As the beauty industry confronts its complicity in inequality and racism, multiple mentorship programs have sprung up to create impactful change. The latest, called Clean Beauty Summer School, is designed for clean Black-owned beauty brands as Black women have been historically underserved by the clean category.
The program was started by Amy Liu, Tower 28 skin-care founder and CEO, and applications for the Clean Beauty Summer School open on Wednesday. Ten finalists will be selected by July 15. To enter, brands must be majority Black-owned, an incorporated beauty business with or without developed products, focused on clean and/or sustainable CPG products, and have three employees or fewer. Participants will attend a weekly 10-session course throughout August and early September, learning about product development and manufacturing, digital marketing, financial planning, fundraising and pitching retailers, among other topics
“If you don’t have diversity in your network, it creates a vicious cycle where you just end up in a world that is not diverse,” said Liu. “We can make efforts to create a bigger, more diverse network that is part [of the solution]. It’s about access; I don’t know how a brand can get into a place like Sephora without personally knowing someone.”
Retailers like Sephora, Credo and Follain have made commitments to increase their representation of Black-owned brands. Still, now the industry will need to support those brands further and prepare them for the additional production, expenses, marketing and branding that are necessary to enter, stay and grow in those more substantial spaces.
Liu said she developed the mentorship program because she wanted to do more to affect change. Tower 28 participated in the Pull Up For Change challenge (there are currently no full-time Black employees at the company) and has recently donated to organizations like ACLU and NAACP.
Each participant will be assigned one of 11 mentors, including Cat Chen, Skylar founder and CEO; Kendra Kolb Butler, Alpyn Beauty founder and CEO; Casey Georgeson, Saint Jane Beauty founder and CEO; Dorian Morris, Undefined Beauty founder and CEO, and Averyl Andrews, Sephora director of merchandising. Each mentor will have at least four one-on-one meetings with their mentee, and will teach a two-hour class on the above topics listed. The combination of different founders of various brand sizes, alongside retailers and investors, is a broader approach that several other mentorships that individual companies like Glow Recipe and Peach & Lily have begun to offer. Kristen Noel Crawley, skin-care brand KNC Beauty founder, also recently announced a multi-brand mentorship program. It will include Nancy Twine, Brigoeo founder and CEO; Trinity Mouzon Wofford, Golde wellness co-founder; and, Melissa Butler, Lip Bar co-founder and CEO.
“There’s something valuable in being able to look at someone else’s achievements and [have them] help you build your confidence with your own brand,” said Alisa Williams, partner at VMG Partners. Williams is one of the judges participating in Clean Beauty Summer. “If someone can also help you understand something from a tactical perspective, like retail margins and how to bake them into your cost, that is hugely important.”
The program will culminate with a pitch competition, where each participant will present to a panel of five judges, including Williams; Cindy Deily, Sephora vp of skin-care merchandising; and Divya Gugnani, investor and co-founder of Wander Beauty. The winning company will receive guaranteed meetings with both Sephora and Ulta Beauty buyers and a $10,000 grant from the non-profit New Voices Foundation.
“There are two ways that you can give back. One is with dollars and resources, and the other is with time,” said Williams. “Both are incredibly impactful in terms of helping other people.”
Editor’s note: Priya Rao, Glossy’s executive editor, is involved in the pitch day competition as a judge.