Kylie Jenner: An Inside Look at the World's Youngest Self-Made Billionaire
With the launch of Kylie Cosmetics, Kylie Jenner has gone from reality TV starlet to unbelievably successful entrepreneur in a matter of a few short years. She used her passion for makeup to build a business that is worth a whopping $900 million. Combined with her other assets, Kylie is worth an estimated $1 billion.
So, how did someone so young accomplish so much in such a short amount of time? The short answer is she leveraged her reality TV fame, her social influence and her social media knowledge, but the full answer is a lot more complex. Let's take a walk through Kylie’s journey to becoming the billion-dollar baby of the Kardashian-Jenner clan.
The Baby of the Family
Kylie Jenner is the youngest child of Kris Jenner from her previous marriage to Olympian Caitlyn (previously Bruce) Jenner. The young Jenner first stepped into the limelight at the age of 10, when she was featured with her family on E!’s Keeping Up with the Kardashians. The show included her parents and older siblings, Kim Kardashian West, Kourtney Kardashian, Khloé Kardashian, Rob Kardashian and Kendall Jenner.
On the show, Kylie and big sis Kendall became known for their crazy antics and pranks. The future mogul was able to start building a name for herself simply by being herself.
The Kardashian Fortune
Throughout the years, each member of the Kardashian-Jenner family has found what they wanted to focus on beyond reality television. Kim eventually dove into fashion, beauty and social justice reform, while Khloé focused on fitness and branched out into creating television shows.
Kourtney built a lifestyle brand centered around her life as a parent, and Rob started his own clothing and sock lines. Kendall found great success as a supermodel, and Kris racked up a lot of hours — and a lot of money — by managing them all. It feels a lot like both success and money are built into their DNA.
Finding Her Niche
While her other siblings were figuring out their lives, a younger Kylie also had to find her own thing to do. As a young teen, she thought about going into acting, especially since she lived in California. However, her mother knew that her youngest daughter was destined to be a businesswoman.
Due to the popularity of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Kylie was often spotted with her family on red carpets and also in photoshoots for magazines. Her fame at a young age proved to be quite lucrative as the future entrepreneur built a name for herself.
Early Endorsement Deals
Eventually, Kylie began to focus on commercial modeling in her teen years, and she had multiple campaigns and magazine covers alone and with older sister Kendall. She was also able to snag endorsement deals with companies like Nip + Fab and Bellami Hair Extensions.
The young star was making a significant amount of money for her age and already had a net worth of roughly $5 million before she even turned 18. Kylie later admitted her mom had cut her off financially at the age of 14, so she has been paying her own bills for quite some time.
A Personal Brand
Beyond just making a lot of money, Kylie quickly built up a personal brand for herself. People knew her name, and she had a lot of followers on social media, particularly teens around her own age who looked up to her.
The future businesswoman used her social media to take pictures and videos of her daily life, and this allowed her to connect with fans and build a stronger rapport with them. Although she may not have known it at the time, her social media accounts were destined to become a huge part of her empire.
Kendall & Kylie
Kylie eventually began to do more collaborations with her sister Kendall. The two joined forces with the clothing brand PacSun in early 2013 to create their own clothing line called The Kendall & Kylie Collection when she was only 15 years old. Months later, the Jenner sisters launched a jewelry line with Pascal Mouawad's Glamhouse called Metal Haven by Kendall & Kylie.
The sisters went on to co-author two science fiction novels, and they also launched a shoe and handbag line for Steve Madden's Madden Girl line. Of course, they naturally targeted teenage girls as their key customer base with all their endeavors.
Alongside her sister, Kylie became an influencer before becoming an online influencer was even a recognized thing. In 2014, the sisters were even listed on Time magazine's "Most Influential Teens" list.
In 2014, it was also revealed that Kylie — out of all her sisters — had the most influence when it came to young fans' fashion choices. According to data provided to Bloomberg Businessweek by former fashion site Polyvore, the rising mogul was often searched by the site's 20 million monthly unique users in connection with fashion and beauty tips.
A Passion for Makeup
As she got older, Kylie further explored her love of fashion and makeup. She loved how wearing makeup made her feel, particularly when she put on lipstick. In fact, she loves lipstick so much that she rarely leaves the house without either lipstick or lip gloss on.
She admitted that she had insecurities over her thinner lips, so she began to play around with ideas to make them look a little plumper. She tried overdrawing her lips with lip liner and then filling them in with lipsticks so that they appeared bigger. This lip insecurity was ultimately the spark that launched Kylie Cosmetics.
Experimenting with Her Look
The young entrepreneur began to change up her look quite a bit. In her late teens, she was spotted rocking a more goth look that was much different from the rest of her sisters. She also regularly dyed her hair different colors, which only added to her influence in teen fashion. The different colors made her appear cooler to her fans, and they loved it.
Kylie also revealed that her insecurities pushed her to get temporary lip fillers to make her lips fuller. The new size of her lips quickly hit tabloids and blogs all over the world, sparking a new viral fad on social media.
