The Santa Barbara native has built a $1.5 billion company, Kathy Ireland Worldwide, a brand that “finds solutions for families, especially busy, underserved moms.” The company designs and markets about 45,000 items, including furniture, clothing, accessories, skin care products, real estate, music and publications.
The supermodel turned businesswoman learned her first lesson in business when she was 11 years old. Her dad showed her a job listing in a newspaper because he knew what kind of reaction he would get out of her. The listing read, “Newspaper carrier wanted: Are you the boy for the job?”
“I wrote to the editor, no, I’m not the boy for the job; I’m the girl for the job,” Ireland said at the Catalyst for Thought event last year. “I can do this route better than any boy. I deserve a chance.”
Ireland’s first product was a pair of socks. Although many ridiculed her idea, she said, socks are something everyone needs and it gauged her team’s creativity and innovation. As doors slammed in their face, she and her team slept in airports to save money as they kept pitching their product. Eventually, Kmart picked up her product.
“People said, ‘You can’t start a brand with a pair of socks. It has never been done,’” Ireland said. “That doesn’t mean it can’t be done — that’s noise. In order to succeed you have to turn off the noise of negativity so you can move forward with plans for your dream.”
The fifth annual International Women’s Festivals will also include Lynda Weinman, co-founder of Lynda.com; Robert Ferguson, fitness guru and author of Diet-Free for Life; Marilyn Tam, with her new book, Living the Life of your Dreams; Marsha Brown, author of Million Dollar Conversations; and singer-songwriter Lois Mahalia.
Festivals co-founder Patty DeDominic, Executive Director Tracy Beard and Scheinfeld Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation Director Melissa Moreno will discuss the event at 11:15 a.m. Wednesday at the press box atop the SBCC Del Playa Stadium.
Although Ireland may have learned several business lessons at a young age, she said there’s one that remains a priority — treating workers as family.
“I never had a family business; we’ve always had a business family,” Ireland said. “When you treat your team like family, there’s no limit to what you can accomplish.”