Starting a beauty brand is hard, but those challenges are heightened when you are a Black-owned beauty brand. The systemic racism that exists in the beauty industry (and in most other industries) has made it so Black beauty founders often don’t have access to the same resources and capital as their white counterparts. Over the past few months, conversations have been ongoing about how major brands and retailers can better support Black-owned beauty businesses and provide them with more opportunities.
One of the most recent initiatives is Tower 28’s Clean Beauty Summer School. To help cultivate a beauty industry that is more diverse and inclusive, the clean beauty brand has teamed up with female founders and seasoned experts in the beauty industry to create a robust, multi-week program focused on accelerating the growth of majority Black-owned small beauty businesses. Keep scrolling for more details on the initiative and the 10 Black-owned clean beauty brands joining the first-ever Clean Beauty Summer School class.
The Selection Criteria
The Clean Beauty Summer School accepted applications between July 1 and July 15. Applicants had to meet a set of criteria such as: being a majority Black-owned business, clean and/or sustainable or working towards it, and no more than three full-time employees. When submissions closed, the program's mentors then went through the over 300 qualifying applicants. The judges examined various elements of each brand including its vision, product, and plan, and scored them using a point system. The 10 highest-ranking businesses were selected as finalists.
What The Program Entails
Kicking off in August, the virtual Clean Beauty Summer School will provide finalists with educational, networking, and mentorship opportunities. Over the course of five weeks, finalists will have the chance to sit in on informative sessions twice a week about topics ranging from digital marketing to sustainability to retail partnerships. Each Black beauty brand founder will also be paired with a mentor and have the chance to set up four one-on-one chats with them during the program to discuss any of their burning business questions.
What The Winner Will Receive
The program will culminate with a Shark-Tank style pitch contest on September 16th. All finalists will have the chance to pitch their business to a panel of beauty industry leaders including Sephora and Ulta Beauty buyers, a beauty editor, and potential investors. The winner of the pitch contest will receive a $10K grant from New Voices Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization offering women of color entrepreneurs access, capital, and expertise to build, grow and scale their businesses via flexible funding, learning and networking opportunities, as well $13,000 worth of services from HeadKount, which helps beauty brands successfully grow their retail business through strategic relationship building, education and customer engagement. In addition to the game-changing grant, the winner is guaranteed meetings with buyers from both Sephora and Ulta Beauty.
Tower 28 gave Byrdie the exclusive scoop on the 10 Black-owned brands that made the final round. See them, shop them, and get to know them below before everybody else does.
Inspired by the African beauty rituals her Nigerian aunts practiced, Christina Funke Tegbe launched 54 Thrones in 2016. From body butters to face oils, the brand offers natural skincare products infused with roots, herbs, oils and butters that will protect, nourish, and soothe your skin. All of 54 Throne’s products are crafted with sustainably-made and ethically-sourced ingredients from African countries.
Peak & Valley
After battling with chronic stress, fatigue, and skin issues, Nadine Joseph began to discover adaptogens and herbal allies that help balance the body’s reaction to stress. When she couldn’t find adaptogens that met her standards, she founded Peak & Valley in 2019. The Seattle-based brand offers three types of adaptogenic blends – one for balancing stress, one for nurturing skin, and one for nourishing your brain – that can be mixed with coffees, milks, and teas.
Led by husband and wife Marvin and Kristen Speller, Doubledown Cosmetics formulates clean skincare and cosmetic products for all skin tones. All of the products in the Doubledown Cosmetics lineup are non-GMO, organic, gluten-free, and cruelty-free. The brand also offers vegan products. With their brand, the Spellers are committed to serving the domestic violence community. In 2011, they founded the Domestic Violence Glam UP Program, which partners with local community organizations to provide makeovers and educational health and wellness programming.
Birthed out of medical scientist and trichologist Dr. Isfahan Chambers-Harris’ experience with toxic hair products and hair damage, Alodia is an innovative hair solution system for natural hair growth. The brand offers shampoos, conditioners, oils and creams that nourish hair follicles, boost moisture, provide heat protection, and aid in length retention. Alodia also uses technology to provide tailored product recommendations and customizable kits based on your scalp health, hair type, and styling preferences.
Founded by two sisters, Aspen Apothecary creates CBD-infused perfume for the modern womxn. Currently, the brand has eight signature scents and each is formulated without formaldehyde, parabens, phthalates, synthetic dyes, sulfates, propylene glycol, mineral oil, and animal-derived ingredients.
During their skincare journeys, founders Nicolette Graves and She’Neil Johnson began to realize the gaps that exist in the skincare market when it came to safe, effective products for Black women. As a result, they created their own solution: BASE BUTTER. With easy-to-understand products loaded with skin-loving ingredients (like their Radiate Face Jelly), Base Butter makes caring for oily and combination skin simpler.
After experiencing burnout while working in the startup space, Kimberly Dillon turned to CBD and discovered its transformative effects on her hair and skin. Her experience using CBD in her beauty regimen laid the foundation for Frigg. The beauty line uses cannabinoids, adaptogens, and nervines to develop both topicals and ingestible products like their Face Potion and Hair Potion.
Started by creative entrepreneur and mental health advocate Abena Boamah, M.Ed, Hanahana Beauty is a clean skincare and wellness brand with shea butter as the hero ingredient. Made with melanated skin in mind, the brand’s all-natural products are formulated to deeply nourish and hydrate your skin.
Hanahana Beauty sources its star ingredient directly from Tamale, Ghana and pays its producers 2x the fair trade price. The brand is committed to empowering women and does this through providing sustainable access to income and healthcare to its shea butter producers.
Ode to Self
Drawing upon her longtime love of beauty and skincare, Kimberlee Alexandria Day created Ode to Self. The skincare range focuses on treating the common skincare concerns of African American women and including hyperpigmentation and dry skin. Using top-quality ingredients and scent therapy, Ode to Self’s products aim to hydrate your skin while also calming your senses.
After dealing with skin issues and disappointing skincare products, Jamika Martin set out to shake up the acne care space. Her brand, ROSEN Skincare, creates clean and affordable products that effectively treat breakouts. From cleansers to masks, ROSEN Skincare provides a full lineup of innovative and fun products to add to your routine.