'I Think We Kissed a lot of Frogs': Kris Jenner on How She Built an Empire and Her Advice For Aspiring Entrepreneurs
We spoke to the matriarch of the Kardashian-Jenner clan about business advice and her latest venture.
If the nearly two-year long pandemic has taught most of us anything, it's most likely that prioritizing our health and wellness — be that physical or mental — is crucial when it comes to planning ahead for the unimaginable. What we consume, what we use and how we use it have all been scrutinized under a microscope, from the early days of lockdown to the dwindling restrictiveness of present day.
Suddenly things that didn't seem important to us, or parts of our lives that we didn't particularly notice, have come to the forefront and changed the way we rank what we need to focus on.
For media and business mogul Kris Jenner, this shift in focus and prioritization was a mindset she used to do what she does best — find what's missing in her (now new) normal, create a product that offers a solution, scale it to make it widespread and accessible to the majority and monetize.
"I always tell people to have a plan B and to be ready to pivot, especially in today's day and age," Jenner tells Entrepreneur.
Ironically, about a year before the onset of the pandemic, Jenner tells me that she was speaking at an event to a crowd of influencers in the industry, offering sage advice on lifestyle and business and everything in between.
When she gave out that exact advice about pivoting, Jenner laughs and explains that the general masses in the crowd kind of looked at her confused, unsure exactly what or rather why that would feel like a top line piece of advice.
"Everybody looked at me like I was crazy," she says. "And then, you know, here we are."
As a result of the pandemic and the need to pivot prioritization towards fostering a safer, cleaner home, Jenner created Safely alongside Good American (her daughter Khloe's namesake fashion brand) co-founder Emma Grede, a brand that offers clean, plant-powered home cleaning supplies infused with aromatherapy scents.
"My idea of a great Saturday is cleaning my drawers and my kitchen — just always buzzing around my house doing something. And for the longest time, I think I've just been on this hunt for something that smelled really great and that really worked and that was safe for my family and my grandkids," the matriarch of the Kardashian-Jenner clan explains. "I've never found anything in this category that was plant-based, or clean, if you will, the way they call it now, that I was happy with. So when they came to me, and had this idea, I was really excited, because it was something that couldn't have been a more perfect fit … we knew we could do something really great and take toxins basically out of the home. I kind of felt like if I'm feeling this way, then there must be other people that feel the same way."
The line of household products (think everything from hand sanitizer to laundry detergent to glass cleaner) will debut across 1,700 Walmart stores and online ("Walmart is one of my favorite stores in the universe — it's like an American institution!" Jenner exclaims), a major move for the brand that will now offer a way to increase accessibility and affordability of the product (prices will range from $5.98 to $13.98), which is Jenner's main goal.
"Stores like Walmart were opened during the pandemic because they're essential marketplaces — that makes our product available to everyone, no matter what happens," Jenner says of her strategy in choosing Walmart as a retailer. "If we have availability online and in retail locations around the country, it means our product can get into the homes of more families. And the more people that can discover it and test it and benefit from the products, the better."
Maximizing product launches and brands in order to increase accessibility at as high a volume as possible without feeling fraudulent or forced has been a major part of the blueprint for the Kardashian-Jenner empire.
As a family that starred in its own titular reality show for 20 seasons among various other spinoffs, consumers have grown up alongside the family in a way that makes the viewer or the buyer feel as if they know each of the women (and men) on a personal level; a product recommendation or creation from a Kardashian-Jenner feels like receiving a text from a friend or your cool older sister telling you about the next best thing you have to try.
Of course this model only works as well as it does because of two key factors — authenticity and relatability.
And though the relatability factor may seem unlikely at first among a family of multi-million and billionaires, that's exactly what Jenner has built her family's brand around, figuring out what's missing in her own life or her family's life and looking at the masses as if to say I came up with a solution for this one thing, let me show you how it can help you, too.
