. Have you seen some of the sites online where people are posting their own pictures? And I was like, I think your customers will love this at Sephora. And I remember she stopped me, and she said, if women were talking about this product, I'd be hearing about it, and I'm not. I just looked at her, and I was like, okay. Oh, but they are. And it’s like, what do you do, right?
And I just remember it was a no, and that’s when I remember leaving the boardroom, trying to pack up. And I was in that elevator, going down—I can’t remember how many flights it was. A lot of flights—but the elevator was full. I didn't know if it was all Sephora employees. And I’d always dreamed of being in Sephora. So I remember the tears were welling behind my eyes, and I was trying not to cry. So I was like, I need to keep it together. I'm going to be in the store one day. And I was just holding back, and I got to the lobby. And I remember when the doors opened and I ran-walked as fast as I can in these heels out the door—which now I wear tennis shoes to meetings.
AMY: Rachel Hollis would be so proud.
JAMIE: Yes. I ran-walked out to Market Street, around the corner, and I just went right up against this brick, cement-like side of the building, and just sobbed. And I remember having to call Paulo, my husband, and say it was a no.
But there’s a lot of stories like that. What I love, what I hope, what I hope it gives hope is that there's this theme that I went through for a number of years, that I didn't understand at the time, but it was like all of these noes, it took a lot of years and it took a lot of hustle and grit and belief. But I eventually turned them all into yeses. And some of them were really crazy how it happened.
I remember with QVC—and here's the thing. Because all I was seeing around me all growing up at this time was just these Photoshopped, airbrushed, kind of fake images. I was like, you know what, QVC, which is a television channel that's broadcast live to 100 million homes, I'm like, because it's live, if I could ever get on QVC, I could prove live how this product works and show it and really take my makeup off and reapply it and show it live. And that had never been done before. It was always, traditionally, QVC had sold makeup by amazing makeup artists, many of whom are my friends, or they would sell just aspirational, kind of like after images. But you never saw women that look like me that had rosacea or that were different skin challenges or ages or whatever, skin tones. So I dreamed of that, and I thought, this is going to be perfect for QVC.
And I’ll never forget, Amy, it was like a couple years into sending my products to everyone I could possibly find at QVC and always getting a no, I finally got a phone call with the head guy of QVC. His name's Allen Burke. He was responsible for—he was given credit, and rightfully so, for transforming all of beauty on television. I don't know if you remember, but in the old days, when people thought like, oh, if you sell a product on TV, it's kind of cheesy. It's like buy now. And it's like, you know. And he transformed all of QVC beauty by making it much more—all the department-store brands to come on to QVC. And he just made it really the best place to shop for beauty, and to get him on a call was such a big deal. And I had been emailing forever. His assistant finally got me a call with him. And I remember I thought this was going to happen. This was my big break. I knew it. I felt it. I was praying like crazy.
And I remember when he called, and he was like, “Hello. This is Allen Burke from QVC.” And I was trying to keep it together. I’m like, “Hi, Allen. It’s Jamie Kern Lima. How are you?” Like, just trying to be confident. Meanwhile, I’m down to almost no money and not knowing what I’m going to do. And I just thought for sure this is it.
And I'll never forget. He got to the point super fast. And he said, I've reviewed your products with our buyers, and we've collectively decided you're not the right fit for QVC.
AMY: Oh, come on!
JAMIE: And I was like, oh, but I am the right—let me tell—and I just tried to pour my heart out to him. And he thanked me for loving QVC and all that. I’ll never forget. I hung up the phone, and I literally crawled in bed. And it was one of those moments where I felt it so strong in my gut, and I didn’t understand, after years of trying to get it, why this was happening. And I was like, “God, am I wrong? What is this?” Have you ever had bad news, and you wake up the next morning and you're hoping it's a dream?
AMY: Yes. And you have to live it all over again.