A Scandalous Challenge
Kylie found herself in the midst of a dilemma when the "Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge" was created by teen fans on social media. The challenge pushed teens to insert their lips into a shot glass or bottle and then suck out the air. This resulted in swollen lips to imitate Jenner's new pouty lips.
The challenge was slammed by doctors and could have been detrimental to her career, but she turned things around by diverting their attention to something new. She trademarked the phrase "Kylie Lip Kits...for the perfect pout," in August 2014 at age 17. With her mom by her side, she had a plan to make lemonade out of lemons.
The First Lip Kits
The budding businesswoman quietly used $250,000 of her own money to pay an outside company to produce her first "Kylie Lip Kits." The kits included a liquid lipstick and a lip liner and came in various colors. Kylie teased the different shades on her Instagram account for several months, creating swatches on her own skin to show how the colors looked.
She announced the launch of the kits on social media, just a day before they went on sale in November 2015. The kits sold out in less than a minute. Impressive, right?
A Scarcity Tactic
Some marketing experts weighed in on the instant success of Jenner's new lip kits, arguing that it was a classic "scarcity" tactic. She only had 15,000 kits made in the first place. This was viewed by experts as a way to research interest in the kits, but also a way to create a sense of exclusivity.
Those fans who got their hands on one of the first kits felt like they won the lottery. Those who didn't immediately started clamoring for the next release. Regardless of some negative expert opinions, Jenner almost doubled her initial investment in the kits.
Relaunching the Brand
Kris Jenner saw the lip kits as a huge opportunity for her youngest daughter. As Kylie’s "momager," she brought in e-commerce platform Shopify to help her build Kylie Lip Kits into a full-blown company.
In February 2016, Kylie Lip Kits were relaunched under the name Kylie Cosmetics on Shopify. This time, the collection was stocked online with 500,000 kits in six different shades. Kylie was fearful that she had ordered too much product, but she had nothing to worry about. During the debut sale, Kylie Cosmetics once again sold out of lip kits on its very first day.
Social Media Marketing
Using her social media accounts to promote her products was a major money saver for Kylie. At the time of the launch of Kylie Cosmetics, she had more than 110 million followers on Instagram alone.
The entrepreneur regularly used Instagram and Snapchat to show off the different shades from the line by wearing them herself. She also teased upcoming products and announced new launches. She even used social media to connect with customers regarding any customer service issues they had after purchasing the products.
Keeping Up with Kylie
Another key tactic in the growth of Kylie Jenner's company was her former mobile app and YouTube channel. To further promote the line, she gave fans an inside look at meetings and launch parties for Kylie Cosmetics.
She even showcased her own makeup routines, highlighting how she used the lip kits in her daily life. Kylie also got her family involved by bringing in her mom and sisters to test the kits. "Social media is an amazing platform," she told Forbes in 2018. "I have such easy access to my fans and my customers."
When Kylie Cosmetics launched in 2016, Kylie released a holiday collection that November that managed to pull down almost $19 million worth of orders in one day. This move sparked more collections that celebrated special occasions like Kylie’s birthday and included collaborations with her sisters and her mother.
The special collections often included a small gift for customers like a makeup bag or a lip pencil sharpener. These gifts made customers feel special and appreciated, and it kept them going back for more kits. By the end of 2016 — a mere nine months after its launch — the company had made $307 million.
Signing with PUMA
Also in 2016, Kylie added more money to her bank account with a seven-figure brand ambassador deal with footwear brand PUMA. As part of the deal, she served as a brand advocate and launched campaigns and posts on her social media outlets.
At the time, the deal was pretty controversial within her family, as her brother-in-law, Kanye West, has his own deal with Adidas. Her sister Kim saw it as a conflict of interest since West had her walk in his first two fashion shows for his Yeezy clothing line. Nevertheless, it was a strong business move for Kylie, and she didn’t back down.
As she continued to build Kylie Cosmetics, Kylie began to add more products to her beauty brand as well. She moved beyond just lip kits and included eyeshadows, blushes, concealers and more for beauty customers who loved the brand.
The rising mogul also began experimenting with brick-and-mortar retail sales for the company. She held a limited number of Topshop pop-ups in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco to give fans a chance to shop in person. Although the pop-ups were very successful, she ultimately decided she didn't need her own store because of the continuing rise of online shopping.
Over the next two years, Kylie Cosmetics continued to increase its sales. In 2018, Kylie went on to officially file for a skincare trademark. Almost a year after the filing, she announced the launch of her skincare line called Kylie Skin.
The line includes moisturizers, lotions and other products for customers to use to take care of their skin after removing their Kylie Cosmetics. The products are not only vegan and dermatologist tested, but they are also cruelty-free, gluten-free, sulfate-free and paraben-free to appeal to every customer. Since its launch, Kylie Skin has earned $25 million in sales, adding to her net worth.
Signing a Deal with Ulta
Another major business move for Kylie came when she locked in a distribution deal with Ulta Beauty. She signed the deal with the major beauty retailer in 2018 to allow her products from Kylie Cosmetics to be sold in 1,300+ Ulta locations across the country.
