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Business Unusual

Kylie Jenner - the 22-year-old billionaire

20 November 2019 7:15 PM

Using what you have to build a modern billion-dollar business

Forbes has maintained a list of the worlds richest people for over 30 years. The richest comprise a little over 2 000 billionaires and in March this year, a then 21-year-old Kylie Jenner was added to the list becoming one of just eight that were under 30 and the youngest ever to amass a fortune of over $1 billion.

The calculation is based on publically available data but is not always easy to determine. Billionaires typically have ways to limit who knows how much money they actually have.

The sale of 51% of Jenner’s cosmetics company to Cosmetic group Coty for $600 million is money in the bank and the sale price and revenue sales for 2018 value the company at $1,2 billion so her 49% ownership adds $588 million to her balance sheet making it official, she is the youngest billionaire ever to have created the fortune herself.


Many on the billionaire’s list earned their wealth thanks to generational wealth inherited from even richer parents or partners and so Forbes notes which fortunes are inherited and which are generated by the individual.

Not everyone agrees that Kylie Jenner can claim to be a self-made billionaire, you can argue that her very wealthy and famous family enabled her to launch a highly successful cosmetics company but it was her company and she owned 100% until the sale to Coty. She would not be a billionaire if she did not do that which suggests she can claim to be self-made. She also has a clothing line, endorsement deals and modelling contracts and still appears on Keeping up with Kardashians, but the bulk of her wealth was generated by her cosmetics business.

A billion is a big number

The correct answer is 4 102 years. The SA President earns R3,9 million a year or about R10 684 per day. It would take 252 years to earn R1 billion.

How it started

Kylie Jenner is part of the marketing marvels that are the extended Kardashian family. Jenner was just 10 years old when the long-running series Keeping up with the Kardashians first aired in 2007.

It was one of the first reality series that followed the celebrity family of Kris and Bruce Jenner (now Caitlyn) and their family. Four children from Kris Jenner’s first marriage to Robert Kardashian - Kourtney, Kim, Khloe and Rob and two children with Caitlyn Jenner - Kendall and Kylie. Here is what the rest of the family is worth.

Kris Jenner arranged for her youngest daughters to launch their first business in 2012 with a clothing brand. The entire family are social media mavens but Kylie was just the right age to speak to teenagers that had become comfortable with the new killer social apps of Instagram launched in 2010 and Snapchat in 2011.

Jenner was insecure about her lips and would use makeup to make them appear bigger. By 2014 her growing social audience noticed that they looked much bigger. It sparked an online challenge to post pictures of yourself after using a glass to create a vacuum on your lips to make them swell up. In 2015 she acknowledged that she used a lip filler to create the look.

The added attention combined with the launch of the first lip kits on 30 November 2015. The 15 000 available kits sold for $29 and were gone in minutes.

By February 2016 a new site with a new online retail partner Shopify opened for sale with 500 000 lip kits ready for sale. That rose to about 10 million in the next years.

That grew further in November 2018 when the lip kits went on sale in Ulta stores across America and this month with the purchase by Coty can be scaled to be sold across the globe.

The social effect

A big part of the success goes to mom Kris Jenner, she manages the families finances and stepped in to scale the business after the initial launch, she still manages the finances although the company has less than 20 staff.

The marketing is down to Kylie Jenner who has about 250 million followers across the social platforms including 151 million on Instagram. She is or was one of the most popular people on Snapchat although a tweet in February 2018 asked if anyone still uses Snapchat which saw the company’s share price fall and remove over a $1 billion from its market cap. (Snapchat’s founder Evan Spiegel joins her on the billionaires under 30 list.)

But the platform that she commands is Instagram posting the modern equivalent of a glossy fashion magazine with most getting in excess of a million likes. Of the most popular posts on Instagram, she has seven on the top 20 including the #2 spot after her daughter Stormi was born attracting over 18 million likes and beaten only by that picture of the egg with an incredible 53 million.

The posts include teasers for the latest shades and products from Kylie Cosmetics which has grown beyond the lip kits to include eyeliner renamed Kyliner and eyeshadow also renamed Kyshadow. The Kylie Cosmetics IG account has 22 million followers

The other element that has helped deliver the results has been keeping the product range quite small. With more outlets and new options like vending machines and the giant scale that Coty will add, the four-year-old brand may face its first real challenge to sustain the demand when it becomes so widespread and has to compete with many more competitively priced cosmetics.

She is also not alone as a celebrity cosmetic and fragrance creator which may see her star fade as fellow stars create an impression on the increasingly competitive social platforms and new upstart social celebrities look to grab the headlines and sales with their own product lines.

It may be worth giving a hat tip to the original social star, Paris Hilton who created her headlines pioneering reality television at the turn of the century and who launched her first fragrance before Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat were even founded.

Image credit: Kylie Jenner

20 November 2019 7:15 PM


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