Last year, only the 14th ever black female entrepreneur raised more than $1M in funding. Discrimination in Venture Capital abounds when it comes to women, that much is certain, but even more so for women of color.
The exact number is unclear, but of the 2 percent of VC funding women received last year, it's estimated that less than 0.1 percent of that was allocated to multicultural women.
Given this, it's almost miraculous that women of color are able to bootstrap their businesses and turn them into long-lasting and relevant brands. The funds afforded to men (and to a smaller extent) white women grant them a cushion with which to pursue that ventures, that black women are simply not granted.
Somewhere black women have found large success against all odds is in the beauty spheres, whereby business is born mostly out of necessity because of neglect from bigger brands. With this in mind, we rounded up 7 beauty entrepreneurs, proving the discriminatory VC world ignorant, while changing the narrative about what it means to be relevant for a multicultural demographic.
1. Kayla Phillips, Foxie Bombs Cosmetics
This outspoken entrepreneur founded her business with the intricacies of the skin in mind. Since 2015, she has created products ranging from bath bombs and soap to perfume. Her line (currently on hold) is both Vegan and ethically produced here in the U.S.
Phillips told The Fader; "When I see other brands that are owned by white folks and they're using our butters, it kinda makes me turn my head a little bit because these recipes have always been ours. The homemade items and whipping stuff up has always been something people of color have done naturally." Phillips's range is completely her own creation, and made by her own hands. It also happens to be ludicrously pretty. We've bookmarked the site for when Phillips decides to let us back in on her Foxie Bomb experience.
Kayla Phillips. Photo courtesy of Nylon
2. Iman, Iman Cosmetics
Founded in 1994, this beauty brand pioneered the way for most others here in its approach to diversity. Supermodel Iman had spent much of her modeling career being asked "did you bring your own foundation?" by makeup artists, when she decided that question was no longer acceptable.
The entrepreneur told SWAAY, “If you go into a lot of cosmetic stores, you still have the ethnic section in the back. It's like, if you're a company that caters to just women of color, you're sold differently. I wanted there to be options for us." She notes that while larger brands might be becoming more inclusive, there are still more options for women with paler skin. "I was the first company to create bronzers for skin of color, to put SPF in our products, to think of skin care and technology for women of color," she says. Thus, her radical approach back in 1994 became her meal ticket, with the company now estimated to be worth a cool $25M.
3. K.J Miller & Amanda E. Johnson, Mented Cosmetics
There is no nude that suits every skin tone, that much is for sure. So two women came together last year (over a glass of pinot, no less), to launch a beauty line that would cater to every.single.lip. Amanda E. Johnson and K.J Miller created the line in the purview that “every woman should be able to find herself in the world of beauty." Challenging an industry that has been slow on the diversity and inclusion uptake is especially inspirational, when something so basic as a nude lip has been taken for granted across all other beauty lines, but for those with paler skin. Miller and Johnson's collection will blow you away with its expansive range, and your basket will no doubt be full by the time you're done on their fun site.
K.J Miller & Amanda E.Johnson
4. Miko Branch, Miss Jessie's
Miko and Titi Branch launched their business, Miss Jessie's, having spent years working on formulas to accentuate black women's natural curls. From their grandmother's kitchen, they concocted recipes that would way day turn into award-winning formulas and a multi-million dollar business. Initially discouraged by the hole in the market that was targeted haircare at the black community. People actually wanted to wear their hair in its naturally curly, kinky or wavey state, but just didn't know how. “To my surprise" she says, “it created a conversation that was favourable. It took me no time to understand that this was our opportunity to get our business back." Branch told SWAAY, that after much experimenting, it was her late sister Titi who cracked the nut, and was the key to success for their first product, 'curly pudding."
5. Katonya Breaux, Unsun Cosmetics
What's most inspiring about Katonya Breaux's story is not that she raised our beloved Frank Ocean, or even that she became an entrepreneur at a later stage in life, but that she came up with the solution to a problem, that nobody had thought to address before. Breaux's approach to beauty is revolutionary. Her line, Unsun Cosmetics, was founded after she had become disparaged by the lack of sunscreen options for people of color. "Representation needs to be universal," she commented to The Fader.
And indeed her line is representative of just that. According to the brand's description, "Unsun was made specifically for people of color representing the beige to dark chocolate tones of the spectrum. The desire to protect our skin from the sun should not mean having to wear foundation in order to cover the white and gray film that presents after application."
Katonya Breaux and son, Frank Ocean
6. Rihanna, Fenty Beauty
Rihanna veritably broke the internet last year upon the release of her hotly anticipated line, Fenty beauty, and boy, was it worth it. Fenty became the ball park for inclusivity, with 40 shades of foundation and a highlighter that makes every cheek sparkle (for real). With recent reports gauging that the singer's brand might outsell the famed Kylie Cosmetics, we're very interested to see where things lie at the end of this year. With Sephora struggling to keep the Fenty foundation in stock after its release, it was most recently the line of lipsticks that leaped off the shelves, and a quick dabble into highly-pigmented eyeshadows for the singers' line. While we eagerly await the next Fenty product dump, we pause in appreciation for the brand's directionality, which earned it a whopping $72M in its first month.
Rihanna. Photo courtesy of The Source
7. Kim Etheredge & Wendi Levy, Co-Founders, Mixed Chicks
Mixed Chicks founders Kim Etheredge and Wendi Levy mashed together business backgrounds from both coasts to create a line that aims to enhance waves and curls for multicultural women. Having caught the attention of a few noteworthy celebrities, including Ciara and Halle Berry, the ladies launched to wide acclaim. Levy told Dressing Room 8 "There's not just one beauty image anymore, so we can all find something to identify with these days." To date, the pair have launched a plethora of hair products and have even expanded into makeup, with all products extremely Twitteraffordable and widely praised by the ladies of for their effectiveness and pizazz.
Wendi Levy & Kim Etheredge
WRITTEN BYAmy Corcoran