JAMIE: Yes. That happened for three days in a row with this because it just felt like the end of the world. And I just want to share that, and not to get way ahead or anything, but it's like when you look at—and that was just maybe seven years ago that all happened. And when you look at today, not only are we the largest beauty brand in QVC history, but to follow up on this one thing that I just really want everyone in your community to— I love full-circle moments. And even though sometimes we go through heartache and pain and rejection and underestimation, what ended up happening was after we launched on QVC, Allen Burke, the head of everything, became a mentor of mine.
JAMIE: Yep. He became a huge champion of our brand. He is so smart, and to get his guidance, our growth was the biggest gift. And then here's the wildest thing, Amy, is when he retired from QVC, and after he retired, we hired him on our advisory board at IT Cosmetics because he just is one of my dearest friends and mentors. There was this moment where I realized, oh, my gosh, the guy who rejected me is now working for me. Like, how crazy…—
AMY: So crazy.
JAMIE: —because he took a paid position on our… So it’s like all things are possible. And it's like, oh, my gosh, if I had known how hard it would be and just that when you're doing something that's different or that's new, not everyone's going to get it. And even the experts who you put on a pedestal aren't necessarily going to get it. Your friends and family may be—well, definitely—aren’t always going to get it. Because I think people see when they just read what happened with my business, they don't think, oh, this is how the journey was. You know what I mean?
AMY: Yeah. They never do. And I have a question for you about the whole QVC thing, because you tell a great story, and I want you to share it here, about your idea of featuring different women, and they weren't down for that. And so I want you to tell that story. And how do you listen to your gut when literally leaders in the industry are telling you, “This is wrong.”? Talk to me about that.
JAMIE: Well, yeah. It was probably one of the hardest, most defining moment in my whole career so far was that decision of sticking with your own authenticity versus—and especially when everything's on the line. And I think now, in days with everything online and with social media, it's so easy to get distracted by what other people are doing or what looks like it's selling well or converting well. And that's all good. It's good to know that stuff. But the temptation of diluting your own authenticity to do that to me is the worst thing an entrepreneur can ever do, because you can’t—I mean, what I know now, it's easy to say this now. And that's the thing, Amy, is I’ve now seen thousands of founders, brand founders, company founders, go on air on QVC, and the ones who are the same on air as they are in the green room, it’s for better or worse, they're the ones that last because customers are smart. You can't fake authenticity, right? And you see all the research out there about this. There's thought leaders like Brené Brown talking about it, that when you don't show up as you're 100 percent authentic self, it's impossible to have an authentic connection with another person, which includes customers. And I think once people realize that it's the source of freedom, because even though so-and-so might be doing this online or that online or copied your product or copied your idea, at the end of the day, I’ve learned it doesn’t matter, because nobody out there can be you, and it does not serve you to be like anybody else. You know what I mean?
JAMIE: It just doesn’t. And it's like there's a freedom in knowing that. But before I had learned that, how I learned that was in the launch on QVC, one of the scariest, sick-to-my-stomach, crying-for-days, freaking-out moments, that also became a defining moment in my life, a defining moment that changed the course of the future of IT Cosmetics and the beauty industry. And it all came down to this one chance, this one shot in this ten-minute window. And basically, long story short, after years of sending the product in and getting all the noes and hearing no from my amazing friend Allen, hearing no from everybody—which, by the way, let me just say one thing. Had he said yes at the time, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. We were not operationally sophisticated enough to handle the backend demand of a business like QVC.
AMY: What a silver lining.
JAMIE: Yes. Now that I know what I know, that no was a blessing. We would have gone out of business. We could not have handled the manufacturing piece at that time. But I didn't know it. All I knew was I was crying my eyes out for three days.
