The “self-made” label

Is Kylie Jenner a self-made billionaire (or multi-millionaire) entrepreneur? How does one get that label?

I asked myself that question after coming across the following headline on a Forbes article:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesdigitalcovers/2018/07/11/how-20-year-old-kylie-jenner-built-a-900-million-fortune-in-less-than-3-years/

Needless to say, I frowned upon the title of the article à la Will Smith in the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (if you are bon after 1990, you may not understand me!). Further down the text, the author even compared Kylie Jenner’s business venture with Facebook’s”: “…But she’s not just making history as a woman. Another year of growth will make her the youngest self-made billionaire ever, male or female, trumping Mark Zuckerberg….”.

Kylie is legit

I am definitely not debating whether or not she is a billionaire or if she is a legit CEO in this article. I have full respect for her hard work and her results, but I doubt that the “self-made” label applies to her. After all, she is the daughter of the exceptional business woman Krys Jenner and one sister of the famous Kardashian family. In my opinion, there are three phases by which every self-made founder has to go through to reach success.

Phase 1: The self-made entrepreneur starts with the idea

Most companies’ founders envision themselves selling a new service or new product within a specific market.

The business idea they came up with can be generated while taking a shower, watching TV, talking with friends, because they wanted to solve a problem that bothers them, etc.

During the ideation process, the self-made entrepreneur typically does not have a warm network of people who can validate his idea. He[1] relies a lot on its industry experience, own observations and talking to strangers to verify the feasibility of his venture.

in his direct network, he usually has no other or a very few amount of fellow entrepreneurs he can relate with. This ideation phase is a pretty lonely one. A lot of gut and self-confidence are required for the self-made founder to go further.

Phase 2: he then has to build up startup capital

The entrepreneur needs a lot of resources to realize his business idea (not all resources are financial by the way). The self-made one usually has a low start-up capital: money, relationships, wealthy relatives, commercial real estate (for its business location), existing clients (or shall I say “following” or “fans” to take the social media new jargon!), influence, etc.

All of those forms of startup capital are in scarce supply. But this is also exactly when the game is won for the self-made founder: the build-up of those forms of capital.

He will start from scratch one or many of the above-mentioned types of resources. This process can take 6 months as well as 5 to 10 years, but while doing it, the entrepreneur will rely on its perseverance, self-belief and ability to learn quickly to go through that phase.

Phase 3: He has scaled his business

You rarely become a self-made millionaire by only doing an hourly-based work that requires your active involvement. After having successfully leveraged several those different forms of start-up capital, then the founder is capable of scaling the business and make it reach a multiple 6 or 7-figures annual income.

By that time, he will have made a lot of new contacts, new friends and will live with a totally different mindset and environment in which he grew up. Going through those three phases is very different for the “average citizen” than for Kylie Jenner.

However, while Kylie had most of the forms of start-up capital at her disposal on the day she decided to launch her cosmetics brand, she still needed to leverage them and use them properly.

This is where she has proven that she is a brilliant business woman. She is far from being the first celebrity to start a venture. Plenty of them have failed. So Kylie Jenner deserves the props that she is getting for what she does with Kylie Cosmetics.

Examples of startup failure from celebrities are listed in the following Youtube video from the Valuetainment channel:

And you? Do you consider yourself a self-made professional or self-made entrepreneur?

If yes, why?

[1] The masculine form is used to simplify the text.

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