Have you ever spent over an hour in the beauty aisle trying to find your shade?
There's a sense of helplessness that overpowers you. Before you know it, you're an artist mixing foundations, concealers, and lipsticks together to match your tone. Questions like, "Why is bleached eggshell the default?" can have you fuming.
It's no secret that women of color have always struggled to find our correct shade of nude, whether it's lingerie or shoes. The most frustrating experiences occur in the beauty department and if you live in a city that is predominantly white, then you are really out of luck. With that being said, you have to understand why we appreciate beauty bosses, KJ Miller and Amanda E. Johnson, for creating Mented Cosmetics.
KJ and Amanda not only saw a void in the market that they could fill with Mented, they also broke barriers while doing so. The two have recently been named the 15th and 16th women of color to raise $1 million for their business - a difficult feat for women, but especially for minority women of color. What's even more incredible is that the ladies have gone on to raise a whopping $3 million in funding, as recently announced by Forbes.
"There are lots of reasons venture capitalists back startups, and one that they may not love to admit is familiarity," KJ shared with xoNecole. "At the early stages of a company's life, you're betting just as much on the entrepreneur as the idea, and when that entrepreneur is familiar to you - whether because of their gender, race, educational background or another reason - it's easier to give them the benefit of the doubt. That said, raising capital is difficult no matter who you are, and I'm grateful that our investors were able to see and support the Mented vision."
The entrepreneurs are clearly making big moves for inclusion in the beauty industry, as well as for WOC in business. We decided to learn more about Amanda and KJ and see what their journey to making the vegan, nontoxic makeup brand Mented Cosmetics could teach us about bossing up.
Why Mented Was Intrinsic:
Amanda: KJ and I met in business school and became fast friends. Post-school we knew we wanted to work together, but we didn't have the idea yet. So with our full time jobs we'd meet periodically to talk through ideas. One night, when we were discussing our issues with beauty, I said, "I've been looking for the perfect nude lip for three years." KJ expressed that it'd been hard for her to find any makeup that she liked and that was our light bulb moment.
Two professional women with plenty of disposal income should not have a hard time finding beauty products, that's when we knew we had something.
Where It All Began:
KJ: To create a line for a wide spectrum of skin tones, you have to start with a wide spectrum of skin tones - and that's exactly what we did. When we began making the initial shades in our kitchens, we started with ourselves - in fact our top selling lipstick shades are our two favorites, Mented #5 and Dope Taupe - and from there we brought in women of every skin tone we could find to make sure they were all represented in the line.
The Meaning Behind Mented:
KJ: Amanda and I spent a very long time nailing down the name. Eventually we landed on a name neither of us loved but neither of us hated, and started using it as a placeholder. Throughout the process of developing our shades, we kept referring to how pigmented they would be compared to other brands. We said it over and over to each other, and eventually something clicked - I turned to Amanda and said "Wait...we keep talking about how pigmented our line will be...what if we call it 'Mented'?" - and the rest is history.
What Sets Mented Apart From Other Brands:
KJ: The thing I love about what we're doing, and how it differs so wildly from our predecessors, is our dedication to everyday beauty products for women of all skin tones.
I think one of my biggest frustrations in the past was the fact that I was only ever marketed to with bright, bold colors.
I love a bold look as much as the next girl, but like many women, my everyday beauty routine consists of nudes and neutrals. Our nude lipsticks, glosses, eyeshadows and nail polishes are the products you can wear from work to happy hour and everything in between, and we're immensely proud of that.
The Challenge Of Building A Beauty Empire As WOC:
Amanda: Every beauty entrepreneur will tell you that a constant challenge is getting noticed in such a crowded industry. We have to make sure that the message and authenticity of Mented is heard and felt within our target community. It's important that our community feels invested in the brand we're building and the products we're launching. We are redefining the norms of beauty and that is no easy feat.
Mented For Every Woman:
Amanda: At Mented, we firmly believe that every woman should be able to find herself in the world of beauty. That belief is the foundation for our product development and community building efforts. As a woman of color, I know the frustration and struggle of going into a beauty store and not finding a product that works.
I understand the pain of feeling other.
We wanted Mented to solve that issue for women everywhere.