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SUPERMOGUL

I was a scrawny 11-year old, with 101 papers on a hilly route, and this gentleman was standing at the end of his driveway and he just starts yelling at me, “What are you doing here, you have no business being here. This is a boy’s job! You’re never gonna last.”

The biggest reward of being a mom is just looking into the eyes of our children. The love that I receive from them, and the love that I see them give others--that’s a really good thing. When I see them just making good choices on their own and just kind of soaring--that’s really exciting for me. Each child is so unique. What works for one child does not necessarily work with another. I’ve learned that it’s so important to listen to your kids, and to take action on what you’re hearing.


Managing my time between parenting and being a business professional is a daily challenge. I work with an amazing team. And as women, we don’t frequently ask for help. We try to do everything ourselves, and it’s not a good idea. We get so much more done with a team--we can focus on our strengths, get a team to help us in other areas.

We started our [Kathy Ireland Worldwide] brand in ‘93--at the kitchen table when I was pregnant with our first child--with a pair of socks.

I didn’t learn until I was 40 that “No.” is a complete sentence. “No, thank you,” is better. Again as women, we have a difficult time with that. We feel guilty, we wanna do everything. There’s so many good things to do, and we wanna do it. But oftentimes we have to say no to good things, if we wanna do great things.

I believe in figuring out what your priorities are, and then putting boundaries in place to honor them. That’s critical for me because I don’t get anything done if those priorities are not in place, because when most priorities are out of whack, then stress is unmanageable and I’m not effective at anything.


It’s really tough being a mom today, more than ever. When I became a mom, I learned very quickly that suddenly things that I took for granted, like taking a shower, became a huge luxury. We started our [Kathy Ireland Worldwide] brand in ‘93--at the kitchen table when I was pregnant with our first child--with a pair of socks. And our mission really crystallized when our first child was born.

I didn’t learn until I was 40 that “No.” is a complete sentence. “No, thank you,” is better.

Our mission is finding solutions for families, especially busy moms. We’re thinking about the unique needs of a mom and what goes on in her mind. Safety is number one. When you talk about kids, the first thing I do when I walk into a new home is, I’m scanning the room for danger. What are they gonna climb up on? What are they gonna get into? You can’t have peace unless you’ve done everything you can to keep your family safe.


I had tried and failed many businesses before starting our brand, and this one worked, and I think it’s because it’s really my passion. When I was a kid, I’d change my mind all the time on what I wanted to be when I grew up. But one thing that was constant was that I wanted to be a mom. I didn’t think of the business in terms of the money, because money is not my motivator. When you do the work correctly and with integrity, the money comes, it’s a byproduct. But I thought that this would be a wonderful place to start.

I was offered an opportunity to model a pair of socks. It was a small budget, but it was a job, it was an offer. Not a lot of offers were coming in.

Back in the last century when I did some modeling, an endorsement was not an option for me, nobody was offering any. And it really wasn’t that interesting because I'm too much of a control freak. I entered that industry already as a business person. I’ve been working since I was a kid.

I was offered an opportunity to model a pair of socks. It was a small budget, but it was a job, it was an offer. Not a lot of offers were coming in. They were really nice people though. I really liked the people [behind it]--John and Marilyn were from North Carolina, and they made beautiful socks, they were great sock makers. I started researching and I found out that they were really open, so I put a little team together. While others were investing their money in cars and clothes, I was investing in an art director.

I had tried and failed many businesses before starting our brand, and this one worked, and I think it’s because it’s really my passion.

We talked earlier on how I love to have a team to help me in the areas where I'm not strong. John and Marilyn were so open to working with our team on design, marketing, concepts innovation. So when you would embrace something as basic as a sock, then we might be on to something. People laughed, they slammed doors in our face, but you know we celebrated when we sold our 100 millionth pair. So women got it--they turned down that noise of stereotyping. They knew what it was, and we gotta get it right for them. Our customer really got it, and she’s very loyal. I serve as CEO and Chief Designer for our company, but it’s our customer that’s the most critical part of the design team. She really gives us her input loud and clear.

I always had a love for the combination of business and design. My first job--I was 4 years old, I sold painted rocks from my wagon. They were multifunctional, they could be used as a paperweight, my Grandma used hers as self-defense--this was before the days of mace. The rock I painted with a big flower on it, she carried it with her purse everywhere she went. She always told me, anybody messed with her, she was gonna clobber ‘em over the head with it. It’s just always been of interest. I didn’t know how it would manifest itself.


When I was 11, I finally got my first serious job as a paper route and was earning some serious money. I couldn’t wait to be old enough. When I was just about of the age, my Dad showed me an ad in the local newspaper, the newspaper carrier wanted, “Are you the boy for the job?” I told the editor, “I’m not the boy for the job, I’m the girl for the job. I can do it just as well as any boy.”

“Do you think women can do it all?” Yes! I think we can, but not all at once.

First of all, never forget, I was a scrawny 11-year old, with 101 papers on a hilly route, and this gentleman was standing at the end of his driveway and he just starts yelling at me, “What are you doing here, you have no business being here. This is a boy’s job! You’re never gonna last.” I didn’t let him see me cry, but to this day I’m really grateful to him. Because of him there were so many days that I thought about quitting that I wouldn’t quit. My dad always said, give 110 percent--the customer expects the paper on the driveway, you put it on the front porch. So that was my foundation of learning to ‘underpromise and overdeliver.’ Thirty plus years later, basically I’m still the girl with the paper route. When our team is working on a presentation, we’ll say, “Did you get it on the front porch?”

Some values that I think are important to instill in my children--to respect others, and to put others before yourself. It’s hard for adults to do, I think it's even harder for kids to do. From a baby, the world revolves around you, so it’s a really difficult concept to look outside of yourself and recognize the needs of others around you. To be kind, that’s a rule. But they know that if they’re ever in a dangerous situation, rules go out the window--you don’t ever have to be kind or polite. Let your instincts kick in.

When we say our family is our priority, we’ve gotta remember we’re a member of that family, too.

I became a Christian when I was 18. And really, I’m a painfully slow learner. I’ve just made so many mistakes, I continue to make so many mistakes. My hope is that I mature in my faith that my actions will be more in line with what God’s will is for me. Without Him, I’d make a whole big mess of everything. My priorities are my faith, my family, and finding solutions for families, especially busy moms. I don’t have a lot of time, like all moms. All moms work, whether they get paid or not.

To entrepreneurs who are trying to raise a child, when you get on an airplane, the first thing the flight attendant says is to put on your own oxygen mask first then you can help those around you. Particularly as moms, we’re such nurturers, we’re taking care of everybody else, and we feel guilty if we take any time for ourselves. When we say our family is our priority, we’ve gotta remember we’re a member of that family, too. If we let our health go to pot, and if we don’t take care of ourselves, we’re not gonna be there for our kids.

So that was my foundation of learning to ‘underpromise and overdeliver.’ Thirty plus years later, basically I’m still the girl with the paper route.

It’s really figuring out your priorities and honoring them, because you’re gonna be pushed and pulled from every direction. Entrepreneurs--the work, it’s always there, so you’ve really got to put some boundaries in place and really protect that time with your kids. There will be opportunities that you’re gonna need to pass on, at certain times you’re just gonna have to weigh it out--whether it’s a business opportunity, or a friend’s birthday. There’s things you just can’t do at all.


I’ve been asked this question: “Do you think women can do it all?” Yes! I think we can, but not all at once. Life comes in seasons, and in every season of life we gotta prioritize our time.

Story of supermodel turned mogul, Kathy Ireland, www.kathyireland.com

Conversations with Neil Garguilo and Kariz Favis

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