Kathy Ireland: Her uphill battle from super model to super mogul
(Z-61062V) CM1014 KATHY IRELAND
COACH MIKE BAYER: This week on the Coach Mike Bayer Podcast, the legendary Kathy Ireland will be joining us. You probably remember Kathy as one of the Sport Illustrated most famous Supermodels and she changed up her modeling career, started running businesses and some of these businesses have been over a billion dollars. She’s CEO of a company, a mom, a wife and so here we go, Kathy Ireland. –The thing about you Kathy, so many descriptions and so many successes’ you’ve had that it’s really hard to sum up who you are. Have you found that challenging?
KATHY IRELAND: Well thank you, Coach Mike. I work with and incredible team and I love the idea of coming together with a really inclusive group of people and with our company we started our company back in 1993, I was a pregnant aging model at my kitchen table and when I worked as a model in the last century I saved my money and invested in people and a wonderful team. People who had strength in areas that I didn’t have, and I love the idea of bringing people together with these different gifts, different strengths, all working towards the common goal, that kind of teamwork and sports and uh but when it comes to what’s really important –our core values, how people are treated we’re on the same page.
MIKE: How—just for everyone listening, how did you start your modeling career?
KATHY: Oh my goodness um, it was not part of my plan, ever. Um…it really wasn’t and the look at the moment (STAMMERS) was changing and a scout form New York asked if I wanted to go spend my summer there, I was 17 years old and it was not something that even sounded appealing to me yet I recognized it was an opportunity and perhaps I could save money to go to college or start a business.
MIKE: Yeah, what did your parents think?
KATHY: Every bit one was as surprised as I was um, 27 years old my mom accompanied me to New York for the first five days just to make sure that I was okay and (STAMMERS) my goodness it was, it was an interesting time. In fact, Coach Mike I have a book that just came out with my co-author, Rachel Vandyke, a New York Times best selling author, it’s called Fashion Jungle, it’s a cautionary tale, it’s fiction yet it’s based on events that took place in my life, my roommates lives and it truly is a cautionary tale.
MIKE: It’s gotta be so without a doubt in terms of like that period of time you were what would be considered an “it” girl, it today’s times. In like this is a woman that is a standard. You didn’t think about it and it wasn’t part of like, your vision for yourself but all of a sudden culture, ‘cause this is beautiful, we want this to be in magazines and we want this to be –all of a sudden you’re getting a lot of attention right?
MIKE: And I have to imagine that at first it’s like oh my God, this is so exciting and then at a certain point did it start to feel less exciting?
KATHY: Coach Mike (STAMMERS) are you familiar with the story Emperor's New Clothes?
KATHY: In that, it really talks about illusion and the emperor thinks he’s got these wonderful clothes and it turns out he's naked and uh, early in my career I remember very vividly the designers, the stylist we’re bringing in –it was (UNINTELLIGIBLE) which is high fashion—
KATHY: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and they’re bringing in these gowns and I looked at these gowns and I thought they were ugly and I could tell by the expressions on everyone else’s faces that they shared that opinion. Everyone was silent and after several long seconds went by someone chimed in and just said, “Uh they're gorgeous! They're beautiful! They're fabulous! They’re wonderful!” And everybody started chiming in and I was like, oh my goodness this is like the Emperor's new clothes. I learned early on, look, it’s –I’m grateful for this job. I’m not going to… take someone else’s opinion of my exterior –what I look like. I’m not gonna take it seriously. This is how I look if, if it works, wonderful… if it doesn’t, I’ll do something else for a living but whether it’s a compliment or criticism I’m going to have a very measured response, that’s not where I get my identity, and I was fortunate also at that time that is when, when I got my faith and my mom packing a Bible in my suitcase, so that’s where I got my true identity it’s not something that can be taken away from me (STAMMERS) I’ll be okay and if somebody doesn’t like how I look it’s absolutely fine.
MIKE: Did you find that people have an assumption about you or your personality based upon how you looked? How you were presented?
