It's always inspiring to hear a story of someone who has not only created their own opportunities, but has won big by doing so. Alicia Scott, CEO and founder of Range Beauty, is an avid researcher and savvy communicator who initially Googled her way into finding a solution to a problem that impacted not only her life, but the lives of other Black women: inclusive yet clean cosmetics. And her efforts took her to business and bankable success, turning $300 into $300,000 within the first three years of business.
The idea turned into a mission when Scott was working in the fashion industry and saw how Black models had to carry their own makeup kits because artists claimed they didn't have the tools to create looks on darker skin tones. "It made me think of the lack of shades available to us. On top of that I was dealing with eczema and acne-prone skin, so I wanted a line that wouldn't irritate my skin," Scott said in an interview with xoNecole.
"That was in 2014, [when] there wasn't as much of a clean beauty trend [around] as there is now. So when I would look for alternatives, a lot of the products that would come up were very fair shades. In doing more research, I found out about the issues with Black women being exposed to twice the amount of toxic beauty products due to the lack of products for our skin tone. Just thinking about how those ingredients were tied to breast cancer and hormone disruption, I just really wanting to create a solution."
Image courtesy of Alicia Scott
"I found out about the issues with Black women being exposed to twice the amount of toxic beauty products due to the lack of products for our skin tone. Just thinking about how those ingredients were tied to breast cancer and hormone disruption, I just really wanting to create a solution."
Google Me, Baby
Fast-forward to 2017. Scott knew she needed to do her research and used one of the best free resources available: the Internet. She was able to connect with a woman-owned manufacturer to help her create what she wanted to offer. "I didn't have the funds to work with a lab, so I skipped that step. I said, 'Well what can I do next?' I found a manufacturer by Googling what I wanted to create and came across a site called Cosmetic Index. It contains everything you'd need to start your brand. I knew I wanted one based solely in the U.S. and narrowed [the list] down to those that had detailed information. I then found her page, went through her website and Googled information about her. I called the number that was listed and went from there."
Scott's manufacturer already had experience in cultivating products for sensitive skin after personally dealing with the issue from a face surgery. "That was perfect because it was such a niche. I was able to speak with her and tell her what I wanted to create and the mission behind my line, and then work with her to get the line started. I was using calendula flower and chamomile extract [for the eczema] as a way to avoid having to use steroids which was recommended by the dermatologist. I want to be sure to keep oil at bay, so what can we use as an alternative. A lot of products that have mattifiers aren't great for our skin and can clog our pores so we talked about using French clay as an alternative. That's how everything started."
A starter kit with Scott's final formulation was sent to her home, and on her living room floor, she was able to create multiple shades of brown foundation. She came up with packaging, registered an LLC, and in 2017, Skinny Dip Cosmetics was finally born. The initial cost for the soft launch: $300. Revenue came in at about $1,000 in the first three months, Scott recalled.
Image courtesy of Alicia Scott
Social Media For the Win
Scott took the next step of building up a social media following, using yet another free resource to build her customer base, further launching Twitter and Instagram accounts for the brand. "One day, I took a picture of the product and posted it on Twitter, and one of the major influencers at the time saw it and reposted it with [the phrase] 'This is what you call Range,' and it just blew up."
She decided to close shop in order to rebrand and officially relaunched as Range Beauty in 2018. After the relaunch, revenues hit $20,000 and then went up to $45,000 by 2019. She was finally able to leave her 9-to-5 working in diversity and inclusion for a tech company, and by the end of 2020 she'd made $300,000 by the end of last year.
How was she able to scale in such a way to see big wins? More research, pitch competitions, and honest feedback. YouTube star Jackie Aina is behind a pivotal moment in Scott's journey to raise funds and continue building revenues. She revealed, "[Years ago,] I was following YouTube mogul Jackie Aina, and she posted that she was doing a grant competition for Black founders. I think the first prize was $5,000, and I was like, 'OK that's something cool.'"
"That was my first time applying for a grant or even knowing what a pitch competition was. From there, I looked into what I needed to have ready. I was already an avid watcher of Shark Tank, and I went online to search the commonly asked questions. After that, I applied, and I got into the competition. They flew us to L.A. and I pitched on her YouTube channel. I was one of two who won the grant."
After that, Scott said she got so much great feedback, that she kept applying for any grants she could, whether they were targeted to women-owned or Black-owned startups. It was at an event in Atlanta that she received direct feedback that led to a major pivot and more money for her business.
"[I participated] in a pitch competition with what is now called the Fearless Fund, headed by Arian Simone. At the time she was doing these individual pitch competitions. I applied, made it through the first two rounds, and then we went to the headquarters. I remember a judge saying, 'You have a good pitch and great energy, but when it comes down to your product, you're not telling us what sets you apart from your competitors.' At that time, Fenty had just launched, so me coming from this inclusive end saying, 'Oh we have all these shades,' and Rihanna launched with all these shades and had a whole campaign--- it's like, 'Oh, you can't really come from that angle anymore, so now what's next?'"
Switch Up and Level Up
Scott knew she had to shift her approach a bit to remain competitive and continue seeing success in getting capital. She knew she didn't want to get business loans, and she also knew she wanted to be able to sustain her company's growth. After much thought, she finally had a light-bulb moment.
"At the time, I wasn't speaking to the fact that I created this brand with eczema and acne in mind and with skincare benefits. There wasn't anyone doing that with inclusivity at the time. Once I switched the messaging and started applying that, everything started taking off. I joined New Voices [Foundation] family very early on after seeing Melissa Butler speaking on it. They would send emails that [informed subscribers] about different grant and pitch competitions and I'd just apply to all of them. I began tailoring my pitch and my application to the point where I was becoming a finalist. All in all I've received $50,000 in grant money, and I just received my first investment of $200,000 off of a pitch competition."
Range Beauty products can now be bought on the company's Website as well as in Target, a company whose relationship she's proudly maintained and cultivated since 2018.
Image courtesy of Alicia Scott
"At the time, I wasn't speaking to the fact that I created this brand with eczema and acne in mind and with skincare benefits. There wasn't anyone doing that with inclusivity at the time. Once I switched the messaging and started applying that, everything started taking off. All in all I've received $50,000 in grant money, and I just received my first investment of $200,000 off of a pitch competition."
"[By 2019] they saw me at the Essence + Target Holiday Market, and they introduced me to the accelerator team. I applied, and I was accepted for the March 2020 class. Going through the program and just receiving the welcoming I did--- the excitement about what I created---and having them say we want you on Target.com or in store was pretty validating. Even though I knew what I was doing was great for Black women for the community, having such an authoritative figure like Target say this is amazing...it was a huge thing for me."
Also, Scott counts the exposure her company received during the Black Lives Matter movement as a huge catalyst for her business growth. "To see our name pushed to the top of a lot of lists and receiving the exposure and having that followed up with different retailers reaching out, that was again, very validating. I ended 2019 and said, 'I want our sales to be at least 10K per month for 2020,' so ending the year at $300,000 in revenue was like, 'OK, this is what happens when I put myself behind this full force and full-time.'"
Featured image courtesy of Alicia Scott