How Kim Kardashian West built her $370 million empire

Dia Dipasupil/Getty ImagesKim Kardashian West has had a career spanning multiple industries, and she’s eager to add ‘law’ to her list.

The Kardashian family’s first moments in the spotlight were when the patriarch of the family, Robert Kardashian Sr., was in the public eye as O.J. Simpson’s lawyer …

AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian, PoolDefence attorney for O.J. Simpson, Robert Kardashian sits in a court in Los Angeles Friday, June 9, 1995.

… but Kim Kardashian’s first solo appearance in the world of entertainment came as a stylist for singer and actress Brandy Norwood in 2004.

APBrandy Norwood

Source: Cosmopolitan, People

Her skills as a stylist also landed her a spot on TV’s “The Simple Life” with Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie from 2003 to 2006.

Source: IMDb

Kim told Variety that her career as a businesswoman actually dates back to before she appeared on TV. She said it started in high school when she was working at a boutique and in her dad’s office. She said she discovered eBay while she was working at Robert Sr.’s office and loved shopping.

David Livingston/GettyImages

Source: Variety, Biography

Robert Sr. reportedly told her she could buy five pairs of Manolo Blahnik shoes as long as she paid him back plus interest.

Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for The Girls’ Lounge

Source: Variety

The shoes were $US700 heels in a style worn by Jennifer Lopez in one of her early music videos. “Everyone had to have them,” Kim told Variety.

REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Source: Variety

She told Variety that she saw the opportunity to make money and capitalised on it. Kim said she called up a store, bought five pairs of the Manolos for $US700 each, and resold them on eBay for $US2,500! She said she became so “obsessed” with the return that she began to sell off her own clothes that she no longer wore.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Source: Variety

In 2006, Kim and her sisters, Kourtney and Khloe, opened their first DASH store in their hometown of Calabasas, California. The concept behind the store — a sort of consignment shop — was pretty similar to Kim’s love for reselling.

Chris Polk/Contributor/Getty Images

Source: Variety

In the following decade they opened more locations, including one in Miami and one in the Soho neighbourhood of New York City. Kim announced they’d be shutting DASH doors in April 2018 as the sisters continue to work on their own brands and families.

Gustavo Caballero/Contributor/Getty ImagesDASH Miami opened in May of 2009.

Source: Fashionista

Kim said her original idea for the reality show, “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” was to bring attention to the DASH brand.

Bauer-Griffin/Contributor/Getty Images

Source: Variety

“I was thinking, this might not last very long, but we’ll grow a great business and expand online,” she told Variety. “I thought it would be great press. I didn’t think it would turn into what it turned into.”

Ray Tamarra/Contributor/Getty Images

Source: Variety

And it turned into something huge. In 2018, Complex ranked “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” one of the best reality TV shows of all time, behind only MTV’s “The Real World.”

Philip Ramey Photography, LLC/Contributor/Getty Images

Source: Variety, Complex

Shortly before the first episode of the family’s reality show, “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” aired in October 2007, Kim became the centre of a scandal that some say catapulted her career.

Source: IMDb, The Hollywood Reporter, Biography

In February 2007, a sex tape with Kim and Ray J — Brandy Norwood’s brother whom Kim dated from 2003 to 2006 — surfaced and made its way into the news. Kim sued the entertainment company distributing the tape at the time.

Patrick McMullan/Contributor/Getty Images

Source: Cosmopolitan, BET, TMZ

She reportedly settled the case for $US5 million.


Source: NBC2

While the tape wasn’t technically part of her career path, she did tell Oprah she’s “not naive to the fact” that it helped launch her into fame.

Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Source: Oprah’s Next Chapter

“I think that’s how I was definitely introduced to the world,” she said.

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

Source: Oprah’s Next Chapter

At the end of 2007, Kim posed for Playboy, and the shoot was captured on the first season of “Keeping Up With The Kardashians.” She said she was so nervous that she had to sit down with the magazine’s founder and then-editor-in-chief, Hugh Hefner, who she credited with helping convince her to pose.

Rob Loud/Contributor/Getty Images

Source: People

In 2008, E! gave fans of the reality show a second season. It’s now on its 17th season.

Source: IMDb

In 2009, Kim released a three-DVD workout plan called “Fit in Your Jeans by Friday.”

Source: “Fit in Your Jeans by Friday”, IMDb

In a promotional video, she calls it “so high-fashion and so stylised, it’s very me.” Most of the outfits have an “’80s, futuristic” look, as described by Kim herself.

Source: “Fit in Your Jeans by Friday”

She said she developed it because people were continually asking her how she kept her curves in shape. She said that while working with a few trainers, she found a routine that worked for her, and built the videos around the method.

