Real Women Doing Real Things: Jamie Kern Lima, Founder of IT Cosmetics

If you haven’t already tried IT Cosmetics, you need to! And if you follow beauty news around the internet then you know the company so good that L’Oreal recently bought the brand for $1.2 billion in hard cash money…a big part of that? The brand’s founder, Jamie Kern Lima, and her vision.  Here, I ask her about her “aha” moment and her best advice for young female entrepreneurs.

Tell us about the “aha” moment you had when deciding to create It Cosmetics?

I had such an “aha” moment where I felt a calling to use the struggles I had faced, to create solutions for other women facing them! And not just to create products that truly work, but also to create a company with a bigger message. An authentic message that every woman is beautiful and deserves to feel her most beautiful. It might sound surprising, but it was almost like a calling to be of service, in the sense that it would be so much bigger than myself and my own struggles. My skin had changed so much in my 20s. I developed hereditary rosacea, that deep and sensitive redness. And my eyebrows stopped growing back in! I was working as a TV news anchor at the time, and my morning show was 5-9am. One newscast I accidentally wiped my eyebrow off in the middle of it, and there was nothing I could do because you don’t get a break. Often by the end of newscasts my redness would be showing through my “full coverage” foundation. I realized that finding the right makeup is easy when you have great skin, but is nearly impossible when you have problem skin like I do. Nothing worked for me, and gave me the coverage I needed. And if it did, it would crease and crack and make me look so much older! That’s when I knew there must be so many other girls and women out there like me. That was my aha moment. I knew if I could give women products that truly gave them their most beautiful skin, and products that helped them look and feel their most beautiful, it would be life changing! And it truly has been!

How do you come up with new product ideas? What’s the process like?

At IT Cosmetics, we’re not about trendy colors or themes. We’re very focused on products that are skin loving, truly solve problems, and are truly life-changing. And we won’t launch a product unless we believe it is truly better than anything else out there, and has strong clinical results. As women, we want makeup that works as hard as we do. We believe makeup needs to do more for your skin than just conceal. It needs to treat your skin and actually make it better. We believe your full coverage needs to look and feel like nothing on your skin but cover everything and anything! Whatever touches your skin, from brushes to foundation to mascara to lipstick, should treat your complexion, lashes and lips—and bring out your most beautiful you! And that is exactly what IT does. And at IT, we do things differently! We have an advisory board of dermatologists and plastic surgeons who are experts in skin, and this allows us to take a very unique approach to makeup and skincare, and develop what we call “color-infused skincare.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned as an entrepreneur thus far?

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 in the early years of your company, 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, belief and faith.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

Creating a brand for real women that delivers real results! I truly believe in every ounce of my being that every woman is beautiful! And that every woman deserves to look and feel her most beautiful. It was because of this that I became consumed with a dream of creating products that truly worked—products that actually solved women’s beauty concerns. Many of our customers call themselves IT Girls. We have generations of IT Girls—IT Moms, IT Daughters, IT Grandmoms, IT Fighters and  IT Survivors (we’ve now donated over $24 million in product to help women face the effects of cancer with more confidence). We now have millions of customers and I am most proud of hopefully helping to change the way they view their own beauty to inspire them to look in the mirror and see everything that is right, and how beautiful they truly are! I remove my makeup live on TV and QVC in our 250+ shows a year mainly to be brave and to hopefully inspire women to know that if they do have a skin issue, whether it’s hyperpigmentation or redness or anything else, so do I! And so do SO many of us! And we are all in this together! And it’s never about coverage or covering issues, but rather about feeling beautiful and finding products that truly give you your most beautiful skin and help you look and feel like your most beautiful you. That is truly our mission at IT Cosmetics!

What’s been the hardest part of your job?

Two things: I still work 100 hour weeks, and this is something I am working hard to change! I feel so grateful and blessed to be building a team who believes in our mission as much as I do! The other hardest part of my job has been practicing a strong enough belief that I don’t ever allow hearing the word “no” – whether from other people, or even retailers, translate into doubt in my mind about our company’s potential. We are now a top prestige brand in every channel we’re in, including ULTA Beauty, QVC, Sephora, etc. but the most interesting thing is all of our most cherished and successful retail partners today, all said no to us initially. While I was devastated each time it happened, it was a huge blessing that they said no when they did. And when this happens, you have to dig deep and truly believe in your brand and your mission. Each of them eventually said yes, because we kept believing it would happen and didn’t give up. I believe as an entrepreneur how you respond to hearing the word no, can change the course of your future.

What advice do you have for young female entrepreneurs?

Absolutely anything is possible if you dare to dream big enough and if you believe. I feel so blessed with the success of IT Cosmetics, but I have heard “no” more times than I can count in my journey to growing this company, and had I listened to “no” or had I let it translate into doubt in my head, or had I stopped believing in what I knew in my gut was right, it would have changed everything. I always had a gut feeling we would partner with L’Oréal, even though they said no for three years. Just a few months ago, they acquired IT Cosmetics in one of the largest beauty acquisitions in history and made me the first female CEO in L’Oréal’s 108 year history. How amazing, when for years it didn’t look like it was possible. If you believe in yourself and listen to your gut, all things are possible!

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