Kathy Ireland, a California super model who started as a teen in the 1970s, made everything look glamorous and easy.

Ireland, 53, today heads Kathy Ireland Worldwide branding, which licenses merchandise that amounted to $2 billion in sales last year.

But it wasn't always easy she told about 100 University of St. Thomas entrepreneurial-studies students and others recently about the pitfalls, challenges and triumphs of building her business since 1993. Fairchild Publications has ranked Ireland one of the 50 most influential people in fashion.

Ireland credited her success as a corporate leader to service and teamwork, not wielding power. Trying things, learning from others, pratfalls and recovering to try again.

She also defied critics who warned her not to start a fashion business with a pair of socks that continues to lead her business in varying styles.
 Ireland also is driven by her personal and corporate involvement with charities such as the YWCA, Dream Foundation, Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation and the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“If you never fail, it means you are not trying hard enough, ” said Ireland, who also looked good in the St. Thomas T-shirt and football jersey she was awarded.

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