So anyhow, after years of the noes, we finally got a yes, to get one shot on QVC and have a ten-minute segment, a live ten-minute segment. And that seems like, okay, cool. But the reality, the business side of it, the entrepreneurial side of it was that we were only selling two, three orders a day on our website, and to hit the sales goal of QVC for that ten-minute window, we had to manufacture and package and repackage in their packaging 6,000 units of our concealer to sell in ten minutes. And had we not been getting noes from everyone for years, we wouldn't have taken that risk, because we had to borrow money to do it. And had it not worked in that ten-minute window, if it didn't work, we'd go out of business. And it was so scary, but it almost felt like I had exhausted every option, and we were finally getting one shot, and we decided to take that risk. And what it meant was, we had this ten-minute window where you go live.
And the thing that's scary is it's consignment. I'm beauteous consignment on QVC. So you pay for all of the product, and then you don't get paid until after it sells, and you only get paid for what sells.
AMY: Geez. Pressure.
JAMIE: Pressure. So if you go on air, and let's just say half of it sells, you have to take back the other half, you missed their sales goals, you're not going on air again, and you most likely didn't make enough money to cover the cost of everything. So it's very scary.
But anyhow, it really was all down to this one moment. And after years of all the noes, we decided to say yes and take this opportunity. So, we borrowed money. We manufactured 6,000 units of our concealer and did all the stuff, all those expenses that add up, the third-party clinical testing, all the things you have to do, because QVC is the strictest retailer in terms of safety that I've ever worked with, which now I know is a blessing. At the time, I was like, how do I navigate this? You know what I mean? So we did all that.
And then here was what happened with kind of the defining moment and one of the greatest entrepreneurial lessons I've ever learned. We started meeting with these outside consultants. So they're third-party consultants, and they're not employees of QVC. But what they do is they have businesses where they help you have success selling on television. And they help so many people, and they're so good at what they do. And we met with them, a few different ones, and they all said the same thing, which is, okay, if you want to have any shot at doing well and hitting that sales goal, here's the formula you need to do for your presentation, which included this certain type of model, which was almost all early twenties with perfect, flawless, no-skin-issue skin, and no diversity. And I'm like, okay. And they're saying this because traditionally that had been what worked. And I said to them, okay, but here's the thing. I created this product to work on people that have real skin issues and all ages and skin tones. And it's like if I'm—and I would argue with them. I'm like, if I'm sitting at home, and I'm seventy years old, watching this, or I'm fourteen years old or whatever it is, battling acne or this, how do I know this product's going to work for me if I don't see somebody who looks like me? And it just didn't make sense in my gut.
And here's a thing, like they thought I was crazy. I'm like, I want to show my bare face, my bright red rosacea, and just prove live how the product works. And they thought I was insane. And they wanted us to win. They were giving me the best advice they knew how, which is, here’s what’s always worked, and here’s what we recommend.
And here's the thing. I didn't have the luxury of trying it both ways. You know what I mean? I knew I had one shot, and it was like everything was on the line, meaning it would have been the end of IT Cosmetics had it not gone well. And it was so tough.
And I went and I sat in a parking lot, in the QVC parking lot, because QVC is thirty minutes west of Philadelphia. So I flew cross country, sat in this rental car, the cheapest economy rental car I could find, which is a blessing to have a rental car, but I sat in that car. I flew out a week early, and I drove to their parking lot every day. Somehow, it made sense at the time to me. And I just sat there. I just watched people walk in and out of the front door. It's a huge campus there. And I just prayed and cried and tried to envision everything going well, like the way an Olympic athlete does with their performance.
And I remember channeling Oprah. I was like, okay, I remember the time Oprah said she wanted The Color Purple so bad that she ran around the track, singing I Surrender All, and crying, and asked God to take it from her. No joke, Amy. I sat in that car, crying, singing I Surrender All, asking God to take— It felt so heavy on my shoulders, where I was like, oh, my gosh. Like, I wasn't nervous for the TV part, but everything was on the line.
