Beyond a Trend: Black-Owned Beauty Brands Are Finally Getting More Funding

Photo: Stocksy / Ivan Gener
All parts of wellness had a shake up this year—how we work out, what we eat, the products we put on our faces, the way we rest—and the reverberations of those changes will be felt into 2021 and beyond. Here's how the innovations born of this year will usher us into the future.

If you’d visited a major retailer back in January, chances are you wouldn’t have seen many beauty brands founded by Black people. Finances have a lot to do with this: Not only are Black entrepreneurs twice as likely to be rejected for bank loans to help scale their businesses, but companies owned by Black women—beauty brands included—have traditionally received only 0.2 percent of venture capital funds. (In comparison, women-owned startups in general receive around 3 percent of investment dollars.) But in 2021, fueled by a growing consumer demand, beauty brands founded by Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) are set to claim a greater share of funding and shelf space than ever before, with increased attention to Black-founded brands.

The rush of investment in BIPOC-owned beauty brands started this summer, and we’ll continue to see its impact in the year to come. In June 2020—as millions of Americans protested the wrongful deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor—Glossier launched a grant initiative pumping $500,000 into 16 Black-owned beauty brands, including skin-care line epi.logic and premium extensions brand Melanj Hair. Around the same time, entrepreneur and activist Aurora James asked retailers to dedicate 15 percent of their shelf space to Black-owned brands. Since then Blue Mercury, Bloomingdales, and Sephora joined the cause.

Sephora is working toward this benchmark through Accelerate, a women’s mentorship and funding program that’s pivoting to exclusively focus on BIPOC-founded brands in 2021. Rauvan Dulay, Sephora’s vice president of merchandising business development and strategy, says the retailer plans to double the number of Black-owned and founded brands at Sephora by summer 2021. “With Sephora investing in so many new up-and-coming brands through its Accelerate program and the 15 Percent Pledge, we are effectively putting millions of dollars back into the Black community,” says James, founder of the 15 Percent Pledge and luxury accessories brand Brother Vellies. James hopes to see retailers like Target, Whole Foods, and Walmart join the Pledge in 2021.

“I myself have witnessed investors talk about passing on a brand which they've then revisited [in 2020].” —Maeva Heim, founder Bread Beauty Supply

Textured hair care brand Bread Beauty Supply launched at Sephora in July through Accelerate, bringing the retailer's tally of Black-owned brands from seven to eight. Maeva Heim, founder of Bread, believes that the momentum will continue in 2021: “I myself have witnessed investors talk about passing on a brand which they've then revisited [in 2020],” she says. “So as long as that continues, and as long as we see more investors not forget about what we're doing and what's happening, I think we're in good stead.”

What’s more, expect to see a whole new wave of BIPOC-owned beauty brands making their debut in the coming year, thanks to new business development programs like Black Apothecary Office (BAO). A Black-owned accelerator offering mentorship and funding for Black- and Latinx-owned beauty, wellness, and telehealth businesses, BAO will host its first group at the top of 2021. “Right now is the best time for us to be able to bring [our work] to the forefront, allowing people to be able to create and build their brands,” says Brianna Wise, co-founder of BAO.

Though the industry is taking steps in the right direction, it needs continued pressure to keep moving forward. In some respects, corporate commitment to inclusivity is already starting to wane: A study by Eyecue Insights found that after a spike of darker skin tones in beauty brand Instagram posts in June, representation has fallen back to previous levels, with under 15 percent of posts featuring dark skin tones. This year showed the beauty industry that it can no longer sideline the BIPOC community without getting called out. In 2021 and beyond, continued pressure on major retailers and investors will allow Black-owned and founded brands to start getting the support and funding they deserve.

Explore the rest of our 2021 Wellness Trends.

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