If there’s anything we’ve learned from the beautiful, the bold, the brilliant Jamie Kern Lima it is to dare to dream…BIG. This woman has built a beauty empire with IT Cosmetics and only after eight years sold it to the biggest makeup retailer in the world. The billion-dollar acquisition from French conglomerate L’Oréal set the record for the biggest purchasing deal in history! She went on to write a best selling book about her story, and is now a motivational speaker and example for all women worldwide. A mother of two, she is just at the cusp of what will become a powerful icon for generations to come. We are honoured to present our cover story, Jamie Kern Lima.
In your much anticipated book, Believe It, you outline a reoccurring theme of believing in yourself. You say to beautifully, and I quote “in life, we are not who people say we are, we are who we believe we are”. When did you discover that?
That has been a long-life journey to discover those simple words. It’s one of those lessons that I still have to remind myself because we will only ever get to a place in relationships, our careers or anywhere else in life to a level where we identify our worthiness with. Until we truly establish an identity to the level to our worthiness, we will never get passed it. When we do get to that level, we will always try and sabotage it to go to the previous level. When we believe we are worthy of a certain amount of love, we will never experience more because that is what we believe. It is only when we elevate that level, let’s say by meeting a partner who treats us a way we have never been treated before, then we can start understanding that the level we achieve is merely the level we believe. It all comes down to the work we have to do inside by identifying our own level of worthiness.
When I was working as a Denny’s waitress, a job that I truly liked, I had a feeling inside that I was meant for more, to create something bigger for myself and the world. I struggled with self doubt like so many people, but I always had this feeling inside of me that there is more out there, and I was worthy of it.
I truly believe that where we come from doesn’t have to determine where we’re going. I also believe that we can often sabotage ourselves. In the end of the book, I talk about a thought that many leaders have used over the years when they talk about when they say “we are our own thermostat”, meaning if we identity that we are 75 degrees in any area of our lives, well that’s exactly where you are going to be. We always find a way of getting ourselves to the level of with which we identify ourselves with. It is imperative that we be careful with what we identify ourselves with for that exact reason. This happens in every aspect of our life.
Did you find in your own journey, that there was a specific moment, whether it be a mentor or something else that just clicked inside and made a big shift for yourself?
I decided to be very vulnerable in my book. I talked about my doubts in respect to God, my belief, my body and so much more. We sometimes have this gut feeling that there is something we are supposed to do; I have faced so much rejection to my idea and a lot of times I had to think that my gut was wrong, and I had to take a different course on this journey of life. I had an authentic vision that many people didn’t see eye to eye with, but it felt true to my soul. I wanted to create a beauty business that uses all types of models in the ads, at the time that was not the way things were done. Even today the beauty industry is very narrow minded. It’s wild what you can accomplish when you really know who you are and to stay true to yourself through all the noise and feedback you get at every corner.
I had retail stores that I loved so much tell me I needed to change my vision if I wanted to get into their stores. It was truly devastating. That was the moment I had to decide what to do, because I didn’t want to lose my company and I truly wanted to be in those stores, but what is the cost of fitting in? Those are the moments that define our lives. There are so many of them.
Another one of those moments came when I got a call from a big investment company. We had barely any money in our accounts, and I mean we didn’t know if we were going to survive the next three or four weeks. We went in person to many meetings and at the final day, the big guy came to us and said no. I asked him why he didn’t want to invest, and he asked if I wanted to know the truth. He said, “I would not buy beauty products from someone who looks like you and had your body size”. The thing that I will never forget, is when he said that to me, I never felt anger towards him. I later realized; he was just as impacted by the beauty industry as I was. He thought I couldn’t make the money because of what I looked like. We were all conditioned into a certain way of looking at beauty. That’s a problem in the industry and not specific to one person. He was the reason that I had to change this industry.
I think in all our journeys’, it is important to stay true to who we are authentically and to not talk ourselves out of our own truths, our own callings and to continue our path of being a brave woman that is willing to risk everything to step into who she really is. I really needed to turn down the volume on the negative self talk and instead turn up the volume on the gut feeling that I had inside me telling me he was wrong and that my brand was going to thrive. If we don’t learn to do that then self doubt will keep us from attaining our true potential. Never forget that self-doubt kills more dreams than any other factor ever will.
You also found out later on in your life that you had been adopted. Do you think you used your situation of “not belonging” as fuel to rise?
When I look back at my life, I didn’t understand all the setbacks that I was facing at the time, but I truly believe, and this with all my heart, that they were all set ups for what was coming next. It was like destiny was being written and all those were necessary steps along the way to get to where I needed to be.
A lot of people just sit in a a certain space without ever transcending, and everyone has their own journey and a purpose, I believe everyone has a calling and everyone can feel fulfilled and have an amazing life. I think for most people the most fulfilling purpose they ever find is from the pain or struggles that they have gone through. For me, there were deeply personal ones with my family. Another big setback is I grew up loving the beauty commercials, but they always made me feel like I wasn’t enough, and I guess this serendipitous thing, where amid me thinking I was going to get fired from my dream job as a host interviewing people, and not knowing what I was going to do, it was truly the birth of part of my calling.
What is interesting about how life works, I believe all those thousand No’s that I have gotten, it made me stronger and able to fully share them all and show people that they can’t stop you unless you quit. There is always a shining light across the dark tunnel.
I had this beautiful dream of not just finding the best products and bringing them to women everywhere but more importantly to shift an entire industry’s definition of what is beautiful. What started as a solution to a skin problem rosacea, turned into millions of customers and a dream come true.
