Imagine yourself starting a business and pitching it to firms for funding. After many “no’s,” you finally got the interest of a private equity firm. You tell yourself that finally, this investment was what you were waiting for all along! So you diligently went through the process of product presentation, got so excited for the final meeting, only to hear this:
“We want to congratulate you on your product. We think that it’s awesome. We want to wish you the best, but it’s a ‘no.’ We’re going to pass on it.”
That “no” is only one of the many times IT Cosmetics Founder and one of Forbes America’s richest self-made women, Jamie Kern Lima has received for nearly three years before finally finding the break she needed. However, instead of giving up, she used these setbacks in her life to catapult her toward success.
In our conversation, Jamie shares her story of how she built a billion-dollar business. She also shares her insights and experiences on how she could push through self-doubt when nobody believed in her dream and get over multiple rejections in her life.
Jamie is absolutely remarkable and inspiring. Her story will make you want to go out there and follow your dream, so let’s get into it.
Jamie Kern Lima is a self-made entrepreneur, champion of women, philanthropist, keynote speaker, and Co-founder of IT Cosmetics, a company she started in her living room and sold to L’Oreal for $1.2 billion, becoming the first female CEO in L’Oreal’s 100+ year history. She’s on the Forbes’ Richest Self-Made Women’s List and is an active investor in more than 15 companies.
Jamie’s business journey began with starting IT Cosmetics from her living room, not paying herself the first three years, hearing countless “no’s” from retailers and investors, all while working 100+ hour weeks to keep her dream alive. Her passion for her mission, unremitting perseverance, hard work, and belief led to her turning every NO into an eventual YES, presenting and selling her products in more than 1000 live shows on QVC, and eventually building the largest beauty brand in their history.
Jamie is passionate about inspiring and mentoring entrepreneurs, building businesses, making a difference in women’s and girls’ lives, and giving back in a big way. As a highly sought-after speaker, Jamie loves sharing stories of inspiration, underestimation, rejection, overcoming self-doubt, and never giving up. She’s especially passionate about inspiring, elevating, and empowering women and entrepreneurs.
She also just recently came out with her book called Believe IT, where she shares the wild but true story of how a once struggling waitress turned her against-the-grain idea into an international best-selling sensation, eventually selling the company for over a billion dollars and becoming the first female CEO of a brand in L’Oréal’s 100+ year history. This is a great read if you ever doubted yourself or felt truly underestimated and would like to gain confidence in yourself and your dreams!
With all these achievements, I was truly honored to have Jamie on the podcast. She has so much wisdom to share with you all in this episode of The School of Greatness!
One of the things that I think is so incredible about Jamie’s story is that she had a lot of rejection early on. Many of us look at rejection as if it’s the end of opportunities, our lives, and our dreams. Jamie shared her insight on how we can turn this around and look at it as a good thing.
“The hardest thing is many people actually never step out of their comfort zone because they’re afraid of rejection. I agree that it hurts, and it sucks when it happens. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense, and it doesn’t feel fair. … But I believe that rejection is God’s or the universe’s way of protecting me.” – Jamie Kern Lima
This might seem an idealized way to approach these hard moments in everyone’s life, but it’s Jamie’s truth. Her dream was always to become a TV anchor, which she achieved in the past. However, due to rosacea, a skin condition that leaves red bumps all over one’s face, she was forced to leave this dream job. She bravely started and pursued another dream, but what she didn’t know is stepping into that dream would mean facing three years of constant rejection.
“My husband and I finally came out with a product. I was beyond excited. I believe that it’ll sell, and it’ll do well. But after three years of pitching our product to every single beauty retailer that I loved, all we literally received was ‘no’ after ‘no.’ There was a point in our lives that what’s left in our bank account was under a thousand, which was our company and personal funds combined.” – Jamie Kern Lima
Despite these setbacks in her life, Jamie still chose to see those rejections as set-ups for the greater things life had in store for her. For the first three years of their journey, they went to grocery stores, fairgrounds, trade shows, beauty events, and anything promotional online events to advertise their products. They would extensively do follow-ups. They even used LinkedIn to scout for people working in big beauty stores to send their samples. They hustled and hustled until finally, they got the “yes” that they had worked so hard for.
