With the belated influx of attention being given to the beauty needs of women of color, indie brands are tapping into the opportunity and seeing significant growth.
Mented Cosmetics, a two-year-old beauty brand focused on minimalist makeup and nude shades for women of color, has managed to scale its business to over 44,000 followers on Instagram, almost 50,000 fans on Facebook and over 50,000 monthly unique visitors to its website. It has also averaged 20 percent quarterly sales growth since last year and is on pace to beat last year’s sales by 400 percent.
Mented’s opportunity for growth is big: Women of color are expected to propel the cosmetics industry forward in terms of both trends and sales, according to market research group Mintel. Black women, in particular, are expected to spend $2.25 billion on beauty products per year by 2021.
Borrowing a page from the playbook of fellow minimalist brand Glossier (which itself has garnered attention from women of color), Mented has relied on a social media–heavy strategy by focusing on user-generated content since launch — in Mented’s case, it has highlighted a diverse array of both women using makeup and application techniques.
“From the very beginning, before we even had models or even really product, we posted every single day. We were just trying to highlight that women of color are just as beautiful and deserve a brand that uplifts them,” according to KJ Miller, Mented Cosmetics co-founder. “We want to have the full spectrum represented: [people] in full-glam and highlight, but also those in no-makeup or five-minute makeup.”
The brand has also worked with roughly 200 unpaid micro- and macro-influencers who were gifted product, including Cydnee Black (309,000 followers) and Deepica Mutyala (181,000 followers). It has seen the most engagement with micro-influencers, Miller said.
Now, Mented is gearing up for its second phase of growth with fresh venture-capital funding (until this year, Mented was a bootstrapped company, starting with just $10,000), an upcoming pop-up at Macy’s holiday marketplace in New York in November and plans for expansion into every major color cosmetics category by end of 2019. Mented raised $3 million in seed funding in May and made key hires in areas like supply chain, social media and events, bringing its team from four people to 10.
The Macy’s pop-up will serve as a retail experiment for the brand, to see what products and strategies fly in a physical setting. The market is being supported by Facebook, which is footing the bill for brands.
“Right now, we are focused on DTC, because we feel we are the best to tell our brand story,” Miller said. “[This pop-up] is our way of tipping our toe in the water [of brick-and-mortar retail].”
Wholesale partners are in Mented’s line of vision. To meet their current customers face-to-face and introduce themselves to new customers, Miller and her co-founder, Amanda Johnson, have hosted monthly pop-ups in cities like Boston and Chicago since the mid-2017.