Bloomberg — Kim Kardashian knows that there are plenty of people who say she has no business running a business, whether that’s a beauty brand, underwear line or private equity firm. Yet here she is.
In an interview taped for an upcoming episode of The David Rubenstein Show: Peer to Peer Conversations, the 42-year-old said she can feel insecure amid the endless chatter about her boardroom prowess, but she uses it as fuel.
“I’ve always felt the doubt, and I’ve always just taken that as motivation to have me focus more and work harder,” said Kardashian. “It felt like I had more to prove.”
Kardashian has aggressively built her business empire in recent years. Coty acquired a stake in her skincare label, now called SKKN by Kim, for $200 million. Her intimates brand Skims is valued at $4 billion after its most recent funding round. And her private equity firm SKKY Partners is on the prowl, hoping to raise at least $1 billion in funds from investors.
In the wide-ranging interview, Kardashian talked about competition with her half-sister Kylie Jenner, her mother Kris Jenner’s managerial abilities and her progress toward becoming a lawyer like her dad.
You’ve built several businesses, but there have been plenty of doubts along the way. How did that affect you?
I definitely always took the doubt as motivation. I always felt and still do always feel a bit insecure about it. Confident in the brand. I love creating a brand, and launching a brand, and the whole process of it. I always have those healthy nerves when you’re launching something, especially on a launch day or a product launch day.
Is there a competition between you and your sisters?
Kylie and I are both in the beauty business and we don’t compete. We feel like we have two totally different brands and two totally different demographics. So I would say we don’t really compete in that way.
If anything, we would motivate each other and we work on everything really privately and don’t really communicate with each other about what we’re launching and what our campaigns look like. If we’re really excited about something we’ll share the process. But it’s really rare that we do that now. And we don’t really compete like that. We all just really focus and do our own thing.
And you test all the products yourself?
Oh, everything. Yes, yes. I’m so hands-on. I’m so involved. To this day for Skims, I’m still our fit model. I’m very specific on how things fit. I pick the fabrics. I come up with all of the marketing. So with Skims and my beauty brand SKKN, I do every last thing, from packaging design to helping with the fonts and every campaign, every photographer we pick, every formula of every product. I have to be involved 100%.
You were very close to your father, who passed away from cancer when you were in your 20s. He was a well-known lawyer. Did that motivate you to become one?
Absolutely. Just seeing him every day. He would get up, be on his way to work, drop us off at school, go to work, come home for dinner. I saw how hard he worked, and I saw just his work ethic that really drove me. And especially his law studies really inspired me. I think he’d absolutely be proud of me, but I think he would get a kick out of the fact that I’m doing it now. And he’d be the best study buddy with me.
You’ve been an advocate for criminal justice reform, and you’ve actually had some people pardoned or sentences commuted. Is that still a passion of yours?
It’s absolutely a passion of mine, and it will continue to be. And that’s what drives me to want to finish and continue going through law school, just so I can help more people, and do it on my own instead of having to do it with other attorneys. It’s a combination of things. It’s the world we live in today, not wanting my children to have to grow up with a lot of the stories that I hear from the people that I help.
Your mother has been involved with your career and your sisters’ careers. How does she manage to keep everyone happy?
She’s definitely the smartest woman I know. She was a housewife when she was married to my dad and she raised the four of us. And then when she married my stepdad, she became his agent and manager, and got her agent license and figured it out.
Then it bled into wanting to help her children when the time was right, and when our careers started. So I ask her all the time how she manages six kids. We all have very similar lives, but I find it really interesting that a lot of people call her to want to get her to be their manager.
Nobody can build a business by themselves, so you have to hire people. How do you choose talent, and do you ever have to fire anybody?
Yes. I have a great team, and a small team. And firing’s really difficult for me, so I always have someone else do it. It’s really, really hard for me, unless it’s someone that works in my household and I have a personal relationship with them. Obviously, I would give them the respect to do that.
But I have a small team. When I started my beauty business, when we started Skims, everything that I do starts with a really selective in-house team, even from my business manager. Everyone is just someone that I’ve taken a lot of time to get to know and I trust.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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