The Top 20 Beauty Entrepreneurs of Color

When it comes to the beauty industry, you probably think entrepreneurs of color are few and far between, and rightly so, especially since ads, commercials and magazines are colored with more shades of white than shades of brown. It’s a bit disheartening to continuously see a minimal amount of diversity in the beauty industry, but not all hope is lost. We want to show you that there’s light at the end of the tunnel with these 20 entrepreneurs of color in the beauty space. Be inspired by their stories.

The Media Magnets

1) Jodie Patterson, co-founder, Doobop
Photo Credit

Jodie Patterson is an ethnic beauty hero. After pointing out that women of color don’t shop in “ethnic” hair and skincare sections at the Walgreens, Walmarts and Kmarts of the world, she introduced Doobop , a site dedicated to offering multicultural beauty products, founded in November 2013 with her business partner Benjamin Bernet.

The former PR director for Zac Posen, who also owns the beauty line GeorgiaNY, focuses on offering women of color high to mid-priced beauty brands curated for a wide spectrum of ethnic skin and hair types on its e-commerce site.

To top it all off, Patterson features prominent women of color like former White House press secretary Desiree Rogers and Teen Vogue Beauty and Health Director, Elaine Welteroth, discussing their rise to success and sharing tips on their beauty routines.

2) Nikisha Brunson and Cipriana Quann, co-founders, Urban Bush Babes
Photo Credit The Coveteur

Nikisha Brunson and Cipriana Quann run a website dedicated to the more colorful side of the fashion and beauty world. They’ve gotten fashion stalwarts like Vogue and Elle to take notice

From impeccable natural hair shots to posts on how to find the best oil for your skin type, to how to make your very own natural deodorant– the women at Urban Bush Babes have you covered when it comes to living a chic, natural, fashionable lifestyle.

3) Tristan Walker, founder, Walker and Company Brands
Photo Credit: Fast Company

Tristan Walker started his journey as an entrepreneur at Foursquare. He recently launched Walker and Company with the aim of transforming his company into the Procter & Gamble Co. of personal care for people of color. Walker & Co. presented the public with razor blades made just for men of color. The first of its kind, the razor blade targets the needs of men with course, curlier hair.

Walker & Co. also curates, Bevel Code, a grooming and style site for men of color.

The Skin Saviors

4) Jasmine Lawrence, founder, Eden BodyWorks
Photo Credit: tribecalledcurl

At the tender age of 11, Jasmine Lawrence created Eden BodyWorks, a line of all-natural personal care and children’s beauty products. At 13, Lawrence was featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 2007 and the “Oprah Effect” worked its wonders and skyrocketed her brand to national status. Now Lawrence’s beauty products are sold across the country in stores like CVS, Walgreens, Target, and Kroger.

5) Lucienne Mayberry, vice president of operations and finance, Conffianz

We’ve all experienced it– a nasty pimple turns up on your face and you can’t resist the urge to pop it. What’s left is an ugly blemish in the form of a scar or a dark spot. Hyperpigmentation is a condition most associated with people of darker skin tones and rarely comes to mind when you think of lighter skin tones.

Lucienne Mayberry and co. wanted to address this occurrence, specifically in Latina skin. They created Conffianz, which is a combination of the Spanish words “confianza” and “confidente,” meaning trust and confidence.

Conffianz has found online success with its three-item kit focused on lightening dark spots. This month the company will be retailing in 250 Target locations across the country.

The Weave Wonders

6) Nicole Sanchez, founder and CEO, Vixxenn
Photo Credit: elle

Part of the esteemed group of 18 fashion and beauty startups that have come from Harvard Business School graduates, totaling an estimated $600 million in revenue, Nicole Sanchez knows a thing or two about success in the beauty industry.

Wanting to simplify the complicated process of purchasing and selling hair extensions, Sanchez created Vixxenn to help hair stylists and individuals easily buy and sell hair through her web platform.

7) Diishan Imira and Taylor Wang, co-founders, Mayvenn

Co-founded September 2012 by its CEO, Diishan Imira, and COO, Taylor Wang, Mayvenn lets hair stylists sell hair extensions directly to their clients without upfront costs of having inventory at their own online stores.

Mayvenn gives 15 percent commission to each stylist for every piece of hair sold. What they’re doing is so close to Vixxenn, that is has us wondering, do they know each other? We’re envisioning a possible merger or acquisition in the future.

