KNC Beauty founder Kristen Noel Crawley is ensuring the inclusivity conversation among beauty brands continues.
On October 14, KNC Beauty hosts the second session of its Revlon-sponsored School of Beauty event for Black female beauty founders. (The first one-day event was held on July 14.) Like the summer School of Beauty program, it will feature four sessions related to founding and running a business, led by successful founders. This session’s speakers include Beatrice Dixon of The Honey Pot speaking on “Entrepreneurship 201,” lawyer Yira Diorcie discussing legal issues, Ensa Huger of Seed talking about finance and Jamika Martin of Rosen Skincare covering product development.
“I started my brand four years ago. Even to this day, I make mistakes. I’m constantly learning. I wanted to bring in women that can help these young entrepreneurs not make those same mistakes, and give them that invaluable advice and mentorship that is lacking in the community,” said Crawley, who was inspired in June to set up School of Beauty as a result of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Stocked at retailers like Sephora and Violet Grey, KNC Beauty has generated buzz through Instagram and TikTok for its cult lip masks. Crawley noted that the brand saw an even larger burst of activity — meaning higher sales, engagement and promotions from retailers — as a result of BLM. And she hopes this program will help keep a sustained focus on inclusivity in beauty.
“In June, we had our biggest sales month in our 4-year history because so many people wanted to support Black-owned businesses, which was awesome,” she said. “But it was a sharp decline in July. I feel like that’s kind of mirroring what happened with social media in the beauty industry, in general,” with regard to brands and retailers posting support for Black Lives Matter and joining campaigns such as the 15% Pledge.
School of Beauty is free for attendees and is sponsored by Revlon, which is funding a total of three sessions in 2020. In conjunction with the program, Revlon donated $25,000 to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. In addition, it is providing a $5,000 prize for the first-place winner of a competition for participants to enter, as well as takeovers of its Instagram profile. The New Voices Foundation, an organization for women of color entrepreneurs founded by Sundial founder Richelieu Dennis, will be offering an additional $5,000 to the winner, as well as free business coaching to those selected as first through fourth place in the competition.
“Inclusion is one of Revlon’s core values, and we are committed to taking action across all levels of the organization … to ensure we’re meeting the expectations of our customers, consumers and community,” said Revlon global brand president Silvia Galfo.
The program is one of multiple initiatives launched since the summer aimed at improving the beauty industry’s diversity. Crawley noted that the program is aimed at combating key challenges faced by women of color in founding businesses, such as funding.
“I went to an entrepreneur retreat hosted by [Shea Moisture founder] Richelieu Dennis two years ago, and he said that only four Black women in all of history and all of time — ever — have secured $1 million in funding for their beauty brands, which is crazy to me,” said Crawley. “That just shows the things that we deal with. We’re not taken seriously. We’re not even considered, and we’re trying to change that.”
Crawley also noted that she hopes to develop a network of female entrepreneurs from the program.
“We could be molding the next billion-dollar company,” she said.
“It’s so important to have a support system, so that’s what I’m trying to build for the community that attends the school,” she said. It seems to be taking shape: Three hundred attendees created a Slack group to share resources after the first event.
Crawley noted that the curriculum is inspired by the challenges she has overcome as a Black female founder. “We have to work so much harder to get even a little piece of the pie,” she said, emphasizing that beauty companies and retailers need to avoid being performative when it comes to diversity. She noted that during the outpouring of support for Black-owned brands in June, some retailers that had not given her brand attention before were putting it “front and center” on their web pages.
According to Crawley, retailers highlighting more Black-owned brands need to be asked, “You’re bringing on these brands, but how are you going to support them? How are you going to help them to be successful in your space?”
“I think it is the consumers’ job to hold these brands accountable,” she said. “Right now I’m not seeing the consistency” with regard to some brands’ follow-up to their promised diversity efforts. “I just hope that these brands will keep it going and keep evolving.”