KATHY: You know what, Coach Mike, I think that's human nature. (STAMMERS) I think uh, we… — whether it’s intentional or unintentional, I think we can do it to each other and um, I try to be mindful not to do it because I don’t enjoy it myself. But yes, I think we have preconceived notions of who people are –
KATHY: Based on appearance, what they look like and I've had people in business say it to me (STAMMERS) you know, lucky for you because you have this modeling career so that gives you a great start in business but you know, nobody knows me and my response to that is that gift of amneminity is wonderful gift um there’s have been times when I've walked into uh, a business meeting and I know that my ideas as a CEO are not taken seriously (STAMMERS) and I also know –
MIKE: (STAMMERS) how do you know, you just feel it or you see the reactions or –
KATHY: It’s pretty obvious. I mean, sometimes it’s stated directly or sometimes it’s pretty clear that people with whom I’m having a meeting would prefer that I go back to my old job description of shut up and pose…
KATHY: …and when I worked as a model um (STAMMERS) and I was getting in business I recognized there were doors that were open to me because of that long ago modeling career. I also recognized they were not the doors that were helpful, these were doors that wasted each other’s time, these were doors of curiosity. When you have that gift of amneminity you can design your own brand the way you want it without these preconceived notions of who you are and it’s really important to recognize every impression with you is a lasting brand impression.
MIKE: And, so… in that journey of going from modeling to running businesses what was some of the lessons you initially learned pretty quickly?
KATHY: One of the lessons that I learned right off, from the very beginning was the gift of rejection and when I worked as a model I certainly didn’t appreciate it. That was the biggest gift I received –
KATHY: …long ago career and we started our business with a single pair of socks made from recycled soda pop bottles going door to door uh, our genius global director (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and myself, banging on doors, presenting our socks to retailers and when those doors slammed in our faces, it didn’t… disturb me, (STAMMERS) it didn’t stop me at all and my response was no, means at least we're talking. I’ll come back tomorrow. Maybe our circumstances will have changed or maybe someone else will be in a position of power to make decisions.
MIKE: So it sounds like the –when you start off the business you have no problem with rejection.
MIKE: There some bit of people had it an idea about who you would be or that essentially the wisdom of what you’ve acquired and your authenticity, somehow maybe wasn’t fit for the worlds you were looking to play but yet you… you dug into really being yourself and having a point of view it sounds like.
KATHY: Yes and something that I learned early on too, it’s really important to have a passion for what you’re doing. That when you have those difficult days and we all do, you’ll fight through them.
KATHY: …if you believe in what you're doing, you have conviction for it, you know that your products or your services are of value, yet you're willing to fight for it.
MIKE: When you first started your business, were there any real challenges with the business? Or—I know there was one business that was really a big struggle for you and not the greatest partnership which (STAMMERS) I own a treatment center, I've been in mental health for gosh, 17 plus years so every (UNINTELLIGIBLE) mental health… I learned big lessons off the bat about employing who people thought were great and who I thought was great or how to set appropriate boundaries in business, what is your method?
KATHY: Well thank you and congratulations to you on your business and for helping so many people in such a meaningful way, that’s extraordinary. (STAMMERS) and for us it’s really about people and it’s about the team we have, many of us have been together for over 30 years and then we have our millennials and Gen-Z –it’s people and then being of service, like really being of service and you mentioned something like I mean when we’re looking for new partners, we’ve had situations where people are not always authentic, they're not always who they say they're going to be. We've been burned, I mean it happens, sadly it happens you want to trust people and uh, and it’s hard when you can't. When we’re looking at a new relationship –will actually be the first thing that we do, our first point of vetting is um, trying to get an understanding of the heart of the people with whom we're sticking to work. So I’ve had the privilege of working with the U.N. on the millennium development t goals, everything form you know, stopping hunger, fighting disease, supporting education and the environment and we added a couple of more and it’s the fight against human trafficking and it’s supporting our military veterans and their families. So we’ve got this list of ten (STAMMERS) very diversified lists and the mission, the vision of our company is to teach, inspire, empower, make our world better.
