When Lightning Strikes: IT Cosmetics


How many times can you be rejected before giving up?

Jamie Kern Lima heard “no” too many times to count. Doubt crept into her head and left her confused, wondering if her idea -- to create a line of products that were equal parts makeup and skin care – would ever work.

Ten years ago, Jamie was an on-air reporter in the Seattle area. The crazy hours and hot lights wreaked havoc with her skin. She also began losing her eyebrows (in fact, she had to resort to drawing them on and actually wiped one off completely on-air).

This frustration led her on a wild-goose chase. She spent nearly all her disposable income trying to find make-up products that worked on her flawed skin – but to no avail.

So Jamie set out to solve a real problem that women face in finding and applying makeup. She wrote a business plan on the flight home from her honeymoon – and decided to quit her job and take the plunge as a entrepreneur. She worked out of her tiny apartment, consulting with a team of dermatologists and plastic surgeons to create a makeup/skincare hybrid line of products called Innovative Technology (IT) Cosmetics.

Jamie and her husband/business partner Paulo didn’t take a salary for three years, all the while working 100 hours/week. Any money generated from sales went right back into company research & development, which was initially funded by their savings and investments from friends and family.

And the one consistent word they heard for those years was “no”, particularly from top cosmetics retailers Ulta and Sephora.

For two years, she pitched the wildly-popular QVC network (audience: 100 Million+) to feature her products. One rejection from QVC via phone had left her sobbing.

But lightning would soon strike for Jamie. And she would soon be able to nearly pinpoint the exact minute when her life changed forever.

In 2010, a network executive spotted one of their products at a trade show. The dots were connected and Jamie finally got her big break; a 10-minute slot on-air.

If it didn’t work, there wouldn’t be a second chance. So Jamie arrived a week early, sitting in her local hotel room preparing for those 10 minutes.

She was asked to bring in 6,000 tubes of her award-winning concealer. On air, she was so nervous that her hand shook visibly, prompting the host to push it away from the camera close-up.

When she saw the “SOLD OUT” alert pop-up on screen, she began to cry on-camera. Her first thought:

We’re not going bankrupt.

Her authenticity and passion for her products connected with the audience. Jamie would go on to appear more then 200 times per year since that first appearance in 2010. And IT Cosmetics became the #1 brand on QVC.

Today, IT Cosmetics has over $100 million in sales and sold to beauty conglomerate L’Oreal for $1.2 Billion last year (with Jamie and Paulo staying at the helm).

There are never guarantees. But when you combine an unshakable belief in your mission with the grit to keep moving forward IN SPITE OF rejection, you put yourself in a position to find YOUR lightning.

John Lavallo57 Posts

John is Columbia Business School MBA with expertise in marketing, business leadership, and law. John is a successful entrepreneur who took his first company public. He currently resides in New York City.