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Kathy Ireland: from supermodel to supermogul

Kathy IrelandBankrate: How much of the designing is you?

Kathy Ireland: It's a collaboration. I serve as CEO and chief designer for the company. There are 37 people on our team and we're based in Los Angeles. The way we work is, first we decide which trends we'll address. We subscribe to trend services and color services, we conduct focus groups, but the most critical part is Mom. She lets us know what she likes and she gives me feedback through my Web site, KathyIreland.com, and I get pretty straightforward advice and criticism.

Bankrate: Was it easier to sell the idea for your company because your name was attached to it?

Kathy Ireland: Easier and harder. I started the brand with my managers. I was getting out of modeling, I was doing a little bit of acting. There was a sock company out of North Carolina and they approached me about modeling socks. I was ready to move away from modeling, so that wasn't so interesting to me, but creating a brand was. Swimsuits would've been too obvious, so I thought that if customers would embrace the socks which were so high quality that we might just have something. And in some ways it was hard starting the business, because there was a curiosity factor that helped open some doors, but at the same time, people tended to limit me, wanting me to do celebrity endorsements. But I wanted a brand that had longevity and I wanted to be involved every step of the way.

Bankrate: Aside from running your company, are you involved in managing your own money?

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Kathy Ireland: I work with a business manager, someone I've worked with since I was 18 years old, but I'm very involved with that also. I'm well diversified.

Bankrate: Do you have plans to take your company public?

Kathy Ireland: I don't know. I really enjoy the benefits of running a private company. I guess it's that control freak kind of thing in me. My priorities are my faith, my family and then my business, and I don't want anything to take away from that.

Bankrate: Do you have former modeling colleagues asking you advice on how to start their own thing?

Kathy Ireland: I have had people from all different backgrounds ask me, and I say it's a lot of work, and you have to figure out what your vision is, and how to achieve that goal and find a support team to help you achieve that. It's not just having your picture taken and showing up at events, and then watching the money roll in.

-- Posted: April 13, 2004
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