KATHY: So that's how we (STAMMERS) –okay if we can work with people and together and succeed, we know that these initiatives that we believe are good are going to be implemented that gets us out of bed in the morning. It’s exciting –you know, we’ve been around for (STAMMERS) many years –
KATHY: But we’re just getting started. So it’s exciting to us, once in a while we’ll meet somebody and they’ll look at the list, and –no we’re not interested in any of these initiatives but let’s talk about business, and our response is you know what, we’re not gonna be a good fit. But most often we find people’s hearts, and we don’t dictate on a monetary amount, it could be a volunteer period of time for–
(UNINTELLIGIBLE OVERLAPPING DIALOGUE)
MIKE: I see, so what you do is you say here's our menu to be a part of this team, is you have to give back (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
MIKE: …in order to be on this team.
KATHY: Yeah that’s the first part of our vetting.
MIKE: I love it… I love it.
KATHY: And then form there we scrutinize each other and we say, kick the tires with us, ask the tough questions, we do the same. We have the lawyers go through everything and once every “i” is dotted and the “T” is crossed, we put the contracts away and treat each other like family and we’ve had relationships and partnerships that have gone on for decades and decades. In fact, John and Marilyn (UNINTELLIGIBLE) our very first partner in socks, they are our cherished partners today and I love that so, and when you (STAMMERS) find good people and we are so blessed and fortunate to have some amazing people in our team, I don’t let go of them, I mean I’m hanging on to, they’re great, great people and we’re very fortunate and I also recognize it is a gift to go through difficult times with people because everyone can be lovely when everything is going well but when things are difficult you find out what people are made of and when you’ve got those people were gonna just take your hand and go right through the fire with you and you come out stronger together.
MIKE: How has this period of time with the Corona Virus been for you?
KATHY: Oh my goodness, Coach Mike, it’s um… our hearts are broken for the people who have lost their lives, for the illness that you know, we’ve had a couple of family members go through this and—
KATHY: …and we’re so grateful (STAMMERS) that they're better and for the jobs that are impacted. I mean that’s (STAMMERS) really difficult, and when, when you talk about how this impacts us I mean… let’s take New York City for example because New York is a place where our company does do a lot of business in times of Covid I believe we see that the best and worst of human behavior and I mean just a couple of incidences, the comments that were made by the mayor of New York and uh, and I don't know the mayor personally so I can’t comment on where his heart is when he made those comments but—
MIKE: Which comment?
KATHY: (STAMMERS) the Jewish community was called out, in particular they were having a funeral and this is (STAMMERS) really challenging because we have to be so careful of our words particularly during these times because there's vulnerable people out there and we don’t know what someone is going through and by singling out the community of the Jewish people, specifically… that is not the best way to stop the escalation of anti-Semitism that we’re seeing around the world. (STAMMERS) You know, and in my favorite book it says, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” and I understand passion and everything else and I do understand that there was an apology issued… so I'm grateful for that. I also recognize that we must be really mindful about our words because they do have an impact.
MIKE: You’ve been famous for so many phases of culture, through a culture that didn’t have social media and obviously there’s pro’s, there's cons to all of it right?
People can get their word out, and their voice out but then it's not great when it’s geared towards hate or not being nice right? And what are some lessons you’ve learned in kind of the evolution of technology both as a public figure and just as a business owner?
KATHY: Whether we’re talking about communication and technology (STAMMERS) I mean with our team we have a standing rule, don’t out anything in writing that you would not be proud of for anybody to see because things can accidentally be said and first and foremost because it’s the right thing to do, check your heart and um, you know, what’s in the heart comes out the mouth and it comes out on our fingers when we’re writing things so, I believe we need to get our hearts in the right place and uh—
KATHY: …something that many consider as counter intuitive but it's a world for our team is considering others as more important than yourself. People over profit and that’s something that we believe but in our communications, you know, how are we being of service? Let’s not make it all about us and just impact us, when we’re considering a new relationship, after that vetting process that I shared with you it is truly um, what can we do to be of service? How can we best be of service to you? How can we increase the bottom line you’re experiencing?
MIKE: Besides putting something in writing for you, has any pressure shifted, or no? Like I know for me, I’m relatively new to being in the public eye, I had no vision, intention… you know, I’m now on Dr. Phil, which is the number one daytime television show. All of a sudden I would (UNINTELLIGIBLE) New York Times Best Seller, the book even went number one in Korea. This has been –
KATHY: Well congratulations –
MIKE: Thank you!
