Foundr Journal publishes in-depth interviews with the world’s biggest entrepreneurs. Our articles spotlight key takeaways from every month’s cowl characteristic. We talked with Jamie Kern Lima, founding father of IT Cosmetics, about how a last-minute resolution led to a multi-billion greenback enterprise. To learn extra, subscribe to the journal.
Jamie Kern Lima sat in her parked automotive outdoors the QVC studios in West Chester, Pennsylvania. She watched individuals stroll out and in of the constructing and started to cry.
For 2 years, she had despatched samples of her make-up model, IT Cosmetics, to the stay procuring community solely to fulfill with rejection. In actual fact, she had been sending her merchandise to each outlet she may consider with out a lot success.
“I believed in them a lot. And you understand, I despatched them to each retailer, each division retailer, each magnificence retailer, and on-line retailer QVC,” Lima, the CEO and co-founder of the now multibillion-dollar firm, says. However an opportunity assembly at a commerce present with a QVC host lastly put her on their radar.
Now, she would have only one 10-minute spot to promote her merchandise. She and her husband, Paulo, who can be a co-founder, had sunk all their cash into this one shot.
That they had taken out a mortgage to purchase 6,000 items from their producer, the minimal QVC mentioned they wanted for the slot. And what they didn’t promote, they must take again. Up till that time, they’d solely been promoting two or three merchandise a day on the web site Paulo had constructed utilizing a guide from the Dummies collection.
The following time she walked by means of these doorways, her life could be modified. She simply didn’t know which means it will go. If the items offered, it will be the start of a brand new chapter for the corporate. In the event that they didn’t, the corporate could be bankrupt.
Fixing Her Personal Drawback
IT Cosmetics began, like so many profitable firms, as an answer to Lima’s personal issues. Lima suffers from rosacea, a pores and skin situation that causes redness, seen blood vessels, and small bumps on the face.
“My cheeks, my brow, my nostril—every thing would get actually, actually pink and bumpy,” Lima says.
As a pupil on the College of Washington, she labored at a Safeway grocery store and as a server at Denny’s. “I began spending my whole paycheck on merchandise. I attempted every thing on the market from the costliest to the least costly, and nothing would work.”
After graduating from Columbia Enterprise Faculty, Lima landed her dream job as a morning information anchor in her dwelling state of Washington. However her make-up was no match for the new studio lights.
Someday, whereas she was on the air, her producer got here on her earpiece.
“There’s one thing in your face. Wipe it off.”
It was her rosacea. The studio lights had been inflicting her make-up to interrupt aside, and there was nothing she may do about it. She feared she could be fired if she didn’t discover one thing that labored underneath the HD lights.
“I had a giant downside that I couldn’t resolve.”
“And I form of had this large ‘aha’ second the place I used to be like, ‘Oh my gosh, there’s a whole bunch of firms on the market that do that and none of them work for me.”
She figured in the event that they didn’t work for her, there have to be different individuals on the market who had the identical downside.
In 2007, on the aircraft to their honeymoon in South Africa, she and her husband sketched out the marketing strategy for IT Cosmetics. After they received again, Lima give up her job as a information anchor, and so they launched the corporate out of their lounge.
Betting on the ‘Why’
The following yr, after partnering with plastic surgeons and dermatologists, she had her first merchandise.
She pitched and despatched samples wherever she may, however nobody was biting. The corporate started to wrestle. They constructed a web site and launched a direct-to-consumer (DTC) mannequin, however even then, just a few orders trickled in every day, and that was after weeks of no orders in any respect.
“It’s damaged,” she recollects telling her husband, who had constructed the positioning from scratch. “There’s no means this web site’s working. We’re simply getting no orders. The product is just too good. This went on and on and on. After which I’ll always remember the day of our very first order. I used to be screaming and working round the lounge, so excited.”
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Now, right here she was, taking a shot on QVC and praying her merchandise would promote.
