How Kim Kardashian West built her $780 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.
  • Kim Kardashian West’s net worth is reportedly $US780 million, according to Forbes.
  • You may have seen her on E!’s “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” making a cameo during sitcoms like “Last Man Standing” and “30 Rock,” or in movies like “Ocean’s Eight.”
  • She told Oprah in an interview that she admits a sex tape “introduced” her to the entertainment world, but she’s become known for a lot more since then.
  • From founding KKW Beauty and clothing lines to pursuing a career as a lawyer, here’s a look at the career of Kim Kardashian West.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

While Kim Kardashian came from a family made famous by her well-known father, she had a few of her own breakout moments along the way.

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

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.

Kim Kardashian’s first solo appearance in the world of entertainment, though, came with her stint as singer and actress Brandy Norwood’s stylist in 2004.

Her skills as a stylist landed her a spot on TV’s “The Simple Life.”

Stephen Shugerman/Getty ImagesKim Kardashian West (left) and Paris Hilton (right).

She appeared on the show, which starred Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, from 2003 to 2006.

Kim told Variety that her career as a businesswoman actually dates back to before she appeared on TV.

David Livingston/GettyImages

She told Variety it started in high school when she was working at a boutique and in her dad’s office. Kardashian said she discovered eBay while she was working at Robert Sr.’s office and loved shopping.

She said she developed a love of shopping while working in her father’s office.

Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for The Girls’ Lounge

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

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.

She said that she saw the opportunity to make money and capitalised on it.

REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

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.

Kim eventually channeled her love for reselling to help build a retail business model.

Chris Polk/Contributor/Getty Images

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.

In the following decade, the sisters opened more locations including one in Miami and one in the SoHo neighbourhood of New York City.

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

Kim announced they’d be shutting DASH doors in April 2018 as the sisters continue to work on their own brands and families.

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

“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.”

It turned into a larger phenomenon than Kardashian imagined it would.

Philip Ramey Photography, LLC/Contributor/Getty Images

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.”

It was so successful, that several spinoffs happened down the line.

Ray Tamarra/Contributor/Getty Images

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

The Miami-based series lasted for three seasons.

‘Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami’/E!

Khloe headlined season two, although Kim did appear in the season.

But before all the spinoffs came “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.”

E! via UniversalPlaybackTV/YouTube

Kim was 27 years old during the show’s first season.

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

Patrick McMullan/Contributor/Getty Images

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.

She reportedly settled the case for $US5 million.

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

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

At the end of 2007, Kim posed for Playboy, and the shoot was captured on the first season of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.”

Rob Loud/Contributor/Getty Images

According to People, 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.

In 2008, E! gave fans of the reality show a second season.


It’s now on season 19.

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

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

In a promotional video, she called 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.

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.

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.

Also in 2009, Kim appeared in the movie, “Deep in the Valley.”

‘Deep in the Valley’/Persistent Entertainment

The romantic comedy starred actors Chris Pratt and Denise Richards, has a 26% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and was produced by Persistent Entertainment.

In April 2010, Kardashian Glamour Tan was released onto the beauty market.


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.

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

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.

E! Entertainment/YouTube

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

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.

But 72 days later they were divorced.

In 2011, Kim debuted a music video at the TAO nightclub New Years party for her song “Jam (Turn it Up).”

Ethan Miller/Getty

It was commercially released in March, according to Billboard. A New York Daily News headline following the song debut called Kim “the worst singer in the reality TV universe.”

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

She told Andy Cohen she gave herself a hard time about the decision to do a music video for a long time.

‘Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen’/Bravo TV/YouTube

“I can’t believe I did that,” Kardashian West said. But, she said she had fun!

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

Jason Merritt/TERM/Staff/Getty Images

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

In 2013, the brand was said to be “flopping big-time.”

Stuart C. Wilson/Stringer/Getty Images

Sears dropped prices to less than $US10, according to StyleCaster. The brand officially folded in 2015.

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, according to Cosmopolitan.

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

E! Entertainment/YouTube

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

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


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

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

Katy Winn/Getty Images

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, according to Teen Vogue and Cosmopolitan.

The line didn’t last, and a former employee of the family said the real problem was likely the lack of involvement.

Jamie McCarthy/Staff/Getty Images

While Kardashian West and her half-sister Kylie Jenner are now heavily involved in their beauty brands, Khroma was a licensing deal, according to Fashionista.

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

Glu Mobile

Just in the first five days, the game reportedly grossed $US1.6 million, according to The New York Times and Business Insider.

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

Kim covered Paper Magazine in November 2014.

Paper Magazine

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

In 2015, Kim published a book titled “Selfish.”

Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

It was a small coffee table book filled with 448 pages of selfies she had taken between 2006 and 2014.

The book landed on The New York Times’ best-seller list.

The launch of Kimojis for iOS in December 2015 was huge for Apple’s App Store.

App Store

She reportedly told Rolling Stone that she’d only work with Kanye West-approved graphic designers to develop the emoji.

On the day of the launch, Apple’s App Store reportedly crashed.


Kardashian tweeted, “Apple, I’m so sorry I broke your App Store!!!”

In May of that year, Kim tweeted about her new children’s clothing line with husband Kanye West called TheKidsSupply.


She tweeted, “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!”

According to Vogue, the entire first collection was 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.

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

Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

According to STAT, her initial post left out information on possible risks but was later corrected.

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, according to 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

TMZ reported that customers had a choice between three fragrances: Crystal Gardenia, Crystal Gardenia Oud, and Crystal Gardenia Citrus.

Her minimalist approach to the marketing process worked in her favour.

KKW Beauty

She didn’t spend money on traditional advertising – instead, she turned to her devoted social-media following.

And it worked. People bought her perfume without even smelling it first.

In June, Kardashian West agreed to sell a 20% stake in KKW Beauty to Coty Inc. (a publicly-traded firm), which valued the company at $US1 billion, according to Forbes. This reportedly bumped her net worth to $US780 million – more than double her last-reported net worth of $US370 million.

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

Vanessa BeecroftSKIMS launched with its new name in September 2019.

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.

In January 2020, Kim announced that the line would be sold at Nordstrom beginning in February.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

The department store was the first traditional retail outlet to sell SKIMS.

For the past few years, Kim has also been speaking at and headlining conferences.

Vivien Killilea/Getty Images

She’s appeared at events like Glamour’s Women of the Year Summit, Create & Cultivate (as pictured above), the #BlogHer16 Conference, Re/Code, and more.

Kardashian West had a hand in a wide variety of businesses and continues to build out her brands — both personal and professional.

Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

Although, the line between the two brands is a bit smudged.

In 2019, Kardashian West announced that she’s studying up for the 2022 bar exam.

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

“It’s never too late to follow your dreams,” she wrote on Instagram.

Kardashian West 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.

Kardashian West publicly championed Johnson’s case and met with President Donald Trump in 2018 to seek clemency for Johnson, then a 62-year-old grandmother who was serving a life sentence for nonviolent drug offences.

Prison reform has been a cause that Kardashian West continues to champion.

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

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.

She spoke at The New York Times DealBook conference about how she uses paid social-media posts to support the cause.

Michael Cohen/Stringer/Getty Images

At the 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 …'”

Kardashian has reportedly been apprenticing at a San Francisco law firm.

POOL / Getty

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.

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