And what it came down to—and Amy, I know with your business, you have the blessing of seeing your customers live all the time and talking with them and interacting with them, and at that point, I sat there, and I remember thinking, who is this woman that's going to be watching? And I would imagine different women from all over the country. And I would imagine all the women in my family, every woman I know, so many women have forgotten that they are beautiful. They've forgotten that they matter. They haven't seen images that look like them that are called beautiful. And I just had this big moment come over me where I just felt in every ounce my being, I would rather take my shot and try to shift culture and the beauty industry to one that is inclusive, one that isn't this unattainable aspiration that just makes you feel bad. And like, I would rather have a single mom folding her clothes in Nebraska look up at that television and feel beautiful, even if she doesn't buy anything. It wasn't even that. It was I want her to look up and see me calling all of these women models, aspirational models, that look like her, that look like me. I would rather do that than do what everyone else had done and maybe sell a ton of product but stand for nothing, because my why was bigger than the money or than being a successful entrepreneur. It was like, oh, no. I started this business because no one was talking to women like me or creating products that actually solved our issues. And so it's like for me, it all came down—and it's easy to go, oh, yeah, I believe in my mission. But when your whole company’s on the line and experts are telling you, it’s like, that’s when it’s real.
And I walked in the building for our ten-minute window. And I remember—and here's the scary thing, Amy, is when you're ten minutes, when you go live, if you're not doing well, they will cut your time live in the middle of your segment.
JAMIE: Oh, yeah. Because every minute of air time matters. And you're not just competing with beauty; you have to hit—and I understand it's a business, and it is a blessing because they move so much product—but it's like you're competing with everybody that could sell in that minute of their time. So Dyson vacuum, Apple iPhone, like you have to sell and hit sales goals, which I understand. But it just makes it scary because you don’t want to be live—and your minutes start, you start at ten minutes—all of a sudden at nine minutes, if it’s not doing well, your clock jumps to two minutes. And you’re freaking out. And you’re supposed to have fun on air. You’re not supposed to sell. But you’re like—I don’t want to swear on this podcast, but that’s what you’re really thinking, right? I mean, it’s hard.
So, anyhow, I walked into the building, and I met with the host, and she was amazing. And I remember that I was freaking out and shaking like a leaf. I had this whole demonstration planned on my wrist, where I bend it back and forth to show how the other concealers in department stores crease and crack but ours doesn’t. And I had this whole thing planned.
And when the clock went live, at the ten-minute mark, and all of a sudden, it’s at nine fifty-nine, nine fifty-eight, and my whole body was like a heartbeat, beating, freaking out. And I was trying to do this demonstration that I’d practiced in my bathroom mirror a million times. And my hand was shaking so bad that the host grabbed it and pushed it under the podium, and she’s like, “Thank you, sugar.” And then she took over. And I remember my bright red rosacea, my whole bare face came up on national television. And I had booked models of all different skin tones, ages, skin challenges. And I remember it was like the nine-minute mark, and the host says, “The deep shade is sold out. The medium shade is sold out.” And I’m like, oh! I’m, like, swearing in my head and freaking out. And I kept going.
And then at the ten-minute mark, the Sold Out sign came up, and I just started crying. And then I remember I started crying, tears streaming down my face. I did not wear waterproof mascara. I don’t know what I was thinking. I had these black tears coming down my face from my mascara. And then I remember my husband came running from the greeting room into the studio. And he’s like, “We’re not going bankrupt.” And I’m like, “Real women have spoken!” And that one airing turned into five that year, 101 the next year, and then we do 250 live shows a year on QVC now.
AMY: Geez. And the biggest beauty brand on QVC.
JAMIE: Yeah. In their history. Why that matters is because anyone out there listening who is trying to do something different and just isn't getting the yeses or the excitement or the reception they're hoping for, it’s like, had I ever changed—
And I remember when all the retailers were telling me to change my packaging. It wasn’t prestige or high end enough. Or change our models because they thought you can’t use real women and still charge a high price point. I look back on all of that, and it’s like, had I listened, had I changed who I was and what our why was for any of those retailers or experts, I would've never created a business that has changed so many people's lives and, I hope, played a part in really shifting culture in the beauty industry.
