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Kathy Ireland tells how to last in the world of business
BY CARRIE MACMILLAN REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN
At a time when the world paired the name Kathy Ireland with two-piece bathing suits, the supermodel took a job showing off her feet.
It was 1993 and Ireland’s modeling days were winding down. She accepted a sock-modeling stint, with one condition: She wanted a piece of the business. Those socks, stamped with Ireland’s name, were soon selling out at Kmart.
Today, Kathy Ireland Worldwide encompasses wedding gowns, rugs, apparel and much more. Ireland, chief executive officer and chief designer, will deliver the keynote luncheon address at the Business Women’s Forum at the Aqua Turf in Plantsville Friday.
“We are celebrating our 20th anniversary this year and it was the brand many said would never last,” said Ireland, 50, during a phone interview Monday from California, where she lives with her husband and three children, ages 19, 14 and 10. “There are so many women who say, ‘It’s easy for you, you came from this modeling background.’ But my answer to that is, ‘If I can do it, so can you.’” But that doesn’t mean it was easy building a company from the ground to one that brings in about $2 billion a year in sales and is one of the most powerfully licensed brands in the world.
“Most brands have the life span of five years, so we don’t take 20 for granted.
It’s the result of hard work and a lot perseverance,” she said. “(Growing up), I worked paper routes, waitressed, sold coupon books by telephone, but modeling was my college and exposed me to the best designers in the world. I learned so much, whether from wonderful people or even the pervs, which showed me what to look out for.”
Still, there were many doors slammed in her face when she was first starting her business, Ireland said.
“But when you believe in what you are doing, it makes the difference,” Ireland said, pausing to reflect on Sheryl Sandberg’s book, “Lean In,” which urges women to make the sacrifices necessary to move up the corporate ladder. “I always encourage women to lean in, but when I was starting my career, there was no table for me to lean into. No one was inviting me into any board rooms.
So I thought, ‘You know what? I’ll build my own and design it and sell it.’ If we wait for opportunities to come our way, it’s likely we’ll be waiting a really long time.”
Women invited to ‘BE THE CHANGE’ they want to see in the world
Women’s Forum awards scholarships, encourages aspiring entrepreneurs
Kathy Ireland’s supermodel career was on the wane around the time Cynthia Cruz of Waterbury was born. But the former Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover darling has since built a multi-billiondollar empire, an accomplishment that inspires Cruz. The 21-year-old accounting student at Waterbury’s Post University hopes to gain her certification as a public accountant and eventually become chief executive or chief operating officer a large company.
Cruz was one of three business students at Post to receive a scholarship this year from the 31st Annual Business Women’s Forum. The forum will take place Friday at the Aqua Turf in Plantsville from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will feature Kathy Ireland, chief executive officer and chief designer of Kathy Ireland Worldwide, as the keynote luncheon speaker.
The nonprofit Business Women’s Forum is a program of the Greater Waterbury Chamber of Commerce Foundation and carries the mission of raising scholarship money for female Post University students pursuing business education.
Over the years, the Business Women’s Forum has raised close to $180,000, said Lynn Ward, president and chief executive officer of the Waterbury Regional Chamber, and a BFW director.
Typically, the annual scholarship totals $6,000, Ward said, and is given to one student or as many as three. This year, each student will receive $2,000.
The winners were selected by a subcommittee of the Business Women’s Forum.
Cruz is a full-time honors student at Post and also works two part-time jobs, one in bookkeeping and the other as an accounting assistant.
“The scholarship is going to help amazingly because I want to take five classes next semester, like I am doing this semester so I can get to my graduation date sooner,” said Cruz, a Waterbury resident and native. “I am self-dependent and live with my fiancee. I can’t wait to hear from Kathy Ireland and how she got to where she is now in life.”
Fellow scholarship recipient Julia Slyaktina hadn’t heard of Ireland growing up in Moscow, but the 21year-old accounting major at Post also hopes to follow in her footsteps and someday start her own company. Slyaktina came to the U.S. in 2011 and first studied at a college in Arkansas, to which she was attracted because of the school’s volleyball program. She has played volleyball since she was 8 but said the sport is not developed at a higher level in Russia. Unhappy in Arkansas, which she found to be too rural, she transferred to Post in 2012. She represents the university in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference as a starting center and is co-founder of Post’s Business Society.
