Is the Beauty Industry Finally Playing Fair With Black-Owned Brands?

Beauty and grooming rituals have long been a component of the Black experience. Historically, every little thing from hairstyling to body art has represented where we come from and to which community we belonged.

But then we fast forward to the mid to late twentieth century, when lots of our beauty decisions—while still widely culturally driven—were heavily influenced by the necessity to adapt to white standards of beauty. Not necessarily because we didn’t appreciate our natural features, but since it was a way of survival in the company workforce, and a solution to thrive in broader society. The one problem? There was a limited supply of beauty products made for our unique needs.

Depending on location, lots of our go-to’s weren’t even available at mass retailers. And in the event that they were, these goods were often placed in a dark, dusty corner—clearly segregated from what were considered mainstream products. Nonetheless, starting within the 2010s, with the second wave of the natural hair movement pushing forward, Black people across the board began to reclaim the sweetness narrative. We began to let go of the concept we wanted to adapt. As a substitute, we checked out beauty as a way of gaining autonomy and celebrating our unique features. And the broader industry took notice.


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Haircare brands like Mielle Organics and Camille Rose launched during this decade, with makeup lines like The Lip Bar following, skincare like 54 Thrones, and Hyper Skin near the tip of the 2010s. The Black beauty boom had arrived. And while consumers were quick to enjoy the brand new bounty of options, founders faced an uphill battle to thrive on an equal playing field to their white counterparts—and still do.

A June 2022 study conducted by McKinsey & Company found that Black-owned or -founded brands only made up 2.5% percent of the revenue of the $60 billion beauty industry within the U.S. Yet Black consumers were “liable for 11.1% of total beauty spending.” Much of this imbalance was since the wider industry doesn’t help create an equitable environment for Black entrepreneurs to not only start, but in addition grow their businesses so as to create recent employment opportunities and shut the wealth gap within the Black community.

But luckily, things are slowly beginning to shift.

In 2021, beauty and business maven Kendra Bracken-Ferguson partnered with investor and entrepreneur Lisa Stone to create the BrainTrust Founders Studio (BTFS), an investment community that incubates recent Black-owned beauty and wellness brands, while helping existing founders to scale and grow their businesses. The team is devoted to helping founders, each recent and seasoned, find investment opportunities while also providing their very own funding.

“BTFS is now the most important membership-based platform dedicated to Black founders of beauty and wellness corporations,” Bracken-Ferguson shares with “With our deep expertise in creating consumer products, operating tech-enabled platforms, and long-time relationships throughout the industry, we’re harnessing the worth of dozens of ecosystem partners and advisors to speed up the expansion of Black beauty and wellness founders in any respect stages of their journey from start, growth to acceleration.”


Courtesy of Braintrust

With two years under its belt, BTFS just released its first Economic Advancement Report, detailing recent full-time jobs created through the brands it supports, in addition to sales increases and enterprise capital raised.

From 2022 to 2023, the BTFS went from a 26-founder membership, with a reported $26.6 million in product sales, to 116 members, with revenues of over $100 million. As well as, enterprise capital funds raised increased from $2,540,025 to $43,937,524 (concentrated in nine corporations which have raised $40,227,524, in keeping with the report). And on the subject of employment growth, excluding freelance, contract, and part-time positions, brands have gone from creating 19 full-time jobs in 2022 to 116 in 2023.

So how will we take things to the subsequent level? In response to Stone, it’s working to make sure Black-owned brands mix with the broader mainstream industry, fairly than being seen as “the opposite,” or something only made for one demographic. But it surely looks as if the sweetness world is already on the best track.

“The only most vital thing we will do is shatter the stereotype that Black founders only create products for Black consumers,” Stone explains. “Black founders are creating gorgeous beauty and wellness products for all of us. We cannot reveal individual company data, but with the collective social media following of BrainTrust Founders Studio founders [comprising 40.96% Black consumers, 30.45% white, 21.42% Asian, and 7.17% Hispanic], it’s reflective of the shopper base buying individual brands.”