And Amy, today all of the retailers and department stores who said, “You can't use these types of model,” now they're all using every type of woman.
AMY: Isn’t it beautiful?
JAMIE: Yes, yes. And it’s like, oh! But of course that makes sense in our gut. Why wouldn’t you do that, right? So it’s like, okay. And to me, there's millions of opportunities for entrepreneurs and for people with creative ideas. And they know, why wouldn't someone do this? This makes sense. And it's not always easy when you have a novel idea, but it's the only way to ever truly shift culture or build incredible businesses that truly matter or make a difference in people's lives.
AMY: Yes. It's so true. Here's the deal. I have some questions for you. But before we get there, even though I said in the intro, tell people kind of, so what happened? So you started to see all the success. QVC was a smashing success. Talk to people about where you took the business, that shift that happened with L’Oréal, and now where you are today. Just tell me that quickly, because I have some questions for you before we wrap up, but I want them to hear kind of where you took it.
JAMIE: So, here's the real raw truth is that the headlines are great, and we turned every no into a yes. And I also worked 100-hour weeks for ten years and got very burnt out. I pray every day I didn't do serious damage to my health. The biggest mistake I made was that I didn't at the time know how to do what I was doing and still be a good owner of a body and a good owner of a mind. And the only thing I feel like I did well for a decade was build an incredible business and love our customers. And by the way, a lot of people do that. And I have a lot of family members that’ve worked so hard their entire life, but they didn't have a great outcome. So it’s so important to protect your health, mental and physical health, your peace, your family, your marriage. That’s the kind of thing that I sacrificed during this ten-year window, working 100-hour weeks. And my husband did as well. All of us were just so all in.
With that said, QVC—I was doing 250 live shows a year myself for eight years. And I eventually trained three other women. They spent three years with me, going to shows. They now carry the weight of the QVC business. One of them took over most the shows. But having said that, it was 100-hour weeks. I was living, basically, in the QVC green room and staying over 100 nights a year at the Sheraton Hotel there, right by QVC, and trying to build the business at the same time and fly out to retailer meetings and Ulta meetings. And so we got a yes from Ulta, and we grew, actually, to be their number-one brand in their store, which is crazy because, again, it was three years, four years, four years of noes. We got a yes from Sephora, and the team that, the one woman who—she wasn't there. She left the beauty industry, but the team that is there is so incredible, and it's like, oh, my gosh, sometimes I feel like God moves people out of the way and into our path just at the right times. And it was like, okay, the team there is amazing. And got into department stores. And we grew to be the second-largest luxury makeup company in the country, which is wild.
AMY: Out of your apartment.
JAMIE: Yeah. And hired over 1,000 employees across the country, full time, part time, lot of freelance team education, and just kind of built this thing that touches millions of women’s and men's lives every day. And I loved our mission, and that's really what kept me going. What was really hard when we started expanding internationally, I was like, oh, wow. Every country is so different with their H.R. laws and their regulatory compliance laws, and it became so difficult to scale quickly in a product, a physical-product-based business, where you need people on the ground as well to educate.
And as we were growing and trying to navigate that international growth, we were kind of at this moment in time where I was also super burnt out. And I was like, okay, well, we could go public, because we had a lot of investors and bankers coming to us saying, do you want to go public with IT Cosmetics? And the thing about going public is it's super sexy to ring the bell and all that on Wall Street, but I talked to a lot of public companies’ CEOs, and they all had said to me, if you don't have to do it, don't do it, because your life actually gets way more stressful. You're now dealing with quarterly earnings calls and people trying to short your—everything, right? And just the stress of being a public company’s CEO. So I was like, okay, I don’t know that we want to do that, because I really couldn’t take on any more.