KATHY: …on that! That’s amazing.
MIKE: And it’s been – I have another big book on the way and what I've struggled with is… as my profile grows…
MIKE: How to stay truly authentic…
MIKE: And how to, like stay within heart and not play the game.
MIKE: And… like I don't know if it’s just me, in my brain because this is newer for me, but I look at someone like you, I’m like… you’ve had to navigate this thing for a long time—like how have you stayed true to your heart and pressure and all of that?
KATHY: Thank you, thank you so much um, I… I don’t buy into uh, press or what people say about me. I like to learn uh, (STAMMERS) I really do. I really appreciate when somebody has good criticism uh, in fact (STAMMERS) I prefer to hear the criticism than the good stuff because that’s how we learn and that's how we grow and criticism is a gift and sometimes it’s wrapped up in a nasty package but we've got to look at it and open it to discern if there's something we can learn from it. I’ll give you an example, when I had that long ago modeling career job description with shut up and pose, I had an opportunity to speak publicly and a critic very, very publicly said that I had a voice that could kill small animals and um… I love animals! (LAUGHS) It was not a confidence builder and at 25 years old, and I couldn’t order a pizza on the phone. I had a really high voice that –people thought I was a kid making a prank phone call. So, that critic had a point. It wasn’t very nice but he said it, but I was grateful and so I would say – I mean just to… to be opened and always wanting to learn, always wanting to grow an di think we take our eyes off our self, and we think about who were serving, who we’re being of service to? How can we truly make their day better? What they're going through. When we started our brand in ’93 with the socks, our core customer was the busy mom and recognizing how difficult it was for her to just, even get out the driveway, with the kids in the car seat, and everything going on and—
KATHY: …and how underserved she is. So everything that we can do fashion, quality, value, safety, and today… that demographic has grown, and I'm so grateful to include every age, every demographic and so thinking about how we can really be of service to each person and really meet their needs and listen to them in new ways.
MIKE: And who was your kind of mentor through this? Like your mentors?
KATHY: I've been very fortunate to have some incredible mentors. Uh, my parents at the top of the list. My dad, when I had a paper out at 11 years old, said, “Kathy, give 100% …If the customer expects the paper on the driveway, put it on the front porch.” And that was the foundation of my learning to under promise and over deliver and it’s simple yet, it’s really the foundation of our business today. My mom, being an amazing entrepreneur from just doing everything, from baby-sitting, housekeeping, sewing dresses and I’d make jewelry, we’d sell them at the beach (UNINTELLIGIBLE) together uh, an incredible entrepreneur. To working with Elizabeth Taylor who we had business together, she became family… and watching this genius, and truly a genius with business, philanthropy, family, just her fierce boldness and her fight, so many lessons. Uh, Warren Buffett um, I was introduced to Warren Buffett by (UNINTELLIGIBLE) um, the Nebraska furniture mart, our first retail partner in furnishings and Mr. Buffett is so prolific anyone can ready, you know, just wonderful lessons from him and something that I share with our children is be alert, pay attention and hopefully you’ll find traits in dad and me that you’ll like, you might want to emulate, unfortunately you're going to find some funky behavior in us that we might not even be aware of—
KATHY: Take the good, reject the bad because everybody is (STAMMERS) we’re all failed.
MIKE: Yeah I mean, having… Elizabeth Taylor, and I have to imagine as a business woman especially during her time and what she had to do you know, to be taken seriously... what, what kind of lesson did you learn from her that was just like, I’m gonna apply that to everything I do.
KATHY: Elizabeth’s boldness um, I love it. She's a fierce advocate who believes in something, she is a fighter, and I love that –that’s forever and it is because her work continues. I serve as an ambassador for the Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation.
MIKE: That’s so awesome.