For a second, she contemplated backing out of the phase as a result of she was so fearful she would run into extra rejection. In spite of everything, if the make-up didn’t begin to promote within the first two minutes of the phase, QVC would pull the plug and transfer to a different product.
The stress was nearly an excessive amount of.
However Lima had caught by her product this lengthy as a result of she knew what her “why” was.
“We hear so many superb thought leaders speak about your ‘why’ and figuring out the ‘why’ of what you are promoting, your model, your mission,” Lima says.
“What I do know now, as a result of I’ve had the reward of assembly hundreds of entrepreneurs through the years, [is] their ‘whys’ aren’t robust sufficient. They haven’t really finished the work to peel again the layers and go deeper.”
Lima had dug deeper into her “why” on the inception of the corporate. On the floor, she had created IT Cosmetics figuring that if she had an issue discovering make-up that coated her rosacea, different individuals in all probability had the identical downside.
However then she had began interested by the sweetness business as an entire and her struggles with magnificence requirements. She thought again to her childhood, watching the actresses on tv and searching on the good fashions in magazines.
“I aspired to appear like that. However [on] an actual deep stage, they at all times made me really feel like I wasn’t sufficient,” she says.
However what if she may do it in a different way?
“After I launch a magnificence firm, what if I can really use actual individuals,” she says. “ … All completely different ages and styles and sizes and pores and skin tones and pores and skin challenges. And what if I can really shift the definition inside all the business?”
Her firm didn’t observe the aspirational mannequin almost all different magnificence manufacturers ascribe to. And there lay the impediment to promoting her product. However it additionally made her model stand out.
QVC or Bust
Lima went forward together with her phase, remembering her mission and the viewers she was there for.
“I saved imagining this single mother folding laundry who was too busy to recollect she was stunning and that she mattered,” she says. “And I simply had this second, like, you understand what? I might moderately have her activate the tv and provides me 5 seconds of her time … even when she buys nothing. I’d moderately stand for that than promote a bunch of merchandise and stand for nothing. And so I knew what I needed to do.”
“However we all know what now we have to do is usually not the simple factor.”
She had wished to wipe her make-up off on air to point out the viewers that even the CEO used the merchandise to cowl her personal pores and skin situation; that even she wasn’t good. However QVC mentioned no, giving Lima successful mannequin to observe.
As her phase started and the clock began counting down, Lima broke from the script. She wiped her make-up off to disclose the rosacea, which had been hid fully by her make-up.
By the top of the phase, all 6,000 items had offered out.
QVC remains to be one in every of IT Cosmetics’ largest channels.
The Significance of Being Genuine
Lima took a giant threat wiping her make-up off on digicam. But when there’s one factor Lima believes has actually carried her model, it’s her authenticity as a spokesperson and as a CEO.
“I feel inauthenticity ensures failure.”
“It was when the particular person they’d on air was the identical on air as they had been within the inexperienced room, whether or not they had been extroverted or introverted or wild or it didn’t matter, however there’s that form of congruence and authenticity that you could take and really feel it. And so the those that had been actually genuine after they had been within the room however then additionally stay is the person who the shopper would join with.”
The second you begin to dilute your authenticity, Lima says, is the second you and your organization are in bother.
After the QVC spot, the corporate grew quickly. The following yr, Lima did 250 stay exhibits for QVC. That’s on prime of serving as CEO of an organization that was scaling rapidly and bringing new merchandise to market.
Lima dove in, taking a hands-on position in each a part of her firm.
“One of many issues I used to be by no means in a position to actually work out for myself was the right way to not turn into completely burnt out,” she says. “I drove every thing so laborious, together with myself.”
The sudden success of the corporate took a toll on each her and her husband. Lima discovered herself turning into, as she describes it, detached to its success, one thing that threatened the authenticity she had labored so laborious to construct for the model.
Then, L’Oréal got here knocking.