And then the other option we had was, well, what if we partner with a large beauty company like L’Oréal, who's already in over 100 countries, can get with people on the ground, who understand the culture and the local sensitivities and the regulatory issues, all that. If we did that in our message, which is why we did this to begin with, our whole message and the impact we wanted to have, not just on women, but especially on women, but women and men everywhere, could scale so much faster if we partner with L’Oréal.
And I remember the first time we met with L’Oréal, and I thought, oh, they're going to buy our company. And then that didn't happen. And it was actually three years of meeting with them, and they had said no. We were interested, and they had said no a couple times as well. And in the early years, they actually also advised that we change some of our packaging and things like that because it was just so different than what everyone else was doing. But we stuck to our guns, and three years into meetings with them, they decided they wanted to buy 100 percent of our company. And by that point, it was just kind of this moment in time where, all of a sudden, we went from not really anybody interested in acquiring us to this moment happened in the marketplace where we were just getting inundated with different companies wanting to—were interested in acquiring us. And so all of a sudden, we had this competitive tension, which drove the price way up, which is like such a blessing and just wild, right? Because it was like we were ten—let me see. No, eight, eight years, nine years into our business, and I was like, okay, the first three, I couldn't pay myself. We got down to under a thousand dollars in our company bank account, and all of a sudden, six years later, there's this bidding war happening. And it's like, oh, my gosh. And I just couldn't believe—
I don't know, Amy, if I've still processed what happened, but here's what happened. L’Oréal acquired 100 percent of our business, and because they're a public company, they released the purchase price and all that, and it was their largest U.S. acquisition in L’Oréal history. So they paid $1.2 billion cash for the business. They made me their first female CEO to ever hold a CEO title in their hundred-plus-year history. And they—
AMY: Jamie, Jamie, $1.2 billion, from an idea that you sketched out on an airplane, coming back from your honeymoon with your husband.
JAMIE KERN LIMA: Yeah. And an idea that everyone said sucked, for then, three years after.
AMY: Okay, do you guys hear that? Okay. That's the point of the story that gives me chills. She just said, “For an idea that everybody said sucked for three years and told me, no, no, no, no. You should do it like this. You should do it like that. Not like this.” And she knew—there was a knowing in her. It didn't mean that the noes didn't hurt. It didn't mean that she probably started second-guessing once in a while here or there, while you're lying in bed, not wanting to get out. So all those emotions still happened, but you still had the knowing, and you stuck with it.
And so that's why one question I wanted to ask you about all of this is that what do you think really helped you move the needle forward in your business throughout, from the beginning on the plane to where you were bought by L’Oréal, that you thought—what were some of the things that you just knew moved the needle or kept you in the game so that you could see that success?
JAMIE: I think the word knowing. I've never—you know what's funny, Amy? I don't think I've ever had a conversation about this, but that word knowing. I think if I were really to come down to it, trusting that knowing and, you know, I mentioned earlier for me that comes from my faith. For other people, it could come from the universe, their own intuition. To me, everybody has this knowing. Every person. And sometimes when we think we have a knowing and then we're wrong, I believe when that happens, it's just that it's a lesson the universe needs us to learn that we haven't learned yet, and we're still, we still had the right knowing, because we needed to go through it. But anyhow, I feel that that knowing and just always going back to that.
Now, listen, there’s practical, non-sexy things like, okay, we did everything possible to stay cash-flow positive. And what I mean by that is in a world where everyone has things looking amazing on Instagram and everything's so successful and their events are so beautiful, we took the scrappy route. I mean, I didn't do anything glamorous or sexy or Instagramable for many years, because our number-one priority was we have to stay cash-flow positive and stay alive.
