People 19 March 2018
It takes a lot of strength to go on national TV, face rejection, and then push forward despite it all. But Melissa Butler — a former Wall Street-er turned beauty entrepreneur — wasn't about to shy away from her business goals just because a few sharks told her no. Since appearing on Shark Tank's sixth season, she took the criticism about her vegan, cruelty-free makeup brand, The Lip Bar, and pushed herself, and the brand, to new heights.
From Wall Street to The Lip Bar
Before we get to the gritty details of Butler's Shark Tank experience, let's first dive into a bit of background. After all, it's not every day someone on Wall Street calls it quits to launch a niche-market makeup brand. Butler says she was completely unfulfilled, unsatisfied — un-everything. Instead of complaining, she decided to change her path. She just didn't know that path would lead to beauty.
“I've never been a makeup enthusiast, but I've always loved lipstick. There's something so feminine and powerful about it — one stroke of color can give you enough confidence to take on the day," she told SWAAY. “So here I am, a lipstick lover, hating my job while simultaneously attempting to be more kind to my body by using products that weren't chemically laden. When it came to hair and skin care, it was easy to find more natural alternatives, but that was not the case with lip colors. The only natural items I could find were boring colors or shades that didn't suit my skin tone."
And there's that identified gap in the market: vegan, cruelty makeup that caters to a broader range of skin tones.
A testament to female entrepreneurs: Melissa Butler
“I started making lipstick in my kitchen for personal use," she says. “After a year of experimenting, The Lip Bar launched in 2012 with the goal to 'Challenge the Beauty Standard' through our vegan, cruelty-free ingredients and our inclusive imagery."
The (Painful) Shark Tank Experience
“After binge watching Shark Tank one Christmas Eve, I decided to apply. My creative director and I sent in a video talking about the product while hoola hooping to show our personality. From the very beginning, our goal was to get aired. Seven million people watch the show, so even without a deal, we knew it could be a great opportunity," Butler says. “Fast forward, we go on the show and they're completely closed off to the business. They were quite cruel." Butler confesses that she considered not watching the episode and not even informing The Lip Bar customers that the brand was about to make its TV debut. Though that instinctual reaction to pretend like it never happened at all was strong, she fought through her fears and sat down in front of the television. “I watched it to see how I could have been better," she says. “Ultimately, I used it as momentum to drive the business. After it aired, we got thousands of orders, emails, you name it. If nothing else, it reinforced the fact that I had an audience."
Turning Rejection into Something Positive
After appearing on Shark Tank, Butler took a step back and thoughtfully pawed through the harsh criticism to find something constructive. “As the saying goes, 'You win some, you learn some," she remarks. “I learned to refine my message. We didn't change the focus; instead we got super laser-like in carving out our niche. It worked. We started telling the story and truly communicating with our customer. This wasn't advice from the sharks, but it reminded us of who our audience is."
The Lip Bar is set to have a pretty pivotal year. The brand has officially launched at Target, their first retail partner, where it can be found in over 140 different stores. They're also launching three new collections and the brand is projected to garner $2 million in revenue.
6 Up-And-Coming Beauty Brands to Watch
Want to shop more innovative, industry-disrupting beauty brands? Check out this list of noteworthy makeup companies.
Naked Truth Beauty: This beauty brand has made “an all-out commitment to socially responsible beauty: Good for our bodies, communities, and environment," they write on the website. They take the guesswork out of responsible beauty consumerism by formulating their products with a small, organic list of ingredients, and by using packaging that's made from recycled, 100% biodegradable material.
Chosungah: K-Beauty brand, Chosungah, is based on the principle that "makeup is a fun process of finding one's strength instead of hiding one's weakness." It was founded by Chosungah, a first-generation professional makeup artist and boasts beautifully packaged, high quality products. Fun fact — Chosungah's Chocho Lipstick was MAC Cosmetics' first collaboration with a Korean makeup artist.
Nudestix: Nudestix was launched by two teen sisters and their mother, who each felt like beauty brands were overcomplicating the makeup process. Their products are all in stick form and come packaged in a sleek tin with a mirror for easy, on-the-go application for women of all races.
Reina Rebelda (“Rebel Queens"): “Reina Rebelde was born out of something I share with you — a passion for makeup and extreme pride for my cultural identity as a Latina," Regina Merson founder of the brand, writes on the website. The collection was inspired by strong, Latina women and strives to be versatile, bold, provocative, and unapologetic.
Beauty Bakerie: The Beauty Bakerie brand lives by the words, “Better not Bitter," and strives “to sweeten the lives of others through engaging our social media followers with positive messaging and through altruistic donations via online platforms." It was founded by Cashmere Nicole, who writes, “I overcame the struggles of teenage parenting, and I overcame breast cancer and loss only to arrive at a place of peace. It is the sweetest peace I've known."
Crop Naturals: Crop Naturals is an Australian-based indie beauty brand that sources organic, sustainable, natural ingredients. “The rapid growth of the natural beauty and personal care industry has led to considerable misunderstanding around the term natural," they write. “Due to misconceptions, mislabeling and some outright deception from brands – the interpretation of what is truly natural has become misguided." Their goal is to change that by being completely transparent about their ingredients and sourcing methods.
