Model-turned-entrepreneur Kathy Ireland joins Yahoo Finance’s On the Move to talk about her business and how she is helping small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
JULIE HYMAN: You have a licensing empire. But I know that you are also turning your attention to trying to help small businesses that need help right now. How are you doing that? Specifically, what kind of help do they need most at the moment, and how are you sort of targeting them?
KATHY IRELAND: Well, thank you, Julie. One of the strengths of our company, Kathy Ireland Worldwide, is our ability to thoughtfully and quickly pivot and pivot again. And when COVID hit, our team rolled out our Kathy Ireland Small Business Network in an effort to help small businesses survive and scale during COVID and beyond.
And last week, we announced our relationship with UBS, a multi-trillion dollar business. And we always hear the cliche, Wall Street meets Main Street. This is truly multi-trillion dollar giant comes to Main Street with tangible help. And that’s what’s so important. And this hasn’t been done before, so big kudos to UBS on collaborating and working with our large clients, of course, and also our Small Business Network clients.
And Julie, blitzscaling, it’s real. And with the fiscal disciplines of UBS and also– earlier you were talking about insurance– the insurance support from our long-term partners at American Family Insurance. I’ll be giving a keynote for our Dream Summit this afternoon, And then, also, the licensing, marketing, media, management, and product design renovation from our company, we’re able to serve our clients in revolutionary ways during this pandemic and beyond.
And another area where we’ve been able to pivot during this time, it’s with our Kathy Ireland American Home managed by Phil Baratelli. For years, our company has and still works with luxury estates and properties. With KI American Home, we’re bringing affordable and middle-income homes to families across America.
ADAM SHAPIRO: I was reading that going into the pandemic, before this, that from the licensing and the different elements of your business– over $2.6 billion, I think, in revenue– but I’m curious what advice you would have for that small business person, especially small business women, who are using the opportunity of this downturn to fill a void as, unfortunately, other businesses are falling to the side? What advice would you give them?
KATHY IRELAND: Absolutely. It is listening to and being so focused on the solutions. I’m seeing so many businesses close, which is just breaking our hearts. And being able to differentiate yourself, stand apart, being able to ask for help– you mentioned women-owned business– frequently, something guys are really good at, it’s delegating and being able to work with people who will help us.
And that’s what I love about our relationships with UBS, with American Family Insurance, great experts coming together to offer help. And what our company is helping to do is to help scale in these times in affordable ways to differentiate your business, help you stand apart, help you not only survive, but really grow.
JULIA LA ROCHE: Hi, Kathy, it’s Julia La Roche. And we actually met a couple of years ago at the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting of shareholders. And I know Warren Buffett is a mentor of yours. He likes to think of himself as a teacher. I’m wondering if there are any particular lessons, or if you’ve had conversations with Warren Buffett during this time, that have maybe helped you and anything else that you might be able to apply to that small business owner who might be in need of some of this advice?
KATHY IRELAND: Thank you, Julia. Warren Buffett is a mentor and a friend, met him through Irv Blumkin, the CEO and leader of Nebraska Furniture Mart. And something that Mr. Buffett does at the beginning of his annual shareholders meetings, he shows his film. And at the beginning of that film, he talks about the incident with Solomon Brothers. And he says, if you make a mistake– I’m paraphrasing. But if you make a mistake, if you lose us some money, we’ll earn it back. But if you mess with one shred of our reputation, our integrity, I will be ruthless.
And I love that protection. That is so important. And so an answer to your question, Julia, the how is of critical importance. And when we’re thinking about scaling and growing in difficult times, I encourage people, don’t be desperate, be thoughtful. Yes, we have to pivot quickly, but we must be thoughtful. The how is of critical importance. How are things being done? When we began our company back in ’93 with a single pair of socks, we began by conducting surprise factory inspections. We learn a lot when we show up unexpectedly.
And I recognize how important it is who we work with and how each company conducts their business. Philanthropy is a big part of what we do, and that is exciting. It gets us up in the morning because there is so much to be done. So the vision of our company, it’s teach, inspire, empower, make our world better. Everyone who works with us commits to one of our initiatives that include everything from fighting human trafficking, supporting military veterans and their families, combating disease and hunger, supporting education and the environment.
JULIE HYMAN: Kathy, that’s a really interesting way to get your partners and people you work with involve. Thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate it. Kathy Ireland is Kathy Ireland Worldwide chair, CEO, and chief designer. Thanks for your time. I appreciate it.