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.
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 LeanIn.org, 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 LeanIn.org., 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.