"In the beginning of our [family's] careers, I think we kissed a lot of frogs. You finally get to the place where you really want to work on things that are genuinely authentic to who we all are. And that makes sense, because it's never easy to be the face of a brand, or to work on a brand or create a brand or produce a brand, if you will, that doesn't feel like you love the product," Jenner says of her business decisions. "In general, with brands that we choose now, it's got to be something that we're really curious about or passionate about, or that makes sense with the way that we live our lives and what we're putting on our bodies."
Jenner's latest endeavor with Safely is a manifestation of this. She explains that she was inspired by her daughters Kim and Kourtney, who became plant-based in the last few years ("You start living like that and it kind of creeps into all the other areas of your life, and you just want to be a less toxic human being," she tells us) pointing out that moving into the homecare space just seems like a "natural next step" for the clan.
With namesake and affiliated brands that have broached everything from skincare, to fashion, to wellness, to makeup, chances are that if you name it, the Kardashian-Jenners have probably touched it.
And if you follow any of the gang on social media or have tuned in to any episode of their hit E! reality show, feeling an inimitable sense of home envy is almost a given.
"Getting into the homecare space is a dream. It really is because we all love nesting. We all love being in our houses. I have 11 grandchildren now, and that means a lot of kids around. So obviously safety becomes a huge issue, therefore the name Safely, and, you know, it's kind of all made sense. I mean, from Good American, Skims and Kylie Cosmetics and Poosh our brands empower individuals to live their best lives. And I think that that's part of this whole process, finding things that we genuinely are passionate about, and that we love and that are great products."
Talking to Jenner feels like hopping on the phone with your "cool" aunt, the one who you only get to see on occasion but gives you the best advice and inspires you to go ask for that promotion while simultaneously having you Googling that amazing skincare product she just recommended because you're now convinced it will change your life.
Jenner will try to say that her business savvy mentality wasn't always as fine-tuned as it is now, though if you ask any aspiring entrepreneur or influencer or young woman alike, Kris Jenner is the ultimate goal.
She's built a business career around, well, pivoting — turning could-have-been scandals into lucrative opportunities and learning moments, coming out on top almost every time. Impressive might not be powerful enough of a word, but its her equal parts laser-focused effort and understanding of human emotion placed on and into each opportunity at hand that has gotten her where she is today.
Listen to what calls to you and then go for it — you either try and fail and learn or try and succeed.
"Starting out, when you're younger, I think being a sponge and pursuing your passions are two really invaluable traits, absorbing all the knowledge you possibly can and capitalizing on failures as a chance to learn," she tells me. "Having other perspectives from your friends and co-workers and mentors are crucial in this journey … in becoming an entrepreneur, you have to be able to focus and learn what you're good at. We're not all good at everything, I learned that a long time ago. You're better at some things than others and some things are not going to click. But if you know where you're headed, that's helpful."
But perhaps Jenner's best piece of career advice is what should be so obvious to so many of us but we fail to recognize.
Most of the time, if you're good at something and you do something all the time, for free, every day, there is probably a way to monetize it this day in age.
"If you want to be in the beauty business, or you want to be in the food and beverage business, or you want to become a chef, or whatever it is that you love to do, if you can find a way to get paid for that, then that makes all of it. It falls into place because you're doing something you're genuinely excited and passionate about. But you always have to have a plan B, if something doesn't work out," Jenner reminds me. "Educate yourself on what you're trying to do, pay attention to what's happening around you, look for an opportunity that you may not have expected to exist — being self aware and knowing what your strong points are. It's really as simple as that and the rest will fall into place."
She makes it seem so easy, but if you ask her, it's all about what you notice and what you choose to do with those observations.
"Sometimes things that are very obvious, that are right there surrounding you, you don't even recognize as a true opportunity," she lays out. "I think that you just have to pay attention."
As I fervently scribble down Jenner's top tier words of wisdom, it appears as though her advice is already rubbing off on me.
"Bye, Kiddo," she says as she clicks off the phone.
Naturally, I begin looking around my apartment at the pile of dust collecting on my desk and have a sudden urge to begin cleaning.
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