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How Warren Buffett helped turn Kathy Ireland into a billion-dollar brand

How Warren Buffett helped turn Kathy Ireland into a billion-dollar brand
How Warren Buffett helped turn Kathy Ireland into a billion-dollar brand
Alexis Christoforous

Former supermodel turned super mogul, Kathy Ireland says she is grateful to Warren Buffett. It was Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-A) subsidiary, Nebraska Furniture Mart, that gave Ireland her start in the home furnishings business in 1999.

“We can all learn from [Buffett],” Ireland told Yahoo Finance at the 51st annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting held recently in Omaha, Nebraska.

Buffett once told Ireland that fashion is constantly changing, but home products are much more consistent. She listened.

What began as a line of socks at Kmart in 1993, has grown into a brand and marketing empire. Today, Kathy Ireland Worldwide boasts $2 billion in annual sales and includes not only furniture and fashion but also beauty products, diamonds, pet care, educational games, kitchen accessories, and even an event planning business that provides exotic locations for destination weddings.

Ireland, whose net worth is estimated at more than $420 million, is a fixture at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholder meeting. You can usually find her competing at the famed newspaper toss. Both she and Buffett had newspaper routes when they were young and like to compete against each other in this annual game.

This year, Ireland managed to beat Microsoft (MSFT) founder Bill Gates, but says Buffett is a formidable competitor and remains undefeated.

Calling Buffett’s shareholder meeting “an education for all,” Ireland says she always leaves inspired. “One of my favorite Warren Buffett quotes is, ‘You find out who’s swimming naked when the tide goes out.’ "

“He’s genuine,” she says of her mentor and business partner. “Life is too short to work with people who you don’t really respect, and for me, I want to work with people I also enjoy.”

Click here to view a full replay of the 2016 Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting, which Yahoo Finance live-streamed exclusively. At this page you can also find our extensive coverage of the event.

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