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How Three Black Beauty Founders Broke Into Retail



Breaking into retail in any industry is challenging. The beauty business is no exception. To inspire those of us on our own retail journeys, three black female founders share about their voyage from DTC to the shelf. They cover seeking funding, scaling product creation, building relationships with distributors and all the learning curves that came along the way. These three powerhouses are brand builders who broke barriers in the beauty and personal care space and opened up to us about how they accomplished their success.


Founder 1: Beatrice Dixon, Co-Founder and CEO of The Honey Pot Company, a plant-derived personal care line.

When we started the company we were a direct-to-consumer brand, and the opportunity to go into Target kind of fell into our laps. We didn't do the things most brands do when they are ready to go into retail. A buyer emailed us and expressed interest in our products. That's how the conversation started and we were literally learning on the job. Any founder that tells you they know what they're doing is lying. We're all just winging it and learning as we go.


Interestingly, when we started the conversation with Target, they suggested putting us in the multicultural section. It felt weird because vaginas aren't multicultural. Vaginas are for every race. We were going to take it anyway but then the buyer offered to put in the feminine care section after another four to six months. That might have made most people nervous because you really want the opportunity with Target to happen. But in that instance, I decided to wait. It was better for us to be on the shelf in the feminine hygiene aisle than be set apart.


Next came the new challenge of mass-producing products for a national retailer. We went from making products in the kitchen to having to mass-produce. We found a contract manufacturer and did a family and friends round of funding. There were so many times that it almost didn't even happen. We were operating on a hope and a prayer, relying on duct tape and chewing gum.

When we got into stores, we didn't know what to expect. We didn't know how to plan inventory; we didn't know about tradesmen; we didn't know about any of that stuff. So it was hard, and it was tumultuous, and it was stressful. But the dope thing is that Target stuck with us. We kept a very close relationship with our buyers, which is extremely important. When you're going into distribution, you want to connect with your buyer as if they are literally an arm of your business.


We kept a very close relationship with our buyers, which is extremely important. When you're going into distribution, you want to connect with your buyer as if they are literally an arm of your business. -Beatrice Dixon


Founder 2: Amanda Johnson Co-Founder and CEO of Mented Cosmetics, a pigment-first beauty brand celebrating women of all hues.

Evolving from direct-to-consumer to HSN, Target and Ulta was interesting. They all came about differently, and every opportunity grew us to the next level. When we first started the business in 2017, we participated in Target's accelerator program. We learned a lot about retail we didn't know, and at the end, they offered to put us on the shelves. However, we declined because we were not ready. And actually, that is the value of that program. Even though we weren't on the shelf, we stayed really close to them. They cheered us on and invited us to speak on Target panels amongst other things. In 2018 we participated in the program again. We knew all the things we needed to do operationally. We knew we needed to get tighter around our warehouse, supply chain, timelines and costs for retail to make sense for us.


When we were ready for retail, out of the blue, a customer emailed us suggesting we apply for the HSN program Big Find. It's a nationwide search for the new big find for HSN. After we applied, things moved pretty quickly. We submitted the application in November 2019 and by January 2020 we were on air. Suddenly we were in front of millions of people telling our story. It grew our audience but in no way cannibalized it because it was such a different audience. I think the growth we've seen can be attributed to each retailer giving us access to diverse audiences. They're all so different. Each opportunity taught us so much internally and ramped up our expertise.


I think the growth we've seen can be attributed to each retailer giving us access to diverse audiences. They're all so different. Each opportunity taught us so much internally and ramped up our expertise. -Amanda Johnson