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Jenna Lyons and Marcia Kilgore Aren’t Afraid of Failure — Just Boredom

The serial entrepreneur and newly minted reality TV star have mastered the art of remaining relevant.

Jenna Lyons

Founder and CEO, LoveSeen

Marcia Kilgore

Founder and CEO, BeautyPie

How did you meet and what was the genesis of your collaboration?

Jenna Lyons: It’s actually really modern. Not old lady at all. Marcia slid into my DMs. She liked something I posted, and said, “Hi, would you ever consider doing something?” I knew who she was, but we had never met. I came to New York in the late ’80s and remember distinctly when Bliss Spa opened. It was pretty groundbreaking. Before Bliss, everything was gold leaf and pink and spas were geared toward women who were established in their lives. Bliss was for everyone and it was the first time I had seen branding that spoke to a different look and feel. I was in the design world and it felt like a game-changer, even back then.

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Marcia Kilgore: At Beauty Pie, our mission is to bring out exciting products in ways that are relevant and fresh, and have the expert of the expert of the experts. We found this incredible lipstick formulation — and knew we wanted to launch it as a collection, and we thought “Who can we collaborate with who knows what makes women feel great — the epitome of the person who knows how to make women feel amazing in what they are wearing — who is that?” Jenna is a beacon of style and design and was always so sure about what was fashionable, but could also style the general public, and make everyone look amazing and feel comfortable. Besides, she’s famous for “that” lip color. I thought it would be amazing to collaborate with her on a lipstick line.

J.L.: It is very rare in this industry to have an instant synergy and respect for someone. I don’t like things to be exclusionary. At J. Crew, I wanted everyone to feel welcome, to feel like they could wear sequins, tulle or chinos — it’s about having the ability to play and have fun, and give people the best possible product at the best possible price. Marcia has a similar ethos.

You’ve both had multiple businesses. How do you think about reinvention and relevance and reimagining what you’re working on?

M.K.: As a necessity.

J.L.: Seeing people have a next act is really important. Society doesn’t necessarily share with us ways that allow us to be more than one thing. Forging your own path and trying new things — and sometimes failing — that is a gift. To be able to watch other people do that with some level of confidence but also humility and fear, and know we don’t have it all figured out. It is amazing to be later in life and trying new things. That’s fun — that’s where the magic happens.

M.K.: Our kids are of the generation where they’re not going to have just one job; they’re going to have seven or eight in the span of their lifetime. We are already living that, and we are the generation where we have to be able to learn new skills and apply them and be our next-gen selves because we are far from finished. We have to be able to take our skills and apply them in new ways, and there is no reason we can’t take the experience we have and do something better or fresher or faster.

How do you nurture your creativity and stay fresh?

J.L.: I learned a valuable lesson when I left J. Crew and had time off. I realized I was so busy all of the time and my schedule was so packed, that I had zero time to dream and consider and imagine and inspire. Having that time to power down is so important — I underestimated and undervalued head space and time and allowing things to come in. I deeply shifted my thinking and behavior to allow for not every second to be scheduled and to allow me to play and explore in a different way. I’m grateful I had that time — even though it was hard, it was really good.

M.K.: I try to take time during the day and weekends to empty my brain. It might be going on a really long hike — you’re not able to think about anything other than your feet on a rocky trail. It helps a lot to think about nothing to allow new perspective to come in. Also, a diversity of thinking and being around new people. When you’re around the same people doing the same things, it’s hard to be a new version of you.

As you were building your careers/businesses, you were also raising your families. How did you think about balance?

J.L.: I’m raising a boy and when I was at J. Crew he often came to the office and everyone knew who he was — he was Jenna Lyons’ kid and he got attention. When I left, I thought he would be so excited because I worked my ass off — I was constantly working — now I would have more time to be with him. What I didn’t realize was he liked me being in the work world. When I started Loveseen, we had a photo shoot and after, he said, mom it makes me so happy to see you doing your thing and I’m really proud of you. I realized that I didn’t have to compartmentalize and that seeing me work inspired him. That changed my perspective in the way I tried to shield him or include him. Now, I include him in everything, giving him the experience of understanding my thought- and decision-making processes. He has been really engaged in and feels involved.

M.K.: Support and help is tremendous; building your village. Being a full-time mom working and traveling — I needed help and support to navigate the highs and lows. Whether it is your partner, day care, a nanny, family and friends, build your support network and keep it close — I have done that for 18 years.

What drives you?

J.L.: I’m not ashamed of failing, but I do have a fear of failure. I’m OK when things don’t work out, but I want to make it happen. I want it to come together. I want people who are working with me to see something take off — that is really incredible. I feel responsible to the people who support me through that journey — and I want it to work. At the same time, I’ve grown out of feeling embarrassed or ashamed if it doesn’t, because I realize there is no achievement without failure. 

M.K.: I have a fear of boredom. I grew up in Saskatchewan, Canada. We had two TV channels and I remember literally waiting for the newspaper to come and poring over every line. It was minus 40 degrees in the winter, and waiting for the bus to the library meant risking your eyelids freezing shut. I need a lot of input for my brain to feel comfortable. I like to learn what’s going on, try new things, solve puzzles. At the same time, I’m a total merchant. I love making stuff and selling stuff, as long as it’s great stuff. There is something thrilling about the give and take of the marketplace. Personal evolution also drives me. It’s important for all of us — that we grow in some way, learn more and become fuller and better humans.