The most amazing thing is that 95% of our customers don’t even have any particular skin problem but they identify so strongly with our vision and message that “every person is beautiful” they buy from us.
You said that it’s important to know when to stop following a dream just as it is important to know when to follow one. Can you clarify what you mean by this?
We are raised in a culture that says to never quit no matter what and that’s the secret to achieving things. I think that’s not necessarily true. We all know so many people sitting in jobs they don’t enjoy and don’t quit because they think it’s going to get better. The same goes for relationships, friendships, and every other aspect of life. I think it’s important to know when to let go of things that no longer suit us and follow our hearts.
By doing that we learn how to believe in ourselves and more importantly to trust ourselves. A lot of people don’t know how to do that, and I think it’s a big problem in our society. We all have an intuition that tells us what is right, and I think that what happens is that we have so much noise everywhere that just gets us further away from that inner voice every single time we decide not to listen to it.
Another problem is people giving us advice through their own lens of fear or missed dreams and that gets filtered in with our doubts, hence its important to get closer to ourselves and learn to listen to ourselves before we talk ourselves out of our own truths for good.
If you look at the studies that show woman, make most of their decisions based on consensus, whereas men don’t, is mind boggling. We always go see other woman for help in our decisions and I still catch myself doing this.
I had so many setbacks in my journey and even at the acquisition stage, that if I asked myself what really got me to take this idea all the way through and it really was my ability to listen to my intuition and truly trust myself no matter how noisy it got around me. IF I HAD LISTENED TO THE NOISE, I WOULD HAVE NEVER BUILT A BILLION DOLLAR COMPANY. [to quote in big]
Most people don’t know this, but I sat down for many years with L’Oréal. It was always a dream of mine to collaborate with them so that the message can go international. But even with their advice, I only listened to the ones that resonated with my core and the company vision and nothing else.
I have demonstrated that you can find complete success and still stay 100% authentic to yourself and your vision. It truly takes visionaries that know to change this world for the better.
Another amazing part we loved is you saying, “the biggest risk to our business isn’t what the competition is doing but the risk of getting distracted”. Can you take us through it?
There is so much science that demonstrates that it is impossible to have a connection with another human being without being authentic. So, this goes to say, by looking at what others are doing you are disconnecting in a way from who you are. This goes also for your business, and by doing so you are not heading in the wrong direction, but a direction that is not authentic to you.
We do things on social media that we assume would get us a lot of likes and we don’t focus enough on what we want to portray. I think that is the reason we see the same people trying so do the same exact things for likes. Authenticity has and always will be the ultimate path to success because it can never be duplicated. Being real, is messy, its complicated and I think that’s what develop a true connection and this point is also very important with your business because at the end of the day we are selling to real humans, with real emotions and that’s the beauty of a good brand; it connects us to them authentically.
I believe most people are struggling personally and professionally because they are not showing up authentically but instead showing up as they think others need them to or as their respective industry standard says they should. This goes further into how team leaders act with their teams and ultimately their customers. It all starts with the top and just keeps going down.
I had my own people who worked with me bring me ideas, but again, they were bringing me ideas of what others in the industry were doing. It’s important to stay in your lane, and I understood that we might lose some potential revenue by not doing something trendy but in the long run we will always surpass them because we have a great long-term vision that will not fade as most trends do.
Our clients know that when we launch a product, it works and is better than what is out there and even life changing. To accomplish that, we stay focused on how we do things and what we want for our customers. When retail stores asked me to force a product out because they want us to be in the front, I just don’t comply. I don’t want something forced out there, it will dilute our company vision and the product and the customer experience which is everything. It might have made the retailer happy but over time it’s these kinds of things that kill the business because it’s disingenuous to our clients, and they make or break the company.
To answer your question, I have seen countless businesses fail over the last decade because they got distracted on the short term instead of focusing on the long term and it comes at the price of them diluting their own authentic secret sauce. Anytime you compromise who you are and what you stand for people can sense it.
When it comes to your own personal power, are you a person that manifests or just visualizes success? Did you know you were going to sell the brand to L’Oréal?
I believe in manifesting all the way. I have manifested and prayed so many times along this journey. I always say don’t pray and then worry. It’s hard sometimes. I thank God not only for the doors he has opened for me but also the ones the he closed. Most of us can think of someone we dated and say thank the Lord he or she is no longer a part of our lives even if we didn’t want it to at that time. I think of it this way for every aspect of my life and especially my business.
Just like my example of the investor I spoke about earlier, I am grateful it happened that way because if it hadn’t, I don’t know where I would be today. So, I am eternally grateful to God. That door that he closed, made me the largest shareholder of my company and if he hadn’t well, I wouldn’t have made us much today or maybe the company wouldn’t have gotten acquired for some reason. That’s truly the beauty of life.
I pray that every day God removes the wrong people of my life and brings in the ones that I need or even need me. After we became successful, a lot of companies tried to poach our employees and every once ion a while I lost somebody to a competitor but I would trust that he would bring the right people and it always worked out for the best.
Comments from the Editor : Thank you Jamie, for your wonderful words and powerful vision to make the world a better place. We truly believe you will change beauty standards and empower women as you already do through IT Cosmetics and everything else you touch that turns to gold. God bless your soul!
Jamie Kern Lima’s latest book “Believe It” is available now everywhere books are sold. Make sure to get your copy as 100% of her author proceeds are being donated to Feeding America and Together Rising.
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