“It’s my dream to start my own business some day and there are so many options available with an accounting degree,” said Slyaktina, who will graduate in 2015. She keeps busy with school and volleyball.
She also works part-time in the admissions office on campus.
The third scholarship winner, Emily Slossum of Newtown has a leg — or hoof — up already on her career goals, having recently started her own business training horses.
“I break them in using a method called natural horsemanship, which speaks to a horse using their own language and introduces them to the concept of carrying riders and working in the saddle gently instead of hurting them into submission,” said Slossum, who is 22 and plans to graduate in May.
Slossum is studying equine care and management with concentrations in equine nutrition, rehabilitative hoof trimming and massage therapy. She said proper hoof trimming and massage therapy helps improve the performance and health of horses.
“Just like how we get stiff and have a stiff day, some horses have disabilities that make them move certain ways and this can help lengthen their careers,” she said.
Contact Carrie MacMillan at email@example.com.
ABOUT THE FORUM
The event returns to the Greater Waterbury area after having been in Hartford for several years.
“Be The Change” is the theme of the forum, which will include six professional development workshops, all-day networking, breakfast, lunch, and a closing reception. Dr. Janet Lapp, a psychologist, author and consultant, will deliver a motivational speech in the morning.
Ireland fits perfectly with the “change” theme, said Robin Sills, a registered nurse with Naugatuck Valley Radiology and chairwoman of this year’s Business Women’s Forum.
“She started out in one industry and ended up on a totally different career path than she thought she would end up with,” Sills said. “We are taking her fame and using it to emphasize how women are constantly reinventing themselves. What I am today may not be who I am tomorrow. You don’t have to be stuck in a stereotype and I think that’s awesome.”
IF YOU GO
The Business Women’s Forum is Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Aqua Turf in Plantsville. Admission is $175 and includes breakfast, lunch, networking, workshops and a closing reception with a buffet and raffle prizes. To register, visit 2013BWF.com or call the Waterbury Regional Chamber at 203-757-0701.
By Pamela Dollak, New Jersey Lifestyle
Sure Kathy Ireland is beautiful. Appearing in thirteen consecutive issues of the infamous Sports Illustrated swimsuit
edition, as well as three of its covers, demonstrated that. But being a cover girl was never Ireland’s
ideal. From a young age, Ireland had more of an affinity for business. As a toddler, she shared a painted rock stand with her older sister, where she showed early signs
of possessing an enterprising mind by marketing her decorative pebbles for two for ten cents to her sister’s one for a dime. Please read the entire article below.
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., June 11, 2013 /PRNewswire/ – kathy ireland Worldwide is collaborating with The Royal Footwear & Accessories (The RFA Group) as their Chief Designer, as well as launching her own kathy ireland line of Footwear with the company. As newly appointed Chief Designer, Kathy is committed to bringing chic and affordable footwear to everyday life. The expected launch of the kathy ireland royal foot wear line is set for spring of 2015 and will include a full line of footwear categories.
The brand will emphasize fashion for today’s women and their families. Dynamic trends will meet vibrantly inspired fashions from around the world to make up the collection. The brand will focus on fun colors, interesting textures and unique ornamentation; yet always keeping the needs of today’s women in mind. Key elements will include comfortable constructions, soft footbeds, flex insoles with lightweight outsoles that will incorporate traction technology throughout the footwear brand. Kathy’s unique designs will showcase effortless style for the women who love affordable fashion.
“We are extremely happy and proud to welcome Kathy as the Chief Designer for The RFA Group, with her vivid designs for both the company and her own line,” said Director of Sales, Eddie Spigel. “The collaboration with kiWW represents a huge opportunity for The RFA Group to become part of a company with enormous success.”