"Sh*t!" my daughter exclaimed as she dropped her iPad to the floor. A little bit of context; my daughter Victoria absolutely loves her iPad. And as I watched her bemoan the possible destruction of her favorite device, I thought to myself, "If I were in her position, I'd probably say the exact same thing."
In the Rastegar family, a word is only a bad word if used improperly. This is a concept that has almost become a family motto. Because in our household, we do things a little differently. To put it frankly, our practices are a little unconventional. Completely safe, one hundred percent responsible- but sure, a little unconventional.
And that's because my husband Ari and I have always felt akin in one major life philosophy; we want to live our lives our way. We have dedicated ourselves to a lifetime of questioning the world around us. And it's that philosophy that has led us to some unbelievable discoveries, especially when it comes to parenting.
Ari was an English major. And if there's one thing that can be said about English majors, it's that they can be big-time sticklers for the rules. But Ari also thinks outside of the box. And here's where these two characteristics meet. Ari was always allowed to curse as a child, but only if the word fit an appropriate and relevant context. This idea came from Ari's father (his mother would have never taken to this concept), and I think this strange practice really molded him into the person he is today.
But it wasn't long after we met that I discovered this fun piece of Ari Rastegar history, and I got to drop a pretty awesome truth bomb on Ari. My parents let me do the same exact thing…
Not only was I allowed to curse as a child, but I was also given a fair amount of freedom to do as I wanted. And the results of this may surprise you. You see, despite the lack of heavy regulating and disciplining from my parents, I was the model child. Straight A's, always came home for curfew, really never got into any significant trouble- that was me. Not trying to toot my own horn here, but it's important for the argument. And don't get the wrong impression, it's not like I walked around cursing like a sailor.
Perhaps I was allowed to curse whenever I wanted, but that didn't mean I did.
And this is where we get to the amazing power of this parenting philosophy. In my experience, by allowing my own children to curse, I have found that their ability to self-regulate has developed in an outstanding fashion. Over the past few years, Victoria and Kingston have built an unbelievable amount of discipline. And that's because our decision to allow them to curse does not come without significant ground rules. Cursing must occur under a precise and suitable context, it must be done around appropriate company, and the privilege cannot be overused. By following these guidelines, Victoria and Kingston are cultivating an understanding of moderation, and at a very early age are building a social awareness about when and where certain types of language are appropriate. And ultimately, Victoria and Kingston are displaying the same phenomenon present during my childhood. Their actual instances of cursing are extremely low.
And beneath this parenting strategy is a deeper philosophy. Ari and I first and foremost look at parenting as educators. It is not our job to dictate who our children will be, how they shall behave, and what their future should look like.
We are not dictators; we are not imposing our will on them. They are autonomous beings. Their future is in their hands, and theirs alone.
Rather, we view it as our mission to show our children what the many possibilities of the world are and prepare them for the litany of experiences and challenges they will face as they develop into adulthood. Now, when Victoria and Kingston come across any roadblocks, they have not only the tools but the confidence to handle these tensions with pride, independence, and knowledge.
And we have found that cursing is an amazing place to begin this relationship as educators. By allowing our children to curse, and gently guiding them towards the appropriate use of this privilege, we are setting a groundwork of communication that will eventually pay dividends as our children grow curious of less benign temptations; sex, drugs, alcohol. There is no fear, no need to slink behind our backs, but rather an open door where any and all communication is rewarded with gentle attention and helpful wisdom.
The home is a sacred place, and honesty and communication must be its foundation. Children often lack an ability to communicate their exact feelings. Whether out of discomfort, fear, or the emotional messiness of adolescence, children can often be less than transparent. Building a place of refuge where our children feel safe enough to disclose their innermost feelings and troubles is, therefore, an utmost priority in shepherding their future. Ari and I have come across instances where our children may have been less than truthful with a teacher, or authority figure simply because they did not feel comfortable disclosing what was really going on. But with us, they know that honesty is not only appreciated but rewarded and incentivized. This allows us to protect them at every turn, guard them against destructive situations, and help guide and problem solve, fully equipped with the facts of their situation.
And as crazy as it all sounds- I really believe in my heart that the catalogue of positive outcomes described above truly does stem from our decision to allow Victoria and Kingston to curse freely.
I know this won't sit well with every parent out there. And like so many things in life, I don't advocate this approach for all situations. In our context, this decision has more than paid itself off. In another, it may exacerbate pre-existing challenges and prove to be only a detriment to your own family's goals.
As the leader of your household, this is something that you and you alone must decide upon with intentionality and wisdom.
Ultimately, Ari and I want to be the kind of people our children genuinely want to be around. Were we not their parents, I would hope that Victoria and Kingston would organically find us interesting, warm, kind, funny, all the things we aspire to be for them each and every day.
We've let our children fly free, and fly they have. They are amazing people. One day, when they leave the confines of our home, they will become amazing adults. And hopefully, some of the little life lessons and eccentric parenting practices we imparted upon them will serve as a support for their future happiness and success.