With collectives like BTFS, the success of existing and future Black beauty founders is looking shiny. However the journey may be one hell of a ride—and we would like to know all about it. That’s why we spoke with nine founders across eight BTFS-backed brands to get real about every little thing from the aftermath of the 2020 racial reckoning and whether or not it made an enduring impact, to constructing capital, and the recommendation they’ve for up-and-coming entrepreneurs.

Their stories, ahead.

Ron Robinson

ron robinson

Courtesy of Ron Robinson

The OG cosmetic chemist and founding father of skincare brand BeautyStat is not any stranger to the ups and downs of the industry. But with a wave of support for his line one yr after its initial launch in 2019, Robinson admits that he’s noticed a certain trend when it’s come to championing Black-owned brands. “The support during 2020 was huge but has been less consistent since then,” he shares. “Though during Black History Month, I do see a spike in support, it will be great to see more ongoing support all year long fairly than simply one month.”

These kinds of ebbs and flows, while consumers may not realize, can have a direct impact on the long run success and longevity of brands, which in turn can hinder growth and future employment opportunities for founders and the broader Black community. “The most important challenge I had was attempting to get funding to launch the brand,” Robinson says. “Once we began, we had so much more going for us in comparison with other startups. I had a long time of beauty industry experience as a cosmetic chemist and product developer together with a seasoned founding team. Multiple patents on a breakthrough technology that stabilizes pure vitamin C giving it a three-year shelf-life, and market research showing that our brand and product concept was each unique with strong purchase interest amongst a big population of consumers. Yet, after pitching the brand to quite a few investors, we couldn’t raise money. I tapped into my 401K to get the initial capital to start out the business.” Thankfully, all of it paid off. And now Robinson can use his experience to assist other founders find their way as they navigate the industry.

“On this economic climate, fundraising is tough for anyone, especially in the event you are Black,” he explains. “My advice to entrepreneurs is to ensure that you test your brand or product concept to ensure that there’s a market need before quitting your day job. I see too many entrepreneurs who think they’ve an awesome idea, but don’t get enough objective feedback to verify it’s a viable and scalable idea. [Once you’ve got that down,] boot-strap it until you get sales traction before pitching investors.”

Nyakio Grieco

nyakio greico

Courtesy of Nyakio Greico

Nyakio Grieco has been a beauty entrepreneur for over twenty years, so it only is smart that she created Thirteen Lune, an e-commerce site focused on amplifying Black and brown-owned brands, in late 2020. Thankfully, she says she’s seen consistent support since its inception. “Once we created Thirteen Lune, the primary of its kind truly inclusive beauty retail platform, not only did we invite guests to make their beauty shopping more meaningful, we also created an area to rejoice the invention of those incredible brands while helping to construct generational wealth,” she gushes. “We’ve been thrilled with the overwhelming response supporting our mission to amplify our BIPOC founded brands.”

While Grieco doesn’t shrink back from the indisputable fact that she faced her justifiable share of struggles gaining capital to fund her first beauty brand, the experience led her to create Thirteen Lune. “I used to be given the chance to assist clear the runway to assist others achieve success faster,” she says. “My experience as a founder-turned-retailer is a testament to aligning my passion and my purpose.”

As for her advice to those that need to enter the sweetness space? While raising capital is the goal, not all money is sweet money. “Don’t take dumb money!” Grieco shares. “People of color often feel that they haven’t any other alternative than to take whatever deal is obtainable, nevertheless, that investment can come at [a] devastating price.”

Sharon Chuter

sharon chuter

Courtesy of Sharon Chuter

To know Sharon Chuter is to know a fearless woman—and that is the precise approach that led to the success of her makeup line Uoma Beauty. But while the founder shares that she’s seen more retailer interest since 2020, she still faces her justifiable share of barriers as a Black-owned brand. “There continues to be an extended solution to go in educating consumers that Black-owned doesn’t equal made for Black [people] only,” she shares. “If we will break through this barrier in consumers, then we are going to see a more sustained effect because ultimately it’s only the consumers that may drive the shift. The retailers can only hold brands that buyers love and support.”

Very like most other Black founders, Chuter wasn’t proof against the challenges of attempting to construct equity—something she says continues to be a significant challenge. “Individuals who appear to be us don’t necessarily get good and fair access to capital, whether it’s in the shape of loans or equity investments,” the founder explains.