“QVC was our big first, yes. It was probably the scariest, biggest life and business decision we’ve ever made. But it made us build the largest beauty brand in QVC’s history. Truly, at the end of the day, nobody can tell you you’re not the right fit. If one of those people whom we pitched in before said ‘yes,’ then we might not be where we are right now.” – Jamie Kern Lima
This is what Jamie was trying to point all along. Rejection is sometimes the universe’s way of preparing us for the biggest moment of our lives, and it’s protecting our best interests all along! If they’d pitched the product to QVC three years earlier, they wouldn’t have been ready. They could have bombed and would’ve never had another chance.
Like Jamie, I believe in the power of the right timing. I believe that sometimes people saying “no” is good for you to figure out how you can become better. I think that’s how we should set ourselves up for something when someone says “no.”
“My journey has been filled with hundreds of ‘no’s’ and tons of rejection. It honestly hurts, but I feel like figuring out how not to take it personally has been huge on … [the] business side. But also I believe, and no matter if someone believes in God or the universe or whatever, when I look back at everything I’ve gone through, I think that the saying rejection is God’s protection is true.” – Jamie Kern Lima
Here’s the thing — we cannot underestimate the pain of getting rejected. But when we try not to take it personally or look at it in a way that benefits us, we can begin to truly grow ourselves as people and get better instead of feeling that life is punishing us.
So before you throw in the towel and say that something isn’t for you, stop! Train yourself to take rejections differently. If you know that what you’re doing is your calling, listen to what it’s telling you. You’ll be surprised that rejection is never about giving up. It’s all about letting yourself level up.
As children, we all went through that phase of learning to walk. We fell over hundreds of times, hit our heads, scraped our knees, but never in our lives did we think that walking was not meant for us. We kept getting up. We never stopped trying. As adults, it’s different. The moment that we hit the ground, we stop trying to pursue our dreams. I asked Jamie what she thinks about that.
“I think kids have a knowing inside that they want to walk and figure it out on their own. They trust themselves. But I think that everything around us starts to tell us not to trust ourselves as we grow up. So instead of putting our intuition on a pedestal, we put things like other people’s opinions, what the experts or what our partners tell us to do, our own self-doubt or, the lack of proof of success around us before everything else.” – Jamie Kern Lima
Sometimes, even one rejection can immensely hurt us. We tend to think that we got rejected because it was our own doing or that there’s something wrong with us. This is particularly true when the rejection was followed by a personal comment that has nothing to do with the skills we have or the product that we’re offering. Jamie shared an experience similar to this when she was pitching in her ideas for IT Cosmetics.
“We’re already in the final meeting with a potential investor. My hopes were all up, and I was so excited. Then the head investor told us that he liked our product and he [thought] that it was awesome. In the end, though, he passed on investing in IT Cosmetics. So I asked him why, and he said, ‘I just don’t think women will buy makeup from someone who looks like you — with your body and your weight.’” – Jamie Kern Lima
Although she was in pain and was hurt, Jamie knew that what he said was wrong deep down inside her. It’s not because of her that people won’t buy her cosmetics. But to prove it to him, she must also truly believe it. She must get rid of her own self-doubts.
“Even when you check in with your gut, and you feel like you’re supposed to be going after this dream, it’s hard when there’s no proof of success around you. No one’s buying into it. Then your own self-doubt starts taking over. ” – Jamie Kern Lima
Self-doubt is huge. You can be the most educated, the most talented, and the most connected person out there, but if you don’t believe in yourself, then no one else ever will. In the process, you lose all opportunities to become the greatest version of yourself that you could ever be. But it’s not something that can happen overnight. It’s a process, and Jamie beautifully put it this way:
“I still feel my self-doubts. It’s still a journey. There are so many areas of my life that I’m still figuring out. I’m still working on how to overcome and turn down the volume of my self-doubts. I’m still working on how to believe in myself. It’s a lifelong journey of believing that where I come from, my past mistakes or miscalculations would not determine who I’ll become. I’m the person who literally managed to go from Denny’s waitress to billionaire entrepreneur in my heart and soul because I learned to believe in myself and believe I belong in the room and overcome rejection, overcome fear. However, I am still a work in progress.” – Jamie Kern Lima
What Jamie said about overcoming self-doubt is on point, and I love her transparency. It is a process. It is a journey. And by choosing to listen to you your own truth, gathering your courage, and taking steps to reach your goals, you’ll soon reach your destination.
