As I scanned through this week’s retail news, one striking headline caught my eye: “Black-Owned Beauty Brands and Founders Breaking Billion-Dollar Barriers.” The piece, written by CNBC producer Melody Myers, details the stories of several successful Black entrepreneurs and their struggle to launch brands in the beauty space. While it’s known that Black business owners have been historically disenfranchised across all sectors, this past year has seen more and more Black founders speak up about their struggles to access capital and break into the retail space specifically.

In my last article celebrating Black History Month, I highlighted a few brands and retailers taking action to diversify their product portfolios and launch initiatives to support Black creators. Today, I wanted to share a few of the inspiring and challenging stories from Myers’ article to celebrate the Black women revolutionizing the beauty industry:

  • Mahisha Dellinger started her hair care line, Curls, in 2002 after struggling to find natural options on store shelves. Unable to find financing, Dellinger started Curls with $30,000 in personal savings. Today, the brand can be found on store shelves at Walmart, Target, CVS, and Kroger, as well as on
  • Melissa Butler founded The Lip Bar in 2012, also launching with just $30,000 of her personal savings. The cosmetics brand expanded into Target in 2018, but still couldn’t secure financing. Since then, Butler has secured $2 million from the New Voices Fund, which focuses on investing in women of color. The Lip Bar has been recognized by former First Lady Michelle Obama and current First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.
  • CurlMix founders Kim and Tim Lewis self-funded the haircare brand when it started in 2015. In 2018, they acquired $25,000 in financing from Backstage Capital, a venture capital fund focused on investing in women, people of color, and LGBT founders. After the founders turned down an investment offer on “Shark Tank” in 2019, they raised $1.2 million in a seed round and hit $6 million in 2020.
  • Dorian Morris launched beauty and wellness brand Undefined Beauty in 2018 after recognizing the need for a beauty brand to incorporate “plant-magic” like CBD. The brand launched into Nordstrom’s new Inclusive Beauty category last October, and is taking part in this month’s Target Takeoff accelerator program. Morris’ business is still self-funded.

Read more about these incredible Black entrepreneurs and how they’re overcoming more roadblocks due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the full article here.

Women in Retail Leadership Days Rewind

To get you excited for our upcoming 2021 Women in Retail Leadership Days (WIRLD) event, we’re highlighting the top keynotes from our 2020 show! Look out for these special posts in the coming weeks. You’ll be able to watch full-length recordings of all our amazing keynote discussions from WIRLD 2020.

This week, take a glimpse into Diane von Furstenberg’s creative and inspiring mind in her open and honest conversation with Sandra Campos, former CEO of Diane von Furstenberg (DVF). Don’t miss out on more interviews like this with leading women in retail during our next Women in Retail Leadership Days event, taking place March 23-April 13. Register to join us!