KATHY: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) epidemic, awe well thank—(STAMMERS) she’s amazing and how she’s (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that every dollar earned goes right to helping people and she’s (STAMMERS) she’s extraordinary. This epidemic was hitting in the 80’s and people didn’t understand it. She was so frustrated that nothing was being done and when she called friends to ask for help, they hung up on her, and she had business advisors telling her to leave it alone, don’t even touch this. She received death threats and Elizabeth did not let any of that stand in her way. She battled through; she didn’t care how unpopular it made her or the work that it cost her. She knew it was the right thing to do and she became the Joan of Arc of Aids and she is to this day and before Elizabeth, people were dying of Aids, today people are living with HIV, there’s a lot more work that needs to be done uh, we have treatments, not cures, more work to be done and people who live in remote parts of the world still have struggles getting those treatments and through Elizabeth’s foundation she's making a way for people to get them in the remotest parts of the earth.
MIKE: Yeah it’s fascinating to be that committed to helping Gays at the time and LGBT get to –which by the way this is a worldwide epidemic. It’s not just—you know, affects one population but the fact that I always love it when people rally behind causes where there’s risk involved.
KATHY: Yes, and Elizabeth is fearless and—
KATHY: Elizabeth recognized HIV Aids does not discriminate—
KATHY: And Elizabeth loved all people and that is powerful. I had the privilege recently, uh, it was last Fall uh, participating in a business round table in national religious freedom uh, with Dr. Brian Grimm. American businesses coming together, how do we respond to the persecution that goes on worldwide? And um, you mentioned LGBT and that community… yes, persecution in our country and other countries…horrific. And we also see religious persecution. People of all faiths, people of no faith uh this is a real issue and uh in business that I think American businesses have to really strongly look at. How do we respond to this? The persecution it’s um, (STAMMERS) it is frightening. I mean when we’re talking about the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Muslims and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) China and that (STAMMERS) Government using facial tracking recognition to round people up, put them into camps which they're calling reeducation centers over a million currently or if we're talking about um my goodness, people in Burma being persecuted by their own governments. When we’re talking about what's going on in Nigeria, we talk about girls in Christian schools being slaughtered, being sold into sexual slavery. We’re talking about what's going on in North East Syria and Iraq, and the persecution of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the Jews, the Christians, the Muslims. It’s—
MIKE: Yeah, I went to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) twice in the last two years…?
MIKE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) alone, I was gonna work with the government to open up mental health clinic because these women, these poor women as you know their husbands are killed, sons you know, sex trafficking and it’s (STAMMERS) it’s so, uh, upsetting… and then you know, you try to get people to rally behind it and it’s—
MIKE: …it’s pretty hard, it’s really hard to do that, you know?
KATHY: (STAMMERS) I have so much respect for you for doing that. That’s incredible and (STAMMERS) one of my biggest mistakes in business came from fear and my fear was, when we started with a single pair of socks, we started by conducting surprise factory inspections. You learn a lot when you show up unexpectedly, anybody can clean up if they know you are coming, and my fear was if we groom too much, how would we ever be able to monitor what's going on in every factory? How would we be able to do that? In maturity, what I recognized is that when we’re small we can be easily dismissed. We’ve invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in our human rights contracts and I tell people, if you’ve got something better, please share it. We need to learn from one another, we always want to grow and do better. If we’re small, we can be dismissed ‘cause maybe what’s illegal in our country is not illegal somewhere else. Go away, we don’t need you… the majority of our business is done in the United States. We work with some partners who have factories worldwide and if we’re big, if we have leverage, we’re able to initiate positive change. It would be wonderful if people knew the right thing because it’s the right thing to do but if we can impact their bottom line perhaps we can initiate some positive change and that’s powerful. That… encourages us to grow. I feel it’s uh, (STAMMERS) it’s a blessing to be exposed to needs that are bigger than us but also opportunities that are bigger than us.
MIKE: So you all tie that in to kind of the business arrangement at different times like this is our expectation of working with us and—
KATHY: Oh absolutely. Yeah, they’ve got everybody that works with us must sign our human rights contract and it’s non negotiable with our team, and we recognize people will break the law and if they do, I mean…well, we will find out, and um, there will be punishment for that because that’s, that’s just not okay.
MIKE: So Kathy, (STAMMERS) I really appreciate, we’ve covered so many different topics, subjects, you’ve been really wise. My last question for you is, what is your passion project right now that really excites you and you love.
KATHY: I’m serving as the International Youth Ambassador for the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation and uh, there is a, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) forty-three campaign…
KATHY: …and that is because everyday 43 children are diagnosed with Cancer.
