How Kylie Jenner Became the Youngest Self-Made Billionaire (Ever)
Forbes list of Billionaires for 2019 is out and at just 21 years old, Kylie was named as youngest self-made Billionaire ever, surpassing Mark Zuckerberg who became a billionaire at 23.
How it all started?
Like most great stories, it started with an insecurity or a self-doubt. Kylie had naturally thin lips, and one of the guys she first kissed in the middle school said that he did not think she would be a good kisser given that she has such small lips. Kylie admitted that her small lips were her biggest insecurity growing up. “When a guy you like says that, I don’t know, it just really affected me. I just didn’t feel desirable or pretty. From then on, I just felt like I saw guys staring at my lips. I felt like no one wanted to kiss me.” Kylie said on an episode of “Life of Kylie”.
This insecurity led Kylie to get lip-augmentation. She used lip-fillers to make her lips look plumper. Her now ample lips created speculation and gained her publicity. Her full, pouty lips became a large part of her image. Her signature pout became an Instagram sensation with over tens of millions of followers increasing every day.
Soon after, in 2015, Kylie launched ‘Kylie Lip Kits’ to help her fans achieve her look. Her company which is now renamed to Kylie Cosmetics, sold matching lipsticks and lipliners. She took $250k she made by modelling in cosmetic line and bought 15,000 lip kits. As the legend has it, it sold out in the matter of minutes! Historically speaking one of the most successful product launches after the original iPhone launch in 2007.
To do the maths, the lip kits costed her on an average $16 per kit and sold for $29 a pop netting a hefty margin of 40%! In the first 18 months Kylie generated 420 million dollars revenue.
How did she built the company?
One word: Outsourcing! (which is exactly opposite of Elon Musk’s philosophy of building all the components in-house) Kylie employs just seven full-time and five part-time employees.
Manufacturing & Packaging is outsourced to Seed Beauty, a private-label producer in Oxnard, California. Sales and fulfilment is handled by online merchant Shopify. Finance and PR is looked after by her mother Kris Jenner in exchange for the 10% management fee she siphons from all of her kids. Marketing & Product Launches is done via her social media where she has collective fan following of 175 million people across Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
In 2017, she added 30 new products including concealer and makeup brushes, and many more colour combinations in 2018.
In 2018, she signed an exclusive distribution deal with Ulta, rolling its $29 lip kits — a matte liquid lipstick and matching lip liner — into Ulta’s 1,000-plus stores. Jenner showed up to the Ulta stores to greet customers, sign autographs on lip kits and, of course, pose for selfies with her fans. Over the next six weeks she $54.5 million worth of products in Ulta Stores.
Is she ‘Self-Made’?
Forbes defines “self-made” as someone who built a company or established a fortune on her own, rather than inheriting some or all of it. As long as the list member didn’t inherit a business or money, she is labeled self-made. However, many people (including dictonary.com) are still divided on the fact whether she deserves to be called ‘self-made’. My answer: Fucking yes! She has every right to call herself a ‘self-made’ billionaire.
The argument people make here is that she received an upper hand being born in a celebrity family and featured in the reality TV shows at an early age of just 10 years. So I agree that it was definitely easier for her to achieve success than an average person, however being celebrity doesn’t guarantee a business success. From Hulk Hogan’s Pasta joint, to Paris Hilton’s clothing line, celebrity business failure is more common than you would think.
She had to build her own social media following, find her niche, build a product lineup, and successfully convert all of it into business which was profitable since day one. FYI, it took 9 years for Amazon to make profits; while after 13 years, Spotify is yet to make profit. To give a perspective among other celebrities, she is less than half of age of Tom Cruise or Shah Rukh Khan and (almost) twice as rich.
Why is her success remarkable?
The number of Unicorns in the world is at its highest now and China alone is churning out a new billionaire every 5 days. So what makes the success of Kylie so remarkable (remarkable enough for me to write about it)? Among the list of top 10 youngest self-made billionaires, Kylie is the only one to have made her fortune through a non tech startup. She bootstrapped her company to a billion dollar valuation and still owns 100% of it. Her company was profitable since day one and the scale of revenues she achieved is nothing less than amazing. Fashion mogul Tom Ford took over 10 years to achieve the revenue she achieved in less than 3 years. And while there is a lil something in it to envy for all the ‘wanna be billionaires’, what Kylie achieved cannot be purely incidental or a sheer good luck.
“I didn’t expect anything. I did not foresee the future. But [the recognition] feels really good. That’s a nice pat on the back.”
- Kylie Jenner
Authors Note: Hi there! Thanks for reading through the end. I’m Sangram Kakad, an Investment Banking professional, Start-up enthusiast and a small time entrepreneur. I created an app that helps users to secretly find out if their friend has feelings for them. We call it MTJF: More Than Just Friends.
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