IT Cosmetics Founder Jamie Kern Lima on Business, Beauty and Breaking Boundaries
As the beauty businesswoman steps down from her post as CEO of IT Cosmetics, Jamie Kern Lima reflects on growing the boundary-breaking company during Beaches Resorts' 5th annual Social Media on the Sand conference
When Jamie Kern Lima first launched IT Cosmetics in 2008, she was told “no” more times than she could count. As the business was struggling to stay afloat two years later, QVC gave her one shot at a 10-minute live on-air slot to sell 6,400 units of the brand's now-iconic concealer.
At the time, Kern Lima knew the decision was make-or-break for IT Cosmetics, and she took a leap of faith. “People say never accept a purchase order you can’t afford to lose — which is very true — but we literally had nothing to lose,” Kern Lima says. “We were either going out of business or going all in.”
Ultimately, the risk paid off. IT Cosmetics sold out on QVC in less than 10 minutes, and the brand went on to become QVC’s largest beauty brand in history and was acquired by L’Oréal in 2016 for a record-breaking $1.2 billion.
“If I never listened to my gut on that decision, we wouldn’t be sitting here,” Kern Lima says.
Now more than a decade after the businesswoman first launched IT Cosmetics, Kern Lima announced in August that she would be stepping down from her position as CEO. While she hasn’t revealed exactly what’s in store for her next, Kern Lima’s been busy doing something else she loves, passing her business knowledge on to other female entrepreneurs.
“I get my greatest joy when I can help other women,” she tells PEOPLE after speaking at Beaches Resorts’ 5th annual Social Media on the Sand conference in Turks & Caicos, which provides content creators and entrepreneurs the opportunity to attend exclusive panel discussions and networking events with some of the best in business.
Read on to find out more about Kern Lima’s experience at the conference, how she hopes to empower women through beauty and more.
What do you love about speaking at an event like Social Media on the Sand?
I went through a ton growing IT Cosmetics — a lot of amazing things and a lot of things that were really, really hard. I wanted to share my journey of figuring out how to believe in myself and overcoming self-doubt, and can hopefully inspire everyone else on their journeys too. Whenever we go through things in life, if we share them so other people can benefit, it’s the best thing.
Your appearances on QVC helped catapult IT Cosmetics into a huge success. How has the rise of social media changed things?
Our biggest platforms are Instagram and Facebook. We built our social content from the perspective of how we can make women’s lives better. Did we make her life easier? More joyful? That’s really the mission. We try to stick to the authenticity and I believe that’s why the brand has grown.
Earlier this year, you announced that you would be stepping down as the CEO of IT Cosmetics. How did you build a team you trusted enough to take over?
Overall, we have about 70 percent women at IT Cosmetics, and around 80 percent of people in a VP position or higher are women, which is awesome. Building the team has been one of the greatest blessings in my life. I wanted a team that wasn’t just one type of person. When you look across IT Cosmetics, we do not all look the same. We do not all dress the same. We do not all vote the same. We do not all love the same. When someone authentically loves our mission, that’s all that matters. If we’re building a brand where we touch lives of every woman and man out there, then our team needs to reflect that.
Who are some of your mentors?
Some of my mentors I’ve never even met, like I feel like Oprah was my mentor years before I ever actually met her. Carol Hamilton at L’Oréal was my mentor for years before we ever sold to L’Oréal. She is just someone that empowers other women. I also feel like my IT Cosmetics team are my mentors. We all have different strengths and can help each other in different ways.
How has being a new mom changed your approach to business?
My daughter is 1-year-old right now, and I’m like, “S—t this [mom guilt] is real.” It’s very interesting because I have to remind myself that when I go on a work trip, I want my daughter to be raised seeing an example of being strong enough to go after your dreams and passions. No one ever asks my husband how he does it all. They don’t make him feel bad that he’s working. It’s fascinating. Also, I think the idea of balance is a lie. If you’re just trying to get balanced, you always feel like you’re failing. We need to be careful, because the concept of balance can make women feel like they’re just not enough.
If you could only live with three IT Cosmetics products for the rest of your life, what would they be?
Oh my gosh, this is tough. I mean, I have to choose the original CC Cream. I still use it almost every day. I’ve been obsessed with the Brow Power Micro, it’s a super skinny brow pencil. This one I feel like no one’s heard of: it’s the Je Ne Sais Quoi Rose Lip Balm. No matter what lip I try, I always go back to that one. You can also use it as blush, but I usually only use it on my lips. I’m torn though, because I love the Lash Blowout Mascara too!
What legacy do you hope to leave on the beauty world?
I want every woman to open a magazine and see the ads used by every brand and have them make her feel inspired, not like s—t. I hope our success is proof to every other decision maker inside beauty companies that they don’t have to use the old model of how to show images of beauty and make it aspirational. They can actually use their position of power to shift culture and make every man and woman feel beautiful.