Kylie, the Entrepreneur
The reigning Queen of Snapchat. Reality TV darling. Makeup mogul. She’s more than just a famous face—the youngest of the Kardashian clan, Kylie Jenner, has hustled beyond her 19 years, monetizing her name and exploding it into a massive cosmetics brand. In December, she brought that brand to life. Kylie Cosmetics entered the IRL space for the first time ever, driving lip envy to a fever pitch.
It’s Fashion Week, when all eyes are on New York, and the world’s most influential designers shell out upwards of a million dollars each to unveil their latest collections. Models parade down runways at almost 300 shows across the city, offering a sneak peek to style editors and celebrities alike. New York’s hotels swell to capacity, and sidewalks are ripe with street style.
These are the big leagues. This is a week dominated by fashion royalty. Yet, audible halfway across Manhattan is the collective scream of over 10,000, here for a brand just two years old. Here for one woman, a relative newcomer on the beauty block. Here, in line in the rain, for lipstick.
That brand is Kylie Cosmetics, and at its helm is 19-year-old Kylie Jenner.
In New York, Kylie frenzy shut down a Soho city block. Through her massive celeb status, it’s hard to remember that she’s only a teenager—and her journey has as many insecurities as any other coming-of-age story.
Kylie is the youngest of a family that stumbled into fame, harnessed it, then, led by matriarch Kris Jenner, turned it to gold. Keeping Up with the Kardashians attracted 1.3 million viewers in its first season, and the family segued seamlessly from reality-famous to famous-famous by cashing in on their influencer power at just the right moment.
In the last few years, Instagram and YouTube (then later, Snapchat) changed the game: “The Influencer” was now king. Makeup artists, gamers, and relative unknowns began to creep into household-name status. They started quitting their day jobs, earning a living for doing shoutouts for lipsticks, protein powder, and Pokémon.
At the top of the influencer spectrum, the King of Kings, is Kylie Jenner.
Every time she launches a new lip color, or shares a candid life moment on Snapchat, the internet explodes. She is envied and emulated by millions. Kylie is now Snapchat’s most followed user and the definition of “personal brand”.
It wasn’t always this way. When she was younger, she recalls being teased. Like any other girl stumbling into puberty, she didn’t like parts of her body, especially her lips, and found that makeup helped her feel more confident. At 15, she became “obsessed” with lipstick.
Little did she know, her childhood insecurity would inspire a decision that would change her life.
Kylie made a move that would
establish her as a true entrepreneur.
Two years ago, Kylie made a move that would raise her above the celebrity who, “Oh, by the way, sells stuff,” and establish her as a true entrepreneur. Naturally, she turned to cosmetics.
In 2014, she partnered with Seed Beauty to bring her vision—a namesake lip color line—to life. As a celebrity brand, Kylie Cosmetics is no white-label product with a name slapped on the packaging. Kylie is intensely involved in the business, elbow-deep in product development and discussions on the growth of the company.
I kept calling my mom being like, ‘Mom, I’m so scared. Do you think it’s going to sell?’ Because I put all my money upfront. You know, it’s all my money—I put everything into this.Kylie
When she launched her online-only store with Shopify, she nervously wondered if she’d ordered too much product. Regardless of her star-power, Kylie is not immune to the hardships of running a business. Her old self-consciousness crept in.
Her debut flash sale pushed hard against Shopify’s limits and crushed traffic records. Kylie Cosmetics sold out of product on its first day.
We launched at like 3 o'clock and I refreshed the page and it was gone. It was under a minute. It had to be like 20 seconds and it all sold out. I was just in shock. I never imagined it would become as big as it has.Kylie
Since then, Kylie Cosmetics has sold out collection after collection to hungry fans, and yet Kylie remains humble. She’s incredulous still, amazed at the success of the business. Her natural excitement for her brand is often the subject of many of her late-night Snaps.
Like any business, Kylie’s own suffered growing pains. When products sold out, or her website was bogged down with traffic, or a defective product was shipped, she turned to Twitter to personally address her customers.
Entrepreneurship at any scale—from a side-hustle maker to a massive star—has its low points. Businesses of all sizes fail every day. Even Kylie deals with the daily struggle. With her name at stake, she sticks close to the front lines.
opportunity in pop-ups to test her product in a retail setting.In December, Kylie’s business leveled up. Though her online sales were growing faster than any celebrity brand before her, she wanted another way to connect with customers, and give back to her fans. She understood the power of facetime with her loyal customers, and saw an
I wanted to give my fans and makeup lovers an experience. I wanted to do something that people can actually go to and physically experience and touch.Kylie
Kylie’s team reached out, and the idea spun into motion: Shopify would help Kylie take her online-only brand and bring it to life.
Re-imagining an online brand as a living, breathing thing involved more than just building fixtures. What does the brand feel like? How does it sound and smell? Kylie’s vision and a small team built the experience in under 30 days, and the result was minimalist, sexy, and 100% Kylie. The embodiment of Kylie Cosmetics—ultimately the embodiment of Kylie, the person—featured a replica Kylie bedroom, selfie station, lip kit wall, and exclusive holiday products.
Kylie partnered with Topanga Westfield Mall because of her personal connection with the venue—LA was home, and she and her family had shopped there for years. It was a natural fit for her brand’s in-person unveiling, and right inside her comfort zone.
With the hoarding still intact, scads of teens called in sick and skipped school to be the first to experience their favorite cosmetics brand in the flesh. Westfield’s usually sedentary corridors bulged, and Kylie fever became an epidemic.
At the end of her 14-day LA pop-up, 25,000 people in pursuit of the perfect pout would have shopped the brand’s IRL debut.
It feels really good to give my fans something, and make them feel like proud and excited. It’s really for them it’s not really for me.Kylie
The pop-up model proved itself an effective channel for the Kylie brand, and the success of the LA debut inspired Kylie to take the experience to other markets. Two months later, in New York, she boldly opened shop during Fashion Week, shutting down a whole street.