Beauty Brand Founders Talk Growth Without Racial Labels
Fiscal challenges aside, beauty founders at the Fairchild Media Group Diversity Forum agreed that misconceptions about their brand are among their biggest hurdles.
At the event on March 23, Melissa Butler, chief executive officer and founder of The Lip Bar and Thread Beauty, Chris Collins, founder, World of Chris Collins and Liah Yoo, CEO of KraveBeauty, outlined the challenges and opportunities they have and continue to face as founders of color.
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Chief among them, Collins, Butler and Yoo agreed, are preconceived notions of who their brands target.
“I find it a privilege to redefine what diversity is,” Butler said. “Oftentimes, when I say diversity as a Black woman, people think that I’m only talking about Black people, which is really unfortunate and has been one of my biggest challenges — the idea that brands founded by Black people are not only for Black people to shop.”
To that end, her new brand, Thread Beauty, which launched in Target earlier this year, boasts 24 shades of its new complexion stick. “When I say ‘shop,’ I mean the every day customer — even for the retailers,” Butler said.
In Collins‘ case, one debate had to do with the price point for his luxury fragrance offering.
“One of the misconceptions was that because I have a Black-owned brand, it shouldn’t be expensive,” he said. “That’s far from the truth. I get to work with perfumers from all over the world. I work with the same perfumers as some of the most, even more expensive brands. I actually made my brand more accessible because it could be more expensive….There was no way that this was going to be a discount brand.”
Similarly, when ideating KraveBeauty, Yoo had to be deliberate to not typecast her brand as K-beauty.
“I made a very intentional choice to not label our brand as a Korean skin care brand. Because I was an influencer, reviewing a lot of Korean and American skin care on YouTube prior to launching my brand, I would only get to speak to American beauty editors when they wanted insights on a K-beauty trend,” Yoo said. “I felt appreciated, but at the same time, I worked in the beauty industry long enough to provide more insights beyond just Korean beauty trends or skin care tips. I felt like I was limited to a label that a lot of other people had labeled me.
“If we were to label ourselves as a K-beauty brand, we probably would have gotten a lot more attention initially,” she continued. “But I’m glad I didn’t go that route because now, I built a very long-lasting brand. People come to us knowing that our products are good for the planet and good for their skin barrier, too. That’s what I think really worked for KraveBeauty’s success.”
Similarly, Butler also said working around misperceptions opened other opportunities for The Lip Bar. “My generation, Millennials in particular, are, like, ‘Do you actually care about this community, is what you’re doing authentic?’ I have this ability to serve my community in a really authentic way,” she said. “I look at those disadvantages, then I turn them into advantages that allow me to excel at Target.”
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