KATHY: And we/ Covid-19 these children are particularly vulnerable. I’m asking everybody to please join me in this and uh, join our team, please uh, you know, let’s connect through linked in, Twitter, social media or you know, to please uh, visit the national pediatric cancer foundation, visit their website and learn how to get involved um, some incredible people are doing this, joining with me, Brooke Shields, Vanessa Williams, um, my goodness Marcus (UNINTELLIGIBLE) just some wonderful (STAMMERS) people Bethany Hamilton, and we’re asking, we know that you know, times are tough, and there’s fear but I’m saying please, don’t be afraid to give 43 cents uh, four dollars and thirty cents… forty-three dollars, four hundred and thirty dollars, whatever you’re able to do, that is, (STAMMERS) is wonderful and um, and Coach Mike, what do you think? Will you join our team?
MIKE: Yeah, I’m down, I’ll join.
KATHY: Alright! Thank you!
MIKE: Let’s do it.
KATHY: (STAMMERS) and then we’re asking you know, children are wonderfully creative and fun so if you can think of 43 things that you want to do. Vanessa Williams, she took her dog on 43 steps uh, walks with her dogs.
MIKE: Completely onboard
KATHY: Coach Mike, you –so I have to ask you…
KATHY: Um, you’re such an inspiration and what are you most excited about right now and how do you get your inspiration these days?
MIKE: You know what’s funny… is the stuff that inspires me is free, lately you know, I feel like I’m inspired by how obstacles become opportunities…
KATHY: I love that.
MIKE: …and how to help people make decisions from being who they are – I think a lot of people struggle with realizing whether it’s their childhood or a story (STAMMERS) It’s like I say people are should this (STAMMERS) they should do this and they shit all over themselves, and it’s like I just am really inspired by helping people believe in themselves, that’s what makes me feel alive in the moment… uh, feels connected um, so anything that like, helps people believe in themselves, have a shot, see themselves differently in how they currently are, (STAMMERS) that gets me fired up.
KATHY: I love that.
KATHY: And thank you for sharing that, I love that and it's truly inspiring and something that we’ve done during these days of Covid uh, we formed a new business unit, it’s Kathy Ireland Small Business Network. It’s to help small businesses grow during the time of Covid and beyond.
KATHY: And each new business joins us in contributing to non-profits including the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation, and today we launched Kathy Ireland American Home with 138 properties throughout our countries, its managed by (UNINTELLIGIBLE) properties and they’ve already made their first contribution to NPCX so also very um, you know, very encouraged. (STAMMERS) We have another wonderful partner uh, GKC, Global Kitchen Concepts, Kathy Ireland, 17 locations, the most amazing kitchens and uh, these 17 design studios around the country and our brand ambassadors (UNINTELLIGIBLE) he helps with all the food including you know, GKC Kathy Ireland and it’s about kind of –(STAMMERS) tracking back to what we started with great people. Like Chef (UNINTELLIGIBLE) somebody I've worked with for decades, I’m not a good cook, he makes it easy so, it’s finding good people and uh—
KATHY: …and I’m so grateful to be able to connect with you. Thank you so much for all the amazing work you do.
MIKE: Thank you! And thank you, Kathy for being an inspiration and teaching me some new things and I’m a sponge so you gave me some tools and tips and I know it’ll help me and others and everyone can follow Kathy on all of her social media platforms, and that’s Kathy Ireland, and I encourage everyone to take part in… --is it called the 43… what is it—what do we call this?
KATHY: It’s do 43 and that people can go to National (UNINTELLIGIBLE) dot org or they can visit me on any of my platforms.
MIKE: ANs let’s start tagging Kathy with all the 43 things you're doing--
MIKE: Or the (STAMMERS) (UNINTELLIGIBLE) whatever to is. Thanks again, Kathy, I really appreciate you coming on the podcast.
KATHY: Awe, thank you Coach Mike!
MIKE: All right.
KATHY: Best of luck to you.
MIKE: Go to Kathy Ireland dot com, to find out all about her businesses, there’s a lot of them. If you like today’s podcast, subscribe and download and share with your friends, until next time, stay safe.
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