“Our new relationship with The RFA Group is an exciting extension for our fashion assortment. The agreement began at the License Global Expo. The RFA Group is an extraordinary company, with incredible leadership, design innovation and commitment to excellence in everything we bring to market. It is a great privilege to serve as Chief Designer for this amazing company. The RFA Group offers an assortment of classic and contemporary styling. Our private label programs deliver extraordinary margins and our designer collections are unique, individual and competitive. One of our many collections include leading fashion icon, Isaac Mizrahi… truly spectacular. My own line, kathy ireland by The RFA Group will launch in Spring 2015, we are working diligently to bring exquisite footwear to our customers,” said Kathy Ireland, CEO and Chief Designer of kathy ireland Worldwide.
About The RFA Group
A Global leader in the footwear industry, The RFA Group is dedicated to designing, producing and marketing quality branded and private label footwear. Family owned and operated, The RFA Group maintains it success by always looking towards future goals. Our dedicated team of employees ensure that our clients’ needs are exceeded through creative design, diverse collections, intricate detailing and fast delivery.
Our product lines offer styles for every age group. Each line is designed with the purpose, to provide quality fashion at reasonable prices. Our products can be purchased at many of the largest retailers in the United States and worldwide. We are continually striving to maintain excellence by constantly innovating our industry, regardless of the market forces we maintain on time and hassle-free execution of all customer orders.
About kathy ireland Worldwide® (kiWW)
Founded in 1993, the kathy ireland Worldwide® brand, celebrates a lifestyle. The missions of “…finding solutions for families, especially busy moms,” “…finding solutions for people in love,” and “…finding solutions for business people,” translates to all kiWW collections, including: fashion, fine jewelry, intimate apparel, accessories, weddings, home, office and more.
kiWW’s unique capability to design and translate fashion trends for all markets and price points allows it to develop product for a wide variety of customer tastes.
Listed as the 28th most powerful brand globally by License Global Magazine, with annual merchandise sales of $2 billion, according to Forbes Magazine, the success of kathy ireland Worldwide is the result of teamwork and dedication. According to Fairchild Publication, Kathy Ireland is one of the 50 most influential people in fashion.
Kathy and kiWW support many non-profits including; YWCA, Dream Foundation, Providence Educational Foundation, 911 for Kids/AEFK, Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation and the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
As a powerful advocate for Israel, Kathy has spoken out for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference, with global leaders, including, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and President Barack Obama. Kathy is a member of WIZO, and is honored by the ADL and the JNF.
When building a brand, there is so much more to than just sales and profits (although these are also important aspects). You want to build something that consumers can relate to; you want to build a lifestyle.
I recently attend The Third Annual Consumer Brand Conference hosted by Consensus Advisors, a boutique investment bank focused on the retail and consumer products industries, and The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc., the world’s largest exchange company. There a were a number of good presentations along with two phenomenal keynote speakers, Kathy Ireland of kathy ireland Worldwide® and Kevin Plank of Under Armor.
Kathy Ireland is known for her days as a model, gracing the covers of publications such as Sports Illustrated. Ireland always had a desire to enter the business side of things and managed to build a billion dollar empire with kathy ireland Worldwide®. After the conference, FashInvest had a chance to interview Kathy Ireland on her journey, success and the future of kathy ireland Worldwide®.
Kathy Ireland began her journey with the mission of “. . . finding solutions for families, especially busy moms.” They’ve expanded to “finding solutions for people in business” and “finding solutions for people in love” and serving brides. “I graduated from high school and had a fantastic education in the fashion world in my prior career. Working in fashion and being inspired by and mentored by incredible people such as Vera Wang, Ralph Lauren and Bruce Webber (just to name a few) just opened my eyes to the world of fashion. Elizabeth Taylor was an amazing mentor; she changed the way that I looked at fashion design and business. I truly feel blessed that I had this education,” stated Ireland.
Although Kathy entered the modeling industry, she always had a flare for business. “I entered the modeling industry as a business person already; I even had an interest in business as a child. The entire time I worked as a model I was trying and failing at different businesses. I knew that I belonged on the other side of the lens, I would watch the creativity of the people on the other side of the lens and I would think, that’s where I want to be and it just took me a while to get there,” stated Ireland.
