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.
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.
What qualities would you say every entrepreneur needs to have in order to
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.
When did you realize you needed to let go of some responsibilities and
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.
Talk about what it was like when you went seeking funding? What advice would
you give to other startups doing the same?
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.
What is one of your most proud work accomplishments?
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.
When you first joined CEW, do you recall your main motivation for joining?
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.
How has membership helped you with your career?
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.
What’s the best thing about being a CEW member that others probably don’t know
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
Name a key highlight from a CEW event you attended.
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.
Learn more about all of CEW’s member benefits and