Jamie Kern Lima, Co-Founder, IT Cosmetics, was a natural pick to appear in CEW’s new campaign, which highlights beauty executives who are also CEW members. Here, Jamie talks about the benefits of being a CEW member, how a singular CEW event changed the trajectory of her company and some of the most important things every entrepreneur should know.
CEW Beauty Insider: Please talk about some of the key leadership strategies you learned while operating a startup?
Jamie Kern Lima: I believe you have to have an authentic mission, and you have to lead with that authenticity. Everyone in your company has to live it, breathe it, feel it and believe it in their hearts, too. You can’t fake authenticity and I believe when leaders or brands start to get distracted – whether it’s by trends, or by what the competition is doing – it causes them to lose authenticity of their brand DNA and mission, and that’s when they start to head in the wrong direction.
BI: What qualities would you say every entrepreneur needs to have in order to succeed?
JKL: I believe to be a successful entrepreneur you have to be willing to work harder than you ever thought you possibly could and learn how to do things you literally have no idea how to do because you often can’t afford to hire anyone else to do them. You have to be willing to have no ego, to sacrifice almost everything and to have unremitting strength and faith.
BI: When did you realize you needed to let go of some responsibilities and delegate?
JKL: This is one of the hardest things to learn for most entrepreneurs. I still struggle with it daily, because I care so much and obsess over details. One of my mentors, Carol Hamilton, once told me, “winning in cosmetics is a game of perfect execution” and I’ve kept that quote on my desk for the last three years. Details matter, and when you’re obsessed with them it’s hard to delegate and trust others to be as well. I’ve overcome this in many ways because I’ve hired people to be on my team at IT Cosmetics who are much smarter and more talented than I am in their roles! And they love this brand as much as I do. Plus, I realize that even when working 20 hour days I simply can’t get to everything and if I don’t delegate, I will inevitably become a bottleneck and risk slowing our growth. I am so grateful for the team at IT, and literally every day I think to myself how grateful and lucky I am to have such incredibly smart and talented people around me.
BI: Talk about what it was like when you went seeking funding? What advice would you give to other startups doing the same?
JKL: My co-founder and I aren’t from the beauty industry so one of the main reasons we really wanted a private equity partner was to leverage their advice and expertise in building an infrastructure in this space. If you are seeking funding or a PE partner, the best advice I can give is to do your homework. When we started getting approached by private equity groups the one thing I am so grateful we did, was our homework. Specifically, we called on and met with references, including past brand founders, who had previously worked with or partnered with many of the groups approaching us. Many of their testimonials and stories were positive, but to my surprise at the time, many were also candidly horrible and scary. When we decided to partner with TSG Consumer Partners, a big reason we did was because when we did our homework, all of the past brand founders we spoke with gave glowing recommendations and shared such positive experiences. Partnering with TSG was one of the best decisions we’ve made on our journey so far. We were with TSG for four years before our recent acquisition by L’Orèal. We had such a great partnership that I consider our TSG partners Chuck Esserman, Diane Miles and Blythe Jack family who will be in my life forever. They’re amazing.
BI: What is one of your most proud work accomplishments?
JKL: I am really grateful to have many proud work accomplishments with IT Cosmetics so far, including things like recognition from CEW and WWD, being able to deliver for and prove everyone right who has believed in IT Cosmetics, including our retail partners and our investors, and of course building a start-up with my co-founder and our first employee from our living room to the amazing company we have today. Our partnership with L’Orèal has been a dream come true. But I think the one thing I am most proud of is watching employees at IT spread their wings and fly. And be fearless. And take risks. And believe all things are possible…for them, for this company and for their careers. I believe when you are excellent, people will notice and one of my favorite things is to make a priority out of noticing when an employee is excellent. I believe in merit and I believe in being fearless and I hope I inspire everyone at IT to know that they can excel in their careers and accomplish anything they believe in if they dare to dream, and back it up with hard work and with being all-in. I want everyone’s light to shine as bright as it can. That brings me the most joy.
BI: When you first joined CEW, do you recall your main motivation for joining?
JKL: Prior to launching IT Cosmetics I spent my career as a TV news anchor. Joining CEW opened doors to so many incredible people in the beauty industry instantly.
BI: How has membership helped you with your career?
JKL: In so many ways. For the first few years I utilized the database and reached out to many fellow members for advice. Attending the events is so inspiring. And one of the biggest benefits has been in the form of recruiting. When I started IT Cosmetics we had under five employees for the first several years. In the last three years we’ve gone from five employees to more than 150 in our corporate office alone, and networking through CEW has contributed to our recruitment success in a big way.
BI: What’s the best thing about being a CEW member that others probably don’t know about?
JKL: I think one of the best things is the instant access to just about anyone and everyone in the industry. It’s such a tremendous asset whether you’re an entrepreneur, looking for a mentor or to be a mentee, or looking for career advice or advancement.
BI: Name a key highlight from a CEW event you attended.
JKL: A CEW event actually completely changed my life and my company. I had been sending IT Cosmetics products to QVC for a few years, but couldn’t get a yes, or even a meeting. At the CEW Beauty Awards Product Demo in 2010 I was demonstrating our Bye Bye Under Eye Concealer and QVC was there, including their head beauty buyer and one of their top hosts, Lisa Mason. Lisa stopped by my booth and tried the concealer and said she loved it so much she shared it with the buyer directly. I then introduced myself to the buyer and shared my brand story right in the middle of the event. We then set up a meeting, which led to our very first live appearance on QVC in September 2010, where we sold out in 10 minutes. I cried on air when it happened. After all of the years of trying to get our foot in the door with QVC, it all happened from a CEW Event. We’re now so blessed to go on QVC more than 200 times a year and they have been such an incredible partner for the past six years.
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