The Hair Heroes

8) Lisa Price, founder, Carol’s Daughter
Photo Credit: vynworld

When it comes to natural hair, Lisa Price is not new to the game.

Following a multi-channel distribution model, Carol’s Daughter offers a pretty broad range of products that are available at specialty beauty stores, mass retailers, on HSN, through e-commerce and at Carol’s Daughter branded stores in New York City. For the 12 months ending September 30, 2014, Carol’s Daughter had net sales of $27 million.

What many people don’t know was that prior to her “big reveal” of Carol’s Daughter on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 2002, Price had been perfecting her in-demand natural hair recipes for nine years prior.

Fast forward 21 years, and Price just sold her company to L’Oreal for an unnamed amount, but we’re pretty sure the terms of the deal were fair and lucrative.

9) Myleik Teele, founder and CEO, Curlbox
Photo Credit: tboyaficionado

When Myleik Teele conceived and produced Curlbox, a subscription box for natural hair we all got excited. The whole try before you buy concept is intriguing and light on your pocket since the box that carries sample size products of the best natural hair products out there only costs $20 a month.

10) Lisa ( Lis’) and Bryan Kelly, co-founders, Simplicity Hair Oil

When Tamar Braxton, Blac Chyna and model, Eva Marcille, cosign on a hair product you tend to do a double take. Scrolling through their Instagram feeds, of course there are a ton of selfies, but a few pictures stand out. Specifically, it’s the pictures of Tamar and Eva ranting and raving about how their once hairless children have hair now, and Blac Chyna showing off her long and thick weaveless hair.

What’s their secret? Simplicity Hair Oil, of course. A 1.7 fluid ounce bottle runs for $45, but it seems like its well worth the price after taking a hard look at the before and after pictures of the hair oil’s users. Looks like the Kellys are enjoying that ‘oil money.’

11) Jamyla and Pierre Bennu, co-founders Oyin Handmade
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The Bennu’s have got natural hair products on lock. Along with its ever popular “Juices and Berries” spray, the beauty brand’s playful packaging and product names of its all-natural skin and hair care line combined with high-performance standards has brought in a slew of die hard fans. Along with its e-commerce site, the brand is now selling at Targets across the nation.

12) Nancy Twine, founder, Briogeo
Photo Credit: hashtagsandstilettos

When Nancy Twine realized she could bank on her grandmothers homemade hair and skincare recipes, she left her job at Goldman Sachs & Co. and created Briogeo, a natural hair and skincare line. At 29, Twine is the youngest African-American woman to have her line carried by Sephora. The line also carried Ricky’s and Urban Outfitters.

The Lip Queens

13) Destiny Jones, founder, Lipmatic
Photo Credit: weloveladiesfirst

When Nas is your father, more than a little recognition comes with anything you do. Rather than shy away from that fact, Destiny Jones decided to capitalize on it and launch a high-impact lip gloss collection this past May. A play on Nas’ first album “Illmatic” Jones leveraged her massive social media following and announced the launch of the brand, she marketed it in the way any millennial would — on Instagram.

14) Melissa Butler, founder, The Lip Bar
Melissa Butler did not come from a from a traditional beauty background. She cut her teeth on Wall Street as one of four black people on her entire floor of about 200 people.

Of course, she did so in style and got a lot of attention for her bold hair styles and lip colors, so just a little over two years ago, Butler decided to take her sense of style and beauty choices to the marketplace and created The Lip Bar.

Each of the lipstick shades Butler creates and manufactures herself, are infused with avocado oil, shea butter and vitamins A, E, C and F.

Butler recently pitched The Lip Bar on ABC’s Shark Tank — no small feat.

15) Keyshia Ka’ior, founder and CEO, Ka’ior Cosmetics

Former music video model, Keyshia Ka’ior (formerly known as Keyshia Dior) founded her lipstick brand after she realized she had a knack for making wacky colors like bright orange and lavender actually look good on your lips. Ka’ior has since expanded into Glitzsticks, a popular glitter-lipstick combo, lash extensions and even waist trainers.

The Nail Gurus

16) Sharmadean Reid, founder, WAH Nails

When Sharmadean Reid was a kid, she loved painting her own nails. Life gave way to adulthood and she didn’t have the time to do her nails herself, so she started to go to nail salons for their services.

She was beginning to get tired of the same cookie cuter nail designs at certain salons, so she decided that she needed to create her own salon to give nail artists a space to express their creativity on the nails of women daring enough to try something new.

