The Beauty industry is worth more than $500 billion and is projected to be worth nearly $1 trillion by 2024. With recent shifts in the beauty industry moving a magnifying glass over the multicultural market, a sudden increase in the interest of Black consumers and their buying power has left a huge market for the success of beauty brands specifically formulated for Women of Color.
On February 19, three of the beauty industry’s newest trailblazers in multicultural beauty gathered at WeWork Colony Square in Atlanta, Ga to talk about the truth of being an entrepreneur in the beauty industry. Moderated by Kayla Parchia, Lifestyle Host and WeWork Community Leader, Founders and CEOs Melissa Butler of The Lip Bar, Monique Rodriguez of Mielle Organics, and Rachel Roff of Urban Skin RX shared stories of how they all created multi-million dollar companies from voids in their respective sub-industries; makeup, haircare, and skincare. The women unpacked topics ranging from acquisitions and getting in retailers, to building the appropriate tribe as an entrepreneur.
Melissa Butler and The Lip Bar first went viral after she appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank, where the panel of judges declined to invest in her business, along with sharing rude and crude comments about her products. In a moment where most may have seen as a defeat, Butler saw an opportunity and capitalized on the publicity. Shortly afterward, The Lip Bar launched its first viral campaign, featured a dark-skinned woman confidently wearing a bold colored lip; a major taboo in the beauty industry. This bold move was just the first of many.
Unlike many other brands who are in retailers, Butler skipped the process of getting a broker to get her products onto store shelves.
“I didn’t know you needed a broker to get into Target,” recalled Butler. “I was just cold emailing these people. It took eight months of emailing, calling, and pitching them different ways before someone finally responded and thought what I was doing was amazing, and wanted samples.”
Recognizing the saturation of lip products in the beauty business, Butler constantly edited her pitch to best make it understandable to a fair-skin counterpart who cannot relate to the plight of the black woman, that pigments in lipsticks are not universally suitable for all skin tones, often alienating Black consumers, causing a large market opportunity where The Lip Bar could fill its void.
“In order for someone to take a chance on you, you have to make them understand what they can truly get out of it,” shared Butler.
Successful as a result of faith and targeted influencer marketing, Mielle Organics reached an all-time company high in 2018, entering many new retailer spaces like Target and Walgreens. Though it is often thought as company validation when a product is finally available in a retailer, Founder and CEO Monique Rodriguez shared other components of the process that is generally unknown.
“It’s great to do business with big retailers but it’s also expensive, and that’s what people don’t tell you,” said Rodriguez. “Once you get those bill backs for shelf space, it becomes expensive.”
Rodriguez also continued to share how many retailers came to her after seeing the large presence and influence Mielle had built on social media.
“You have to focus on building your brand and being excellent because you want people to come knocking at your door. When you have tunnel vision and build, that’s when all the resources and connections will fall in place,” Rodriguez advised. “I didn’t come knocking on these retailers door, they came to Mielle.”
Rachel Roff, a businesswoman and veteran of the skincare industry by over 15 years, began researching products and procedures designed specifically for women of color after hearing several complaints by her melinated friends who often wasted money on ineffective products and spa visits.
Urban Skin Rx was received tremendously well by consumers, as it premiered as a prestige brand with each order averaging $125. The company was already worth millions strictly from online sales when it was approached by Target to be sold in-store.
Presented with a unique problem, the company had the opportunity to be carried by one of the world’s biggest retailers. However, the original product prices far exceeded the typical Target price range. Refusing to miss the opportunity, Roff made a bold move to separate the brand into two lines to avoid disrupting her already successful online sales while still being able to enter the retailer space.
“As an entrepreneur, you have to be very solution-oriented,” said Roff. “To take advantage of both opportunities, we will split the brand into two lines: Pro Strength by Urban Skin RX, which a lot more of their high dollar formulas that are impossible to make at the price point that retailers need. Urban Skin Rx will continue to sell in Target in smaller sizes, along with some unique formulas that are soon to roll out,” she shared with excitement.
Though each businesswoman had different starts, each one agreed on the importance of branding and how it can make your business stand out amongst many.
“I’m really big on experiences,” said Rodriguez. “People are going to remember how you make them feel. Even down to we ship our products, we go above and beyond to have pink boxes with the logo to help tell our brand story. Brand stories resonate with customers when they become involved with our journey. That’s what differentiates you from the rest of the products on the shelf.”
Wrapping up the 45-minute conversation, the ladies took questions from the audience, where the topic of knowing who to surround yourself with and how that affects you as an entrepreneur.
“Unfortunately entrepreneurship is lonely, said Butler. “So you have to build your tribe [strategically]. However, first, you have to do what you can to build peace on your own, without anyone else. Then, externally, try to find people who understand,” she continued.
Although each beauty entrepreneur walked unique paths to success they all attributed faith and hard work to reaching their goals.
“Running a business is hard,” said Rodriguez. There is no easy route to doing this. It gets tough but you have to know and understand why you started. If you know your vision came from God you’ll know to keep pressing forward despite anything you’re going through.”