The combination of both design and business both fascinated Ireland as a child. Her first job as a child was selling painted rocks, which were multi functional. When asked about marketing strategies, Ireland stated the following: “Listening to our customer and implementing what she tells me, it’s having our eyes on the horizon and ear to the ground and having that heightened alertness. Being able to anticipate what she needs, even before she needs it, having enough elasticity in our brand to be able to move with her. Also being about not reacting to change but initiating it, overall, just learning and growing, that’s our strategy.”
Kathy Ireland was very smart when it came to industries that she wanted to focus on. According to Forum for the Future, the American fashion industry is a $298 billion dollar market; the bridal industry alone is worth $72 billion dollars, with more than 2.5 million weddings annually. The home and Outdoor industry is estimated to be worth $33.3 billion.
kathy ireland Worldwide® was first funded through a personal loan, the company also worked diligently to live slightly below its means. Ireland also discussed some future plans and future partnerships with a variety of other industries such as publishing and in within the home industry with flooring and Fine China.
As we all know, social media can be a very powerful tool and it is one of the best ways to reach out to consumers. Ireland states: “Social media has been amazing, at first I was reluctant, and I thought that I was over communicating with the customers already. When starting our twitter account we only had 11 followers, over time I was proven wrong, it’s really been incredible and I’ve made some really good friends, met amazing people doing wonderful things that never would have known otherwise. I love that social media has allowed our consumer (women) to be brutally honest, it’s very powerful. To be able to have the opportunity to be unedited and to get the message that you want out there is a real luxury. I don’t know how people are able to carryon in business without the power of social media. “
When asked about the advice that she would give to aspiring entrepreneurs in the fashion and lifestyle industries, Kathy Ireland stated: “ Have a passion for what you’re doing, find great people to support you, it’s ok to ask for help. There are so many opportunities. Think outside the box; don’t let the ‘nay sayers’ stop you. I encourage people not to give up, persevere.”
Our wonderful Brand Partners offer an incredible selection of gift ideas for Mom. Please experience these products at your favorite retailer online or in person.
Kathy Ireland gained fame in the ’80s and ’90s in sports illustrated’s swimsuit edition. she has turned into a big-time entrepreneur. she’s now head of the design and marketing company kathy ireland worldwide, which has grown into a $2 billion empire. she has her hand in everything from books and fashion, to flooring and furniture…
By Emily Nohr
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER
It all started with socks.
The year was 1993 and a retailer approached Kathy Ireland to model a sock line. Then a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model, Ireland decided she was ready to take on a more significant role — she didn’t want to model socks, she wanted to be a partner in selling socks. That began her shift from modeling to business.
Ireland on Wednesday urged 2,100 attendees at the ICAN — Institute for Career Advancement Needs — women’s leadership conference in Omaha to follow her lead and pursue their passions without giving up. The 20th annual conference celebrated with a theme of igniting a conversation about education, leadership and inspiration.
Mary Prefontaine, ICAN president and CEO, encouraged attendees to consider what their legacy will be 20 years from now and what dream they are holding on to but haven’t yet pursued. She told them the world is ready for their ideas.
“Today’s conference,” she said, “is full of examples that you can fulfill your dreams.”
Ireland’s passion of business and design led her to create kathy ireland Worldwide, a design and marketing firm that includes everything from books and fashion to flooring and furniture.
Today, she serves as CEO and chief designer for the company, which has products in more than 50 countries and thousands of retailers, including Nebraska Furniture Mart, Ireland’s first retail partner in the home goods industry.
Ireland told attendees they were probably puzzled at first why she was asked to speak at a women’s leadership conference since most people remember her from her modeling days. From about the mid-1980s to mid-1990s, she was featured in 13 consecutive Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues.
If attendees were there to get modeling secrets, Ireland had two suggestions. To look your best, she joked, contort your body to give the illusion of a thinner frame and use Photoshop.
The truth, Ireland said at a more serious moment, is that she was always more interested in designing and being behind the scenes. When she decided to develop kathy ireland Worldwide, she treaded slowly by building relationships, sleeping in airports to save money and getting used to hearing “no” often.
The hard work eventually paid off and “we were able to build our empire under the radar,” Ireland said. Forbes reported last year that her company sells about $2 billion in retail each year.
