As a TV news anchor on KPTV Good Day Oregon, Jamie Kern Lima arrived at the studio in the wee hours to prepare for a five-hour newscast that began at 4:30 a.m.
Kern Lima traded the news business for beauty in 2008, but she’s still frequently found in front of a TV camera at all hours of the morning and night, expounding the merits of It Cosmetics, the brand she founded with her husband, Paulo Lima, five years ago.
It Cosmetics launched on QVC in September 2010, and has seen its business balloon ever since. “This year we’ve been on QVC close to 200 times. You can’t do that if the products don’t actually work,” said Kern Lima, who started the problem-solution line to help disguise her own skin issues of rosacea and thinning brows.
She admits the home-shopping schedule takes more stamina than the morning news, but it’s also catapulted her business to north of $60 million in sales over the last 12 months. That’s a big leap from its 2010 revenues of $1 million, generated mostly from the brand’s Web site. The brand is forecast to grow to $70 million this year. Its growth trajectory attracted private equity firm TSG Consumer Partners, who acquired a minority stake in It Cosmetics last October.
This year, the brand will expand beyond the airways and cyberspace to retail doors. On Sept. 1, It Cosmetics, short for Innovative Technology, is slated to enter 306 Ulta doors, where it will occupy a six-foot gondola. The aim is to roll out chainwide in 2014. Also in the works for next year is an informercial by Guthy Renker, which recently took a minority stake in the beauty firm. Details are currently being developed, but the informercial is slated to premiere by next summer.
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It Cosmetics’ track record on QVC interested Guthy-Renker, as did its products that could be dramatically demonstrated on air, but Greg Renker, cofounder and cochairman of Guthy-Renker, stressed it was Kern Lima herself who made the difference. “What we look for, and it is not easy to find, is a standout person. We are [pleased] we have identified a person with that passion and now it is our responsibility to leverage it,” said Renker.
Guthy-Renker pushed to secure equity in It Cosmetics. “The infomercial is an astounding mechanism for multichannel pick-up,” said Renker. “By having equity in the company [It Cosmetics,] we are shoulder-to-shoulder together and become enthusiastic about all channels. We don’t want there to be a tug-and-pull about who is benefiting.”
Despite TSG and Guthy Renker’s investments, Kern Lima said she and her husband continue to be the company’s largest shareholders.
Kern Lima credits social media for the brand’s early momentum. “Women would post their before-and-after photos online. Thank goodness for social media because we didn’t have money to advertise,” she said. Today the lineup includes some 100 products, including Your Skin But Better CC+ with physical sunscreen for $38 and Brow Power eyebrow pencil for $24.
Her big break though was when a QVC host tried the Bye Bye Under Eye concealer at a CEW Beauty Insiders’ Choice Awards Product Demo event. The host called the buying team over and It Cosmetics landed on QVC that fall.
“We don’t mind taking something completely unknown. What we’re looking for is a great product with a great story,” said Claudia Lucas, director of beauty merchandising at QVC. “We put the concealer on air in 2010 and it sold out very quickly and that kept happening,” she continued. “She’s not a makeup artist. She’s not a model. She’s a real woman dealing with beauty issues and viewers respond to that.” Lucas said It Cosmetics ranks among the channel’s top five cosmetics brands.
Kern Lima regularly removes her makeup on air, revealing her rosacea, and then shows viewers how to cover their skin imperfections with It Cosmetics, which are formulated with the help of an advisory board of plastic surgeons. Kern Lima said, “Coming from TV news, where you have to be perfect, when I take my makeup off on air [on QVC] it’s very liberating.”