Although Kylie Cosmetics was previously a digital-only brand, Kylie and her team realized that adding the products in select stores would help extend their reach with consumers. It was also a major win for Ulta, who is in direct competition with makeup company Sephora for the attention of millennials and Generation Z consumers.
A Controversial Title
With all this growth for the company, Kylie Jenner officially crossed the $1 billion milestone in terms of her net worth. After doing so, Forbes reported that she was the world's youngest self-made billionaire, officially pulling it off at a younger age than Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Many argued that Kylie wasn't actually "self-made" and that her company was really just an extension of an empire that had been built by her mom and sisters over the years. However, Forbes later stated that the term was used "as a way to distinguish between extremely rich people who inherited wealth and those whose fortune was made primarily in other ways."
An Independent Hustle
Regardless of opinions about how she did it, Kylie was still a wealthy young woman with more than $1 billion in revenue and assets. What was even more impressive was that up until that point, she had done it all on her own financially. All the money poured into Kylie Cosmetics came out of her own pockets.
That means that Kylie owns the popular beauty company outright. Marketing and business experts weighed in on her success, warning that the brand may not last, especially independently. Only time will tell, but no one can argue with the results so far. The brand earned $800 million in less than five years under her leadership.
Again, Kylie’s major success was attributed to the fact that she had worked hard to develop a personal brand for herself online. Her customer and fan engagement online has proven vital to the success of Kylie Cosmetics.
Her success also showcases the power of social media networks like Instagram, particularly when it comes to marketing and shopping. Jenner's story is a real case study in how social media can be used to drive sales and why influencers — both on the macro and micro levels — have found so much success online.
In February 2018, Kylie became a mom when she gave birth to her daughter, Stormi, whom she shares with ex-boyfriend Travis Scott. She regularly posts pictures and videos of Stormi online, and the toddler was even the inspiration for a new collection at Kylie Cosmetics.
Of course, balancing motherhood and running a multi-million-dollar business isn’t easy. Kylie has admitted in the past, especially when Stormi was a newborn, that she had "mom guilt" over leaving the baby to go to work. However, she makes sure she makes time for fun with her daughter in between work hours.
Moving to Adidas
After the family controversy surrounding Kylie’s deal with PUMA, the entrepreneur eventually signed a brand ambassador deal with Adidas for their Falcon Shoes in 2018. The move not only quelled family drama, but it also added more money to her pockets.
Kylie switching over to Adidas allowed her to join her brother-in-law and Yeezy designer, Kanye West, as well as big sister Kendall, who is also a brand ambassador. Adidas said in a statement at the time, "As a life-long fan of the brand, Kylie embodies the bold spirit of Falcon, and we are pleased to announce her as the face of the campaign."
Kylie Cosmetics Headquarters
To keep up with work, Kylie has her own headquarters for employees at Kylie Cosmetics in Oxnard, California. She has taken supporters on a virtual tour of the fancy office in the past. It’s clear that she held nothing back when it came to creating the perfect workspace for herself.
The beautifully decorated office features Kylie’s favorite shade of pink, pictures and videos of Kylie and the products, and a neon Kylie sign at the entrance. The vending machine serves tiny bottles of champagne! And, of course, there is a playroom just for Stormi.
Getting the Job Done
Kylie’s team at the company is rather small compared to the volume of sales and the amount of money the brand makes. She employs seven people full time and five people part time. Manufacturing and packaging are outsourced to Seed Beauty, the original manufacturer of the lip kits.
Kylie Cosmetics are still distributed at Ulta Beauty locations across the country, while online sales and fulfillment are handled by Shopify. Mother Kris takes care of the finances and public relations for the company in exchange for her 10% management fee. Teamwork really makes the Kylie dream work!
A Major Deal
In a surprise move, it was recently announced that Kylie signed a major deal with beauty brand Coty, Inc. In the past, Coty has acquired other top beauty brands, including CoverGirl, OPI Products (nail polishes) and Clairol (hair dye). The deal gave Coty a 51% controlling stake in Kylie Cosmetics, and Kylie received $600 million in return.
The move was a shock due to the success of the brand under Kylie’s lead. Many questioned why she would essentially give away control of her company. However, she had her own reasons for setting up the deal this way.
Breaking It Down
With the deal, Kylie and her team still have creative control of Kylie Cosmetics and are able to make decisions regarding products, packaging and marketing. She made the decision in order to expand the reach of the brand on a worldwide scale.
In spite of the company’s controlling stake, Coty does recognize that Kylie is vital to the brand’s success. "Ms. Jenner and her pull with consumers are key to the brand’s success," said Coty finance chief Pierre-André Terisse. "She is essential to this agenda. This is why we wanted this to be a partnership."
Rolling in the Dough
Kylie Jenner has made more than $630 million with Kylie Cosmetics. The brand is on track to hit a net worth of $1 billion of its own by 2022. At just 22 years old, Kylie, her daughter and any future children she has are set for life.
For her, it’s about more than the money. Kylie Cosmetics is her life’s purpose. The mogul may even pass it along to Stormi if she’s interested when the time comes. "I’m focused on Kylie Cosmetics and expanding that worldwide. I would love to be in stores everywhere," she said in a recent interview with ES Magazine.