Rejection and self-doubt are a deadly combination. It leads to stagnancy. It’s a dream killer. This can particularly happen if you don’t know how to deal with them. When you feel like giving up on going towards your life’s calling and biggest goals, Jamie reminds us not to take things personally and, more importantly, to evaluate our why’s deeply.
“You hear about finding your why and finding your mission and all that kind of thing. I think knowing your why is important for any goal or any dream.” – Jamie Kern Lima
Jamie has always looked up to models in TV or magazine ads as a little girl growing up. She has always aspired to look like them, particularly to have their flawless skin. But Jamie has rosacea, which causes her face to have red bumps. So even though she aspired to look like them, she just never felt enough to be what was called “beautiful.” This was when an idea overtook her.
“I had this idea not just to create products that worked. I want to show models, real people, every age, skin tone, skin challenges, gender identities, skin problems, and prove this product works. ” – Jamie Kern Lima
This was what drove her to start IT Cosmetics. The experts never really liked that idea, but that was not the case for Jamie. The more she got rejected, the more she took it as fuel to change people’s perception of beauty.
“I want[ed] to build a company where we can show all types of beauty. It’s not just about wanting to help millions of women, but the real why is, ‘Can I shift culture and beauty for every little girl out there who’s about to start doubting herself or every grown person who still does?’ That drive fueled it, and not being afraid of rejection is so huge.” – Jamie Kern Lima
How about you? What do you do every time you get knocked down? Do you let the closed doors get to you? Or do you go back to your why’s, keep going on, and trust your decision that it’s something that you’re supposed to do?
Because here’s the thing. Even if it’s hard and there’s no proof around to show your success, you always have to listen to your gut. It will always tell you your why’s. Because if you keep on ignoring it for a long time, you’re going to get used to just believing what other people tell you. You’ll eventually learn not to trust yourself.
“I think every person knows that deep down inside, if we know that we’re created for more, but decides not to do something about it, it chips away at our soul. So, we end up literally talking ourselves out of our own truth, and never becoming the person we’re born to be. I loved IT Cosmetics’ mission. I knew what we were doing. We were shifting culture inside the beauty industry; that is what made us win believers along the way. That’s what made us win a billion-dollar deal with L’Oreal”. – Jamie Kern Lima
A billion dollars! All because of staying true to the mission and the why’s of her brand. Jamie’s story is incredible, and I hope that she inspires you to dive deep into your dreams’ why’s. By doing that, you can become the person you’ve always dreamt to be.
Oprah Winfrey said, “Honor your calling. Everyone has one. Trust your heart, and success will come to you.”
You may have found your life’s calling, only to realize that the path to reaching it is filled with pains and rejection. But just like Jamie, you have to be patient with your dreams. By doing so, you’ll realize that it’s only teaching you to be better and be prepared for greatness that is waiting for you.
Here’s Jamie’s definition of greatness:
“Greatness for me is stepping into all of who you are and knowing that you have peace when you do it” – Jamie Kern Lima
Friends, this is probably one of the most powerful episodes we’ve had in a while. Jamie’s journey to becoming the successful person she is right now reminds us that we should never give up our dreams. Her journey absolutely inspired me, and I hope it did yours, too.
If you want to learn more about Jamie and what she does, please check her website. Make sure too that you grab a copy of her book, Believe IT. This book is filled with authenticity and a powerful message. It contains other practical tips about running a business, having a healthy relationship, dealing with stress, and many others. I’m definitely going to get a copy of my own, so make sure you get yours, too!
If you find today’s content valuable and life-changing, please make sure to share this episode over on your Instagram Stories. Don’t forget to tag Jamie @jamiekernlima and me, @lewishowes, with your key takeaways. Lastly, please subscribe to The School of Greatness over on Apple Podcasts. Please leave a rating and review and let us know what you enjoyed most about this episode!
Jamie Kern Lima wants you to stop underestimating yourself and become the unstoppable person you are! If you’re ready to overcome rejections and self-doubts to achieve your greatness, make sure to check this episode today!