That empire, she said, wasn’t created without challenges. A wife and mother of three children, Ireland said she knows the difficulties life can present, from the expected to the unexpected — accidents, brushes with financial issues, illnesses.
That’s why building a company that offers solutions, particularly for busy moms, is important, she said.
“Just making it out the driveway some days, it’s a victory,” Ireland said. “Making it into the store is heroic.”
Conference attendee Tammi Crampton, who is a project manager for Mutual of Omaha, said she appreciated Ireland’s honesty about her personal and professional obstacles. It’s easy to assume that public figures like Ireland must have every door open to them, and hearing that she faced rejection and criticism was comforting, she said.
“She struggles with balancing as much as we do,” Crampton said. “It was like, ‘OK. We all have bad days.’”
Tiziana Green, who is social media coordinator for TD Ameritrade, agreed. Involved in ICAN for many years, Green brought her daughter Elleiana Green, a third-grader at St. Pius X/St. Leo School, to expose her to strong female leaders and their messages. It was a reward for her daughter, who has won some leadership honors at school recently.
“I want to help ignite that fire in her,” Green said.
Ireland said sharing the story about her journey from model to businesswoman has grown into her passion, too. She’s learned that she won’t find all her fulfillment at work, and that service and education is where she will.
“I just really feel like I need to speak from the heart,” she said. “All I can offer is what I know.”
Other conference highlights included:
»Bob Cronin, senior vice president-IT and infrastructure for ACI Worldwide, and Derek Leathers, president and chief operating officer of Werner Enterprises, were named winners of the Tim Rouse Advocate for Women in Leadership Award. The award is given to male leaders who embody and support the advancement of women. There were 12 nominees.
»Home Instead Inc. was named the Best Place to Work for the Advancement of Women in Omaha, an award created to recognize a local company that promotes the advancement of women in the workplace. The award was presented by Baird Holm LLP and ICAN.
Contact the writer: 402-444-1192, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kathy Ireland shares special love for mentor Elizabeth Taylor, Easter Weekend,
only on “Entertainment Tonight.”
“I barely graduated from high school and I encourage people…just because you have a lack of education don’t let that stop you.” “My journey from the beach to the boardroom was an interesting one. I learned a lot of lessons along the way. Most of them the hard way.”
Now She’s gone from the cover of Sports Illustrated to the cover of Forbes. Like her mentor Elizabeth Taylor, Kathy used her notoriety to launch a retail empire that moved 2 billion dollars worth of licensed products last year alone! That’s more than Martha Stewart!
Though Kathy Ireland is perhaps best-known for her legendary Sports Illustrated days, the 50-year-old former model recently landed another type of cover — Forbes magazine, in which she’s being celebrated for her mega-business which moved an incredible $2 billion worth of retail products last year alone.
ET sat down with the “super-mogul,” who credits at least part of her amazing success to one of her biggest mentors — the late Elizabeth Taylor.
“I’ve been blessed in my life to be mentored by some incredible people, including Elizabeth Taylor, who caused me to look at life, business, design, philanthropy with a whole new set of eyes,” she said. “Elizabeth knew her business like it’s nobody’s business.”
In fact, it was her vast knowledge and hands-on approach that she considers the biggest lesson the legendary actress taught her.
“Watching her go through her contracts, her documents, the way she would approach design, that she would just find beauty,” she said. “The integrity to everything she did was so critical — but more than anything it was her heart. And she truly continues to change the world and teaches me lessons from heaven continuously.”
Ireland also talked about the low expectations put upon her because of her modeling past, and how rejection actually became a strong motivational force — one thing she thinks people would be surprised to learn about her is that she “barely” graduated from high school.
“I encourage people — just because you have a lack of education — don’t let that stop you,” she stressed. “At the same time I believe in education … I believe for young people, every opportunity you can get to learn, take it and seize it — whatever it is, however it looks for you, everyone’s path is going to be different. But don’t let someone else’s limitations on you stop you from accomplishing what you want to do in life.”
Video: Kathy Ireland Gifts Military Dream Wedding