The selfie era has birthed a new centimillionaire: Kim Kardashian West. The social media queen has parlayed reality television into a real fortune by selling her followers a mobile game, emojis–and now, cosmetics.
KKW Beauty is her most lucrative exploit yet. Known for heavily contoured face makeup, a technique of using different shades to create the appearance of more defined features, Kardashian West launched KKW Beauty with $48 creme contour kits in June 2017.
“After 10 years of getting my makeup done every single day, I’ve really put that knowledge into action and production,” said Kardashian West in conversation at the Forbes Women’s Summit in 2017.
Fans ate it up: Her first contour kits, available exclusively on her website, sold out an estimated 300,000 units within two hours. KKW Beauty quickly expanded into powder sets, concealer, lip sticks, eye shadow and fragrances.
The startup has already tallied an estimated $100 million in revenue; Kardashian West, 37, owns 100% of it. Valued at a conservative three times sales, and with Forbes’ standard 20% discount applied, it accounts for the bulk of Kardashian West’s $350 million net worth. Adding in her endorsement and Keeping Up With the Kardashians earnings from a decade in the public eye and Kardashian West debuts at No. 54 on the fourth annual list of America’s Richest Self-Made Women.
Kardashian West is following the playbook of half-sister Kylie Jenner, who is worth some $900 million thanks to her two year old Kylie Cosmetics. (Read Forbes’ Kylie Jenner cover story here.) Like Jenner, she got started by first focusing on one trademark product. For Jenner and her famous pout, it was $29 lip liner and lipstick “lip kits” she began selling in November 2015. For Kardashian West, it was contour kits.
Where her Kim Kardashian: Hollywood mobile game was once a cash cow, KKW Beauty has quickly become Kardashian West’s single biggest moneymaker–and most valuable asset. The major difference: She owns it, rather than merely receiving a royalty.
Luckily for Kardashian West, overheads are minuscule: Marketing is done by her for free on social media, where she pushes out promotional images to her 205 million cross-platform followers. Manufacturing and packaging is outsourced to Seed Beauty, a private-label producer in Oxnard, California, that also makes Kylie Cosmetics, while sales go through online outlet Shopify. Kardashian West gets to pocket the profits, which run to the tune of 40% in beauty.
The venture has been far more successful than Kardashian West’s last foray into cosmetics. With her sisters, Khloe and Kourtney, she licensed her name to Boldface for an ill-fated line of makeup in 2012.
KKW Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics mark the latest evolution in the fame game. Rather than pocketing an upfront guarantee or taking home a royalty payment, celebrities are able to start their own companies by outsourcing production, selling online–and advertising to their giant followings.
“Cupcakes, fitness videos, I did everything,” Kardashian West told Steve Forbes last year. “The percentage you would get from a licensing deal and then splitting everything with my two sisters… I really wanted to create a business on my own.”
She has branched out in other ways, starting an e-commerce children’s clothing line called Kids Supply with husband Kanye West and peddling her Kimoji app and merchandise. As KKW Beauty continues to expand, Kardashian West’s foray into make up is just beginning.
It’s hard to keep up with Kim.