Recently I was asked if I could name one entrepreneur that I looked up to the most. It was an easy question. To me, that entrepreneur is Kim Kardashian. Yes, Kim Kardashian.
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The Kardashians have been making news once again. Just last week it was reported that the “Kendall & Kylie” mobile game has earned $3.5 million. Kendall is 20 and Kylie is 18. Their older step-sister is Kim Kardashian. Earlier this month Kim publicly boasted that she’s earned $80 million from her own mobile app “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood.” Forbes has estimated Kim’s 2015 earnings to be about $50 million. Some estimates put the net worth of the entire Kardashian clan at over $300 million. Who’s to know how much of this is true. All I know is that the family seems to be living pretty large on their reality show “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” -- and yes I’m a fan, OK?
Kim’s detractors call her a talentless phony. They accuse her of being a self-centered publicity hound. They say she’s only famous because of a sex tape and a larger than life derriere, of which she seems to have zero problem showing to the universe. They put her at the center of what’s wrong with America.
But as I see it, she’s actually the opposite. Kardashian is what’s right with America. She is smart. She is savvy. She is hardworking. And she is very, very entrepreneurial. So instead of hating her, why not learn? This is a business woman who has the same characteristics that make up every successful entrepreneur I know.
Contrary to those that think that running a small business is all about “passion” and “changing the world,” the most successful entrepreneurs I know simply have a passion for making money. This is not something that’s taught. Kardashian caught the bug early. As a teenager, she worked at a clothing store for four years. She then designed accessories and started her own eBay store at the age of 16, selling shoes and other fashions. She used this experience to start another business that cleaned out and redesigned closets and took the clothes from her customers and sold them on eBay, too. Sure, her father, a successful and famous attorney, loaned her money for her various entrepreneurial ventures. But he always required that she sign contracts (he once bought her a car in return for her washing it every week – she ultimately paid it off with the profits from her other businesses).
Kardashian catapulted to fame because of that famous sex tape she made back in 2003. But instead of withdrawing from the world she, like any entrepreneur, capitalized on the moment and set about leveraging it to make more money. She persuaded a very skeptical E! network to temporarily run her reality show and, 11 seasons later, KUWTK is clearly making her and the network a ton of money – it’s the network’s most watched show and earned the Kardashians a 2015 renewal deal for $100 million.
But that’s only the beginning. Kardashian has a chain of clothing stores. She has a string of endorsement deals (some successful, some not…welcome to entrepreneurship) for products ranging from diet pills to nail polish to debit cards. She charges hefty fees for speaking appearances. And of course there’s the mobile app. Is she exploiting her famous name? Darned right she is. And why not. This is what entrepreneurs do. They profit from opportunities. Her fame, her brand, her style, her attitude…that’s her product. This is why she has 42 million Twitter followers, and counting. There is a huge audience of people who she entertains. This is not because of a sex tape. It’s because she’s a driven entrepreneur who’s providing a service to her customers.
She’s also smart enough to realize that she wouldn’t be so successful without others helping her. Every product endorsement and every deal – from her DASH stores to the mobile app - involves a commercial partner. She’s smart enough to know what she doesn’t know. She’s not a retailing guru or a mobile app developer. She licenses her name to companies and lets them do what they do best. Yet, she stays deeply involved in her projects because she’s also smart enough to know that any failure from these ventures will reflect poorly on her, and her brand.
But her best partners are family. And the Kardashians are a true family business, complete with rivalries, bickering, love and arguments. The no. 1 reason why KUWTK is so successful is because -- it’s NOT all about Kim. Her sisters and mother and Caitlyn all contribute to the storylines. And they’ve all benefited. Khloe has her own talk show and book. Kourtney blogs about food and style and sells accessories. Caitlyn’s used the show as a launching pad for her transgender agenda. Kendall and Kylie (30 million Twitter followers between the two) are raking in the bucks from their mobile app. And Kris, the manager-mom, takes a percentage of it all. The best entrepreneurs I know delegate, partner and share the wealth. They enjoy making others successful. Kim does this well.
So stop judging. And learn. Why did Kendall and Kylie’s mobile app earn $3.5 million so far? They deserve credit. But the real credit goes to their older step-sister. It’s Kim that drives it all. A successful entrepreneur doesn’t have to make excuses for what she does. The Kim Kardashian brand provides a release, enjoyment, entertainment and fun for millions. And, like the founders of Facebook and the makers of Star Wars, she profits. Good for her.