So we stayed narrowly focused on our why even when it wasn't cool, even when we risked short term missing out on a promotion, missing out on a short-term spike in sales. We stayed focused on our why, and what we ended up building was customer trust, because our customers knew, oh, when IT launches a product, it's going to work. It's not just a trend. It's going to—you know what I mean? And that trust built. And I think keeping that long-term focus on the brand equity you have and not getting distracted by what anyone else is doing or whatever's trending, whatever is hot—and again, sometimes it's great data to know that stuff, for sure. And then if you can do it in a way that's authentic to you, then go for it.
The last thing I’ll say just comes down to the knowing. And I think that's a big struggle and especially for women, because women were raised almost to not trust ourselves or to not do things unless they're perfect or to second-guess our knowing or to need other people's opinions or approval. Women second-guess ourselves all the time. But we all—women and men—all have this knowing deep down inside. And I think it's a challenge for everyone, but especially women, that a lot of times we don't feel enough or we don't feel qualified to be a business expert or to launch our own business or anything else.
And I think if you have a calling on your heart, if deep down inside you have a knowing that you're supposed to do something—and by the way, maybe your calling isn't your business. Maybe it’s you’re going to break a generational cycle in your family of complacency or addiction. Or maybe it's you're going to change how you parent, and you're going to change the course of generations to come. It could be anything. But when you have a knowing deep down inside, I believe that that's your calling.
And there's really famous words that I like to think about a lot that says this, and especially if you are somebody that struggles with feeling qualified a lot of times, these words help me whenever I start doubting myself or start feeling like I'm not qualified for something, which I felt a million times in this journey, by the way, of building IT Cosmetics. But famous words that say God doesn't call the qualified; He qualifies the called. I just think if you really know deep down inside you're supposed to do something, I think that's a calling. And I think that you're born then with everything you need to do it. It's all in you already. And I think one of our greatest journeys in life is figuring out how to learn to believe that for ourselves.
AMY: Yes. You put it so beautifully. And I love that we've touched on this idea of knowing, even though that wasn't really the plan, but it's so perfect. And some people listening, they might be saying, “But I don't have that knowing.” And I believe that if you get quiet enough and you really allow yourself to explore that, that you will find that thing that you are called to do. And so I just want to put that out there.
Jamie, I cannot thank you enough for coming on the show. You know I was such a fan. I love you so very much. I love our new friendship and the fact that we get to text each other and check in with each other. And you have been so supportive of me in my business. So I just want to tell you, I appreciate you very, very much. And I really appreciate you coming on the show.
JAMIE: Oh, Amy, thank you so much. I am so grateful for our friendship, too, and grateful to you. Hopefully, be of service in some way with your community today. It's just it's an honor and my greatest joy. It tells me I'm where I'm supposed to be, because this is just so fulfilling for me, also, and, I hope, of service. And thank you for your friendship and for having me on and for everything you’re doing.
AMY: Oh, my gosh. I love it. Where can people find you online?
JAMIE: You know, for me, Instagram.
AMY: Yes. You're so good at Instagram.
JAMIE: Oh, I’m just starting, because for so long, we have teams for IT Cosmetics to do all of our channels and our website. And for me personally, I’m personally on my own Instagram, which is Jamie Kern Lima. So that's the place where I'm at, and if anyone has questions or wants to share stories or any of any of that stuff. So thank you so much.
AMY: Perfect. Go check her out, for sure, you guys. You're going to love every minute of inspiration and motivation and really just support that she gives on Instagram. So go follow her right now.
And thanks again, Jamie. I can't wait to connect with you again soon.
JAMIE: Thank you, Amy.
AMY: Bye for now.
AMY: So there you have it. Thank you so much for joining me today. I hope you're feeling totally inspired by Jamie and her story of persistence and continued faith in her business and in herself. Keep that in mind as you move forward in whatever actions you need to take in your business this week.
And also, before you go, have you left me a review or a, hopefully, five-star rating? If not, I’d be so grateful if you just take a moment right now and give me a rating if you loved this episode or if you love this podcast.
All right, guys, thanks so much. I'll see you same time, same place next week. Bye for now.