For many who are facing similar circumstances, Chuter offers the identical advice she gives to herself: keep at it and don’t surrender. “For me, I attempt to stay nimble, scrappy, and at all times find an alternate and a way,” she says. “Stay plugged into the investor ecosystem is the recommendation I may give and as a founder, that you must stay plugged in even when it’s not the favourite a part of your job. Once you get no from one investor at all times ask for an introduction—at all times! And never think you’re being pushy doing this. It’s expected and is the one solution to grow your network inside this community. Don’t get emotional when an investor declines. It’s not personal—this isn’t American Idol.”

Dorian Morris

dorian morris

Courtesy of Dorian Morris

Dorian Morris’s brand Undefined Beauty was one in all the primary Black-owned beauty brands to make use of cannabinoids as a predominant ingredient throughout the initial CBD boom, which is what made her stand out from the remainder—far beyond the 2020 racial reckoning. “2020 Undefined and 2023 Undefined are on a really different trajectory, but each focused on my mission to democratize beauty via clean, conscious, inclusive plant magic. Given my product evolution, it’s hard to tease out if growth was driven by the increased interest in black-owned brands vs the shift in plant magic— from CBD to Adaptogenic Mushrooms—which has ultimately unlocked the retail expansion to Wholefoods, Goal, Ulta, HSN, and CVS and overall business growth.”

On the subject of funding, Morris says Undefined is bootstrapped, meaning she’s not swimming in investments. But this has inspired her to take a creative approach to business and create a community with other minority business owners. “After I was concepting Undefined in 2018, I used to be too small for giant, established contract manufacturers and suppliers to take a risk on,” she recalls. “I as a substitute focused on small businesses that might have lower minimums, which might allow me to maneuver quickly to check innovation before scaling. This so-called challenge influenced what’s now one in all my core strategic pillars around conscious capitalism, which implies across my supply chain I partner with female-founded, BIPOC-owned, LGBTQ+ and small businesses. Once we’re not given a seat on the table, we construct our own table.”

Beyond fundraising and business partnership, Morris desires to encourage recent founders to enter this space with a refreshed perspective on their journeys, which won’t at all times be on the straight and narrow. “Reframe your relationship with failure,” she explains “There isn’t a failure—it’s only learning—but be smart in taking calculated risks as you’re learning. Don’t get in your individual way or don’t fall victim to ‘comparison-itis’ or evaluation paralysis, each of that are damaging in alternative ways. Jump and construct your wings on the way in which down.”

Ezinne Iroanya

ezinne iroanya

Courtesy of Ezinne Iroanya, Gabriela Hasbun

Ezinne Iroanya launched SKNMUSE, a body care and wellness brand in 2020, a time when consumers were rushing to support Black-owned brands. Thankfully, she’s still feeling the love. “I might say the support has been consistent,” she shares. “[The racial reckoning] forced people to push their dollars, which gave us capital. And on the subject of the Black community in specific, I feel Black people have understood that each one we want is us. And while access could also be limited to brands like us, our community goes above and beyond because they know we represent them holistically.”

Nonetheless, she’s still faced her justifiable share of challenges, namely raising capital, which is a recurring theme for many Black founders. “[Access to funds] keeps dwindling, regardless that more of us are creating businesses,” Iroanya explains. “There’s plenty of [work] that has to enter educating investors, because most of them are white—white men. I even have to take a seat on calls and explain what a body butter is versus a lotion, for instance. But we’ve bootstrapped our solution to six figures due to our community, due to BrainTrust.”

And while the founder has been in a position to create a beautiful collection of balms, butters, oils, and candles, she admits lack of funding has stunted a few of her company’s growth—but that doesn’t mean she’s giving up. “You’re not in a position to do every little thing you desire to do. But the reality is, to ensure that America to maneuver forward and triple their economic growth, they need to speculate in Black businesses and Black women.”

