Kathy Ireland Discusses Failures

Retired Supermodel Says She's Stared Down Bankruptcy

South Coast retired supermodel Kathy Ireland doesn’t look like a failure.

However, she told a crowd of people in Santa Barbara on Wednesday night that some of the businesses she started actually failed after her modeling career ended.

“The model from the last century,” as Ireland called herself, spoke to the Catalyst for Thought nonprofit group at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort where some 150 people paid about $20 each to hear her talk about her career. Proceeds raised aided the Alliance for Christian Education, which Ireland said she strongly supports.

Ireland said her attempts to start a beer-brewing business and a skin-care product line both failed. “I found out that I have no passion for beer,” she said.

She said she had some degree of success making and selling socks, but admitted, “We still scramble; we still scurry.”

Ireland is chief executive officer of kathy ireland Worldwide (yes, lower case first initials), whose stated mission is: “Finding solutions for families, especially busy moms.” It’s been described in media reports as a $1.5 billion company that designs and markets some 45,000 items, including furniture, clothing, accessories, skin care products, real estate, music, and publications in 50 countries.

The mother of three children, Ireland is married to Greg Olsen, an emergency room doctor and lobster fisherman.

Ireland described her “journey from the beaches of Santa Barbara to the boardroom.” She said she started out delivering her hometown newspaper when she was 11 years old. But one of her customers on her paper route told her she was doing “a boy’s job.”

She told the man: “I’m the girl for the job,” which spurred her on eventually to start her own business.

At one point in her post-supermodel career, Ireland said her banker told her over lunch that she was looking at a $40 million bankruptcy, which would mean she and her corporate officers would all lose their homes.

“The way I see it is there are times of challenges and times of opportunity,” Ireland said.

Starting in 1984, Ireland was the featured model in the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue for 13 years. Her final appearance was in 1996.

Her TV and movie acting credits include: Melrose Place, Boy Meets World, The Larry Sanders Show, Muppets Tonight, Side Out, Mr. Destiny, Necessary Roughness, Mom and Dad Save the World, National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1, Once Upon A Christmas, and its sequel Twice Upon A Christmas.

Ireland said she’s spending less time in front of a camera and more on the road with her car-pooling staff on their way to trade shows and other events to boost business.

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The South Coast Biz Blog is a roundup of the latest business news in the Santa Barbara area and is written by Ray Estrada, who has covered business in the region for numerous publications over the past couple decades. See more at independent.com/biz and wordpress.com/southcoastbizblog.


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