August 31, 2009, she opened her first nail shop in the East End London called WAH, an acronym for “we ain’t hoes,” based off of Reid’s 2005 fanzine WAH, where she and her friends in the fashion and beauty industry discussed championing women in hip hop.

Since then, Reid and her team have had a slew of pop-up locations in the Oxford Circus Topshop and worked with brands including Nike, Marc Jacobs and Diesel.

17) Bernadette Thompson, founder, Bernadette Nails
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Bernadette Thompson, is an unsung nail guru. Before she sees your face, she sees your hands, but with 23 years in the nail industry, that’s a good enough excuse.

In 1992, Thompson starting pursuing a career in nail artistry while she worked a nine-to-five corporate job. Ironically, her nail teacher said was no good and that she should consider something else.

Thompson ignored her teacher’s doubts, got her license, quit her full time job and opened a little nail salon in Yonkers. She started working with lots of celebrities like P. Diddy and Mary J. Blige, along the way.
That led Thompson to more celebrity clients and work with big time fashion brands like Marc Jacobs Calvin Klein and Louis Vuitton, and the floodgates of her storied career opened.

Now Thompson has her own line of professional grade nail polish and has worked more celebrities like Madonna, Solange Knowles, and Lupita Nyong’o.

We bet her nail instructor is writhing in disbelief.

The On-Demand Beauty Pros

18) Regina Gwynn, founder and CEO, TressNoire
Photo Credit: technical.lyphilly

The politics of natural hair will continue to live on. Regina Gwynn, a former fashion retail executive, realized this back in her days working in New York amongst mostly white colleagues.

She would constantly have to have conversations about her hair and found difficulty in patronizing on-demand beauty tech companies like Glamsquad and PRIV since they offered styles like messy buns and updos that weren’t accommodating to her natural hair.

Gwynn felt the need to do something about this, so she created TressNoire, an on-demand service for care of natural hair. Instead of worrying about not wanting your hair in a messy bun, Gwynn says you can now be excited about having someone do your twist-out for you quickly and whenever you want it.

Coventure, an incubator that invests in early stage startups and builds software in exchange for equity, also invested in TressNoire to push the revamped website and build an app in the near future.

19) Folake Oguntebi and Anthea Kelsick, co-founders, GoodHair
Photo Credit: cruzdavisdental

Folake Oguntebi and Anthea Kelsick loved the idea of Drybar and DreamDry, salons that offer quick, professional blowouts for a fair price, but they didn’t like the fact that these salons and their stylists did not cater to women of color. They created their own blowout salon, GoodHair, with the vision to redefine what it means to have “good hair.”

Oguntebi and Kelsick are graduates of Stanford, Wharton and Columbia Business Schools and Harvard’s Kennedy School with over 25 years combined experience in management, marketing, branding, social entrepreneurship and consulting. With resumes like that its no surprise the women put together and succeeded in raising $17,530 on female-focused crowdfunding platform Plum Alley to launch their venture.

As of now, GoodHair is just a series of pop-up locations in New York for on-the-go women, but plans to expand to national hair salon chain specializing in care and styling for women with textured hair (kinky, coily, curly, wavy hair, whether it’s relaxed, natural or somewhere in between) are well underway.

The new GoodHair salons will offer quick and reliable services for women on-the-go, and clients will have the choice of either a ‘Wash and Style’ (curly style) or ‘Wash and Blowout’ (straightened style).

20) Jenny and Jihan Thompson, co-founders, Swivel

Any woman knows that it’s pretty hard to find a good hairstylist that you click with and does exactly what you want. After 15 years of combing through Google and Yelp, asking friends and colleagues for hairstylist recommendations and just sticking with an ‘okay’ stylist Jenny and Jihan didn’t know where else to go.

All the frustrating trial and error to find hairstylists gave way to creation of, Swivel, an online and mobile service that helps women of color find hairstylists in their area, for on-demand hair care. Currently, Swivel is only serving women in New York, but there’s news that they’ll be expanding to other cities soon.

Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments section below.


Ashley Paintsil is a lifestyle writer and a content strategist for emerging fashion companies. She has a passion for discovering new talent in the fashion tech, design and business spaces and bringing their stories to light. With several years of experience supporting a team at an East Coast venture capital firm, she also has a knack for giving advice on how to make and keep money and how to succeed in entrepreneurial life.

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