Checking in with our favorite brand founders & innovators
By Faith Cummings
Black History Month is always a good time to revisit already-established legacies, mine our cultural archives for forgotten heritage that can be made anew, as well as celebrating those among us who are creating new paths forward. Beauty has been important to the global Black diaspora for millennia and today is one of the most exciting times in the space—with so many founders emerging to bring us innovative products, modern twists on routine mainstays, and remedies for longstanding concerns.
These creators are forces in their own right and are finally getting their time to shine in a world that no longer requires the brain to remain behind the brand. Trust between these groundbreakers and their followers, audiences, and customers is building thanks to social media and all things digital — giving them the space to communicate directly with those who are most in need of their expertise. They are building their legacies now in this moment for all the world to see, not just as a past remembrance decades and centuries from now.
From fruit and vegetable-infused masks to science-backed skincare that delivers a resurfaced glow, we talked to some of thirteen lune’s favorite brand founders and innovators about the future of beauty. We’re sharing their thoughts, in their own words.
“I think we've seen a lot of great progress for Black representation in beauty and wellness. There's always more to go, and that's why our mission continues to be making superfood products for all. I'm so inspired by other founders in the industry — whether they're just starting out or are ten plus years into building their businesses. There's always so much that you can learn from connecting with another person in this space.
When it comes to what I want to see more of in the beauty and wellness industries, it’s not just about representation in marketing campaigns, but also about who's in leadership positions. I'm excited to see more diverse faces leading, advising, and investing in brands. That's how we build true equity.”
“As a Black founder in the beauty industry, my experience is different right now compared to when I first started the brand two and a half years ago. When I first started, I was looking for capital from investors as well as retail distribution partnerships. Though I had a strong background in the industry, a veteran team, ingredient patents, and strong independent clinical testing on our formulas, I was not able to land capital nor retail distribution. Fast forward to the present, where I have been able to prove that consumers love my brand because our products deliver results. Now both investors and retailers are seeking us out.
I am inspired by anyone who shows their vulnerabilities, who is not afraid to show their faults and weaknesses and yet is willing to show up every day to try to do better and support others who are trying to do the same. I'd like to see the beauty industry become more inclusive naturally—without it having to be calculated or thought about.”
“My experience today as a Black founder is one of both pride and frustration. My pride comes from seeing how the country has joined to rally for Black-owned businesses and bursts with joy to see how our community has made it its mission to support our own communities in business. The frustration comes from the companies that talk and post but are not really pushing the needle to follow through on the promises by not only including Black-owned businesses in their line-up but by also supporting them after the fact.
I'm inspired by Tracee Ellis Ross. It's very difficult to stay authentic in an inauthentic industry, so I am inspired by her commitment to stay authentic across the board.
I'd like to see more true inclusivity in the beauty industry. It's incredible that many of the leading retailers have welcomed Black-owned brands in their stores: it is a tremendous step forward. However, I look forward to the day when we are all on the shelves side by side and not separated into areas for ‘Black brands’. It'll get there, I'm sure of it, but that's what I look forward to.”
“Our journey into the beauty industry as Black founders has been extremely rewarding thus far. We have gained so much knowledge about what it takes to run a successful business in a demanding and fast-paced industry. But even more importantly for us, we have experienced personal growth as individuals while also further deepening our connection with our roots and our community. The community support we have received has made the experience one that we feel incredibly lucky to have.
One person who inspires us in our mission and thinking is Tyler the Creator. Though he is a musician, he is also an innovative thinker, always pushing the boundaries of expression and individuality. From producer, manager, businessman, and beyond, Tyler has a way of fearlessly following his visions through to reality. He’s an unorthodox, one-of-a-kind individual who we respect for his dedication to what he believes in.
We would love to continue to see an increase in representation as the beauty & grooming industries evolve and grow. The inclusivity initiatives that we've seen across the industry over the past few years have given opportunities to many founders like us who are working to expand the offerings for communities of color. We hope that the expansion of the industry only continues on this path, and that it’s not a temporary thing.”
“Beauty has given me permission to immerse myself in culture, in ingredients, and it encourages me to show up as I am and share my version of what’s beautiful. The power of the beauty industry is that, collectively, we can break taboos. In my experience as a melanin-positive founder, I’ve found that once you release a certain taboo, it’s much easier to help women understand how to give their skin what it needs to stay healthy, glowy and supple.
I’m pretty obsessed with my homegirl, Ashley Smith of Black Soil Kentucky. Like me, she honors her family’s farming roots by celebrating the rich legacy of Black farmers in Kentucky and the American South. Today, less than 2% of US farms are Black-owned due to land seizures, agricultural big business, and discrimination. Black Soil Kentucky has networked small farms across my home state and it brings me so much joy that the Ky hemp seed oil in our Pholk products comes from such a meaningful and impactful initiative.
I’d love to see the beauty industry help to normalize the caring for skin with hair. For women with a curly and thick hair texture, facial and body hair can be a challenge. Whether one removes it or lets it grow, it’s absolutely their choice and both are beautiful. However, we are more prone to inflammation caused by ingrown hairs and there’s very little information about how to prep skin before hair removal and how to take care of it afterwards.
And for BIPOC founders, the revolution must be financed as my friend Calvin Qualis of Scotch Porter says. While access to retail partnerships has transformed, access to capital that powers sustained growth remains an issue. Our mission at Pholk is to invest in Black, BIPOC, and women-owned ingredient suppliers in the US. That vision requires us to scale. So, part of the conversations that I’m having currently with other founders and business innovators is how to reinvest in each other's growth.”