With this in mind, Iroanya has learned to bounce with patience through the years. And while gaining capital could also be a necessity on the subject of the expansion of her line, it won’t come before staying true to herself—and she or he advises recent founders to follow her lead. “Be authentically you—don’t fold, don’t bend,” she shares. “Remember who you might be and stand in your truth and the world will make room for you”

Arion Long

arion long

Courtesy of Arion Long

Arion Long created the natural period care brand Femly after facing challenges along with her own heavy menstrual cycle. Unable to search out products that might prevent leaks while also using organic ingredients, she established her own company not only to assist other individuals with similar stories, but in addition with the goal of ending period poverty. And consumers are on-board. “As a women-led brand we’ve the unique ability to offer products, health education, and restroom dispensers that directly impact and serve anyone in need of a greater period care experience,” Long shares. “Consumer and buyer interest for our brand has sky-rocketed since 2020.”

Yet on the subject of VC-backing, things have been difficult for the founder, making it clear that collectives like BTFC are essential. “We were in a position to secure an initial funding round to grow our operations when the racial reckoning of 2020 was at its height and well-meaning organizations were putting out their ‘We stand with you’ statements and screaming ‘Black lives matter,’ Long shares. “Since then, we have found that lots of those public statements and commitments have scaled back dramatically.”

But despite these setbacks, the founder is okay with playing the long game, and thinks other small business owners should embrace it as well. She also encourages those trying to enter the sweetness field to think beyond just enterprise capital and diversify their fundraising strategy, through sources like lines of credit, grant funding, purchase order financing, and strategic partnerships. “Femly has historically raised funding from a majority of non-equity sources,” Long shares. “While I struggled to search out interested investors to start with, I now look back and realize that staying true my vision and specializing in growth was a superpower and I’m now in a position to be rather more flexible than lots of my peers.”

Rachel Lambo

rachel lambo

Courtesy of Rachel Lambo, Vai Yu Law

Businesswoman Rachel Lambo created Sade Baron in 2016 along with her mother to create a natural and ethically-processed line that works to boost the skin’s own healing process. And while 2020 helped to bring visibility to the brand, getting access to capital has been an ongoing challenge. “Angel [investing] is not at all times accessible to black founders,” Baron shares. “There are lots of accelerators, and groups that provide education on methods to move forward. I even have definitely taken advantage and educated myself because the brand is growing.”

Apart from the financial aspect of the business, finding manufacturing partners that aligned with the brand’s ethics wasn’t exactly easy. Nonetheless, by finding community, Lambo was in a position to navigate these challenges.

“As my network grew I used to be in a position to leverage my contacts find a perfect partner,” she says. “Biggest takeaway is to at all times ask for what you wish or are on the lookout for whatever the answer. It definitely helped us reach a few of our goals more effectively.”

Isoken Igbinedion and Simone Kendle

isoken igbinedion and simone kendle headshot

Left- Simone Kendle, Right- Isoken Igbinedion.

Courtesy of Isoken Igbinedion and Simone Kendle

While the conversation around AI technology may be polarizing to say the least, Isoken Igbinedion and Simone Kendle found a solution to make it work in beauty by utilizing the innovation to create custom wigs that match the scale and skin tone of every unique customer. Parfait Tailored Hair launched in 2022, and in keeping with Igbinedion, there’s been regular and consistent support ever since its inception.

As with nearly all of Black founders, the fundraising struggle is a tale as old as time. But Kendle says the team has flipped the circumstance to develop into a learning experience. “We needed to be relentless at the beginning, finding visible spaces to share our story and our vision for our customers and the industry,” she says. “From that have, I learned that effective storytelling is crucial to getting conviction. Investors should not only investing in a market opportunity, but also they are investing in people, and the perfect of the perfect spend money on people first.”

Although some may say the hair marketplace for the Black community is now oversaturated (what an awesome problem to have!) Parfait found a particular area of interest that was yet to be tapped into—and it’s working. So for those trying to follow within the brand’s footsteps, Igbinedion encourages potential recent founders to learn the worth of their community. “Begin constructing relationships early,” she exclaims. “With the economic climate still top of mind for many investors, it’s more vital than ever to search out advocates who imagine in your vision. Those advocates will know the best partners to introduce you to and it’s much easier to pitch a business model to investors who already know your capabilities as a founder, and who’re also keen about the space you might be constructing in.”

Afterall, your network truly is your net value—and that’s something that ought to never be ignored.

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