Source: “Fit in Your Jeans by Friday”

The DVDs are split up by physical focus — there’s “Ultimate Butt Body Sculpt,” “Amazing Abs Body Sculpt,” and “Butt Blasting Cardio Step,” which she says was inspired by her love for doing workout videos with her sisters in their teenage years.

Source: “Fit in Your Jeans by Friday”

The opening of DASH Miami in 2009 brought about a new reality spinoff: “Kourtney and Kim Take Miami.”

Source: IMDb

The series lasted for three seasons — but Khloe headlined season two instead of Kim, although Kim did appear in the season.

Source: IMDb

Also in 2009, Kim appeared in “Deep in the Valley,” a romantic comedy that has a 26% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, produced by Persistent Entertainment.

Source: Rotten Tomatoes

Kardashian Glamour Tan was released onto the beauty market in April 2010. It’s a self-tanning gel created by the three sisters and was — at the time — exclusive to Sephora and cost $US34. In 2019, there was a tube going for $US79 on Amazon.

Source: Cosmopolitan, Glamour,Amazon

Six months later, Kim made her debut in the perfume world with her eponymous scent.

Source: Cosmopolitan

In 2011 reality TV viewers got to watch what happened as Kourtney and Kim opened their third DASH retail store in Manhattan’s SoHo neighbourhood.

Source: IMDb

At the time, Kim was newly married to NBA player, Kris Humphries. The pair lived in a suite at the Gansevoort Hotel with Kourtney, her then-boyfriend Scott Disick, and their son Mason Disick.

Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Source: Cosmopolitan

Their wedding was broadcast into the homes of people all over the US as “Kim’s Fairytale Wedding: A Kardashian Event.” The event reportedly brought in $US18 million in licensing fees, endorsement deals, and broadcast deals for Kim.

Source: NBC2

But 72 days later they were divorced.

Source: NBC2

Kim debuted a music video at the TAO nightclub New Years party in 2011 for her song “Jam (Turn it Up).” It was commercially released in March. A New York Daily News headline following the song debut called Kim “the worst singer in the reality TV universe.”

Source: Cosmopolitan, Billboard, New York Daily News

A portion of the proceeds reportedly went to St Judes Children’s Research Hospital.

Ethan Miller/Getty

Source: Cosmopolitan, Billboard

She told Andy Cohen she gave herself a hard time about the decision to do a music video for a long time. “I can’t believe I did that,” she said. But, she had fun!

Source: “Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen”

In 2011, the sisters released a clothing line with retailer Sears aptly dubbed Kardashian Kollection.

Jason Merritt/TERM/Staff/Getty Images

Source: Cosmopolitan

They came under fire with the line when they were accused of working with abusive employers to make their clothes.

Stuart C. Wilson/Stringer/Getty Images

Source: StyleCaster

And in 2013, the brand was said to be “flopping big-time” as Sears dropped prices to less than $US10. It officially folded in 2015.

Source: StyleCaster

But of course, that wasn’t the only thing Kim had going on at the time. In April 2011 she launched Gold, her second fragrance.

Source: Cosmopolitan, Amazon

And her third fragrance, “Kim Kardashian Love,” was released for her wedding to Kris Humphries in 2011.

Source: Cosmopolitan

There were only 979 bottles sold — 1,000 were made, but 20 were reserved for her bridal party and one for herself on her wedding day.

Source: Cosmopolitan

In the summer of 2012 Kim launched her fourth fragrance, “True Reflection.”

Source: Cosmopolitan

The launch party in Hollywood benefitted Dress for Success, a charity organisation.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

In November 2012, Kim and her sisters launched Khroma Beauty — a full range of cosmetics products.

Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan

The name was changed to Kardashian Beauty after another established makeup company called Kroma Beauty took the sisters and their lawyers to court. This came after Khroma was threatened with a different lawsuit from LA-based company Chroma Beauty.

Katy Winn/Getty Images


Teen Vogue

The line didn’t last, and a former employee of the family said the real problem was likely the lack of involvement. While Kim and Kylie are now heavily involved in their beauty brands, Khroma was a licensing deal.

Jamie McCarthy/Staff/Getty Images

Source: Fashionista, Teen Vogue

In 2014, Kim released her iPhone and Android game “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood.”

Source: Cosmopolitan

Just in the first five days, the game reportedly grossed $US1.6 million.

Kim Kardashian: Hollywood/Screenshot

Source: The New York Times, Business Insider

As of August 2018, the game was bringing in around $US8 million in a quarter for the Glu Mobile company.

