7 Black Beauty Entrepreneurs Challenging The Fatigued Status Quo


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.

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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."

Miko Branch

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


Male Managers Afraid To Mentor Women In Wake Of #MeToo Movement

Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.

In a recent study conducted by, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.

What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.

Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.

Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.

While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.

According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.

In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.

Source-Alex Brandon, AP

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of, believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.

Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.

The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.