Kim Kardashian: Hollywood

Source: Variety

Kim covered Paper Magazine in November 2014. She posed naked for a cover story called “Break the Internet: Kim Kardashian.” While the story didn’t literally break the Internet, Kim did end up winning the first ever Webby award named after the achievement: The Break The Internet Award.

Source: Paper Magazine, Merriam Webster, The Webby Awards

In 2015 Kim published “Selfish” — a small coffee table book filled with 448 pages of selfies she had taken between 2006 and 2014.

Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Source: Cosmopolitan, The Atlantic

The book landed on the New York Times Bestseller list.

Amanda Edwards/Contributor/Getty Images

Source: Cosmopolitan, Rizzoli

The launch of Kimojis for iOS in December 2015 was huge for Apple’s App Store. She reportedly told Rolling Stone that she’d only work with Kanye-approved graphic designers to develop the emoji.

Source: Cosmopolitan, Grazia

On the day of the launch, Apple’s App Store reportedly crashed. Kim tweeted, “Apple, I’m so sorry I broke your App Store!!!”


Source: Grazia, Kim Kardashian West Twitter

In May Kim tweeted about her new children’s clothing line with husband Kanye West called TheKidsSupply. She wrote, “For the past few years Kanye and I have made almost all of our kids clothes and we have collaborated on a new kids line!”


Source: Twitter,Vogue

The entire first collection was reportedly inspired by Calabasas and included dresses, chokers, hats, sweatpants, and more. Later seasons included itty-bitty Yeezys, the luxury lifestyle sneakers developed by Kanye West and Adidas.

Source: Vogue, Quartz, HighSnobiety

Also in 2015, Kim made $US500,000 for one sponsored Instagram post about a morning sickness pill.

Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images


Kim got back into the beauty business with KKW Beauty in 2017. The first product: a $US48 contour kit that sold out in minutes and racked up more than $US13 million in sales.

Source: Fashionista

She went on to produce more products for the line, including a fragrance that made $US10 million in one day.

Presley Ann/Getty Images

Source: TMZ

Her minimalist approach to the marketing process worked in her favour. She didn’t spend money on traditional advertising — instead, she turned to her devoted social media following. And it worked!

KKW Beauty

Source: Fashionista

People bought her perfume without even smelling it first.

Source: Fashionista, TMZ

Kim also employed similar marketing tactics when she launched her shapewear line, SKIMS Solutionwear, in 2019.

Source: Insider

The line was originally called Kimono. The name generated backlash as some audiences said it disrespected Japanese culture. Kim changed it to SKIMS around two months after the initial product announcement.

Source: Insider

In January 2020, Kim announced that the line will be sold at Nordstrom beginning in February. The department store is the first traditional retail outlet to sell SKIMS.

Source: Insider

For the past few years, Kim has also been speaking at and even headlining conferences like Glamour’s Women of the Year Summit, Create & Cultivate, the #BlogHer16 Conference, Re/Code, and more.

Vivien Killilea/Getty Images

Source: Forbes, WWD, TechCrunch

She’s had a hand in a wide variety of businesses and continues to build out her brands — both personal and professional. Although, the line between the two is a bit smudged.

Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

Source: The Hollywood Reporter, TechCrunch

Most recently, Kim announced that she’s studying up for the 2022 bar exam. “It’s never too late to follow your dreams,” she wrote on Instagram.

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images


Kardashian told Vogue that she was inspired to study law after she helped Alice Marie Johnson get released from prison in 2018.

NBCKim Kardashian and Alice Marie Johnson.

Source: INSIDER, Vogue

Kardashian publicly championed Johnson’s case and met with President Donald Trump in 2018 to seek clemency for Johnson, a 63-year-old grandmother who was serving a life sentence for non-violent drug offences.

Carlos Barria/ReutersKim Kardashian West leaves the West Wing after meetings at the White House in 2018.

Prison reform has been a cause that Kardashian continues to champion. She even said that she’ll sometimes take on sponsored Instagram posts — ones that she wouldn’t have otherwise considered — in order to fund her efforts.

Michael Cohen/Stringer/Getty Images

Source: CNBC

At The New York Times DealBook conference she said that if a paid post opportunity comes her way, even one that’s “off-brand,” she thinks: “‘O.K., well this can fund x amount of people behind bars, that can help free them with simple legal fees that they just can’t afford …'”

Michael Cohen/Stringer/Getty Images

Source: CNBC

Kardashian has reportedly been apprenticing at a San Francisco law firm. Robert Shapiro — a lawyer who worked with Kim’s father on the O.J. Simpson murder trials — told TMZ that he thinks Kim has skills that will help her as a lawyer, and that she’ll have a job offer from his firm if she passes the bar.

Source: Insider

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