Being an entrepreneur is often associated with finding something that you're passionate about and turning it into a business.
If you love fashion, start a boutique.
Got a love for social media? Start a digital marketing company.
Hair always on fleek? Don't sleep on the extensions business.
But for Melissa Butler, founder and CEO of The Lip Bar—a lipstick line made from natural ingredients, her now nearly half-a-million dollar business wasn't birthed from passion, it was born from a flame that ignited inside of her to challenge the standard of beauty, one pretty pout at a time. “I started growing frustrated with the beauty industry altogether because first of all, why can't I find a nude lipstick that looks good on me? Furthermore, why do the lipsticks only come in nudes, reds, and pinks?" says Melissa. “It became this quest of 'I want to find products that are natural, but also look good on people who look like me.' And it was literally impossible to find."
It's hard to imagine that the brainchild behind the bar-themed brand doesn't have an affinity for a beat face, especially one with a bold lip color, as you would expect her to. Though the Detroit native has shamelessly rocked a fire orange “Boy Trouble" lippie, she admits to makeup not being the motivating factor behind her vibrant creations. “I've actually never been really that into makeup," she admits. “I'm still not really that into makeup, which is very interesting. I'm passionate about the purpose of the brand more so than the product of the brand. The product is kind of the afterthought."
It may seem contradictory for an entrepreneur to start a business around a product that they have little sentiment towards, but in actuality it's the reason that, despite the opposition, she's been able to steer her company into its fifth year of business in an industry where anybody with a brand name and a few thousand dollars in their pockets can jump on the beauty bandwagon. Melissa's more about the mission than the money, which is ironic for someone who spent their first four years out of college working on Wall Street as a financial analyst. But like many millennials, she was less interested in a corporate career, and more focused on a fulfilling one.
“The first year when you are straight out of college, you get a good job, and you are just happy to be making money. So, for the first year I wasn't affected by it, I was just happy to be there," she says of her foray into finance.
But two years in, she had a change of heart.
“I'm just looking around me like, this can't be me. I didn't take out several thousands of dollars in student loans to be unhappy or to work to pay off these student loans. I think once you get a taste of money, you realize that money isn't everything, and so I started looking at life from a different perspective. "
Self-reflection led her back to the thing that she loved most as a kid growing up in the gritty hoods of Motor City—being her own boss. She didn't come from a family of entrepreneurs, but seeing the work ethic of her single mom and the success of her favorite cousin, whom she describes as a serial entrepreneur, gave her the foundation needed to one day run her own business.
With a high-level of confidence that radiates even as we chat on our call, shouldering responsibility was the least of Melissa's concerns. She struggled more with figuring out what she was passionate enough about to do full-time than she did in committing to the idea of leaving her beloved nine to five. “Often times when you're thinking you want to start a business but you don't necessarily know what [business], you're kind of just going through the motions of okay, well what am I good at?" says Melissa.
The answer came to her while sipping a few cocktails with some girlfriends during an after-work happy hour in New York. For Melissa and her friends, the bar was a place where they could kick back and be their true selves. "Corporate America is built so that you're no longer creative. You're no longer expressive, and you're no longer who you were before you started that job because you're always trying to find some way fit in. Happy hour in New York is like the biggest thing, and so I found that was the place where you kind of get to be yourself. I'm here, I'm having fun, I feel comfortable. I'm surrounded by people who get it. So it became like a safe haven."
With cocktails as inspiration, The Lip Bar was born as a way of challenging tradition and giving women the courage to be who they are.
"We live in this really sick world where we're always trying to validate our existence and prove why we're worth something. Unfortunately with women, that happens with our looks, and I felt as though lip color, especially with bold and bright lip color, would give women the opportunity to express themselves just a little bit more."
With that in mind, the go-getter set out to create the very thing she felt was missing in the beauty industry—a product whose mission was just as bold as its pigments. Her first two years on the market, she made $107,000. It was enough to quit her job in 2013 and pursue her business full-time. “We had already gotten several features in magazines, and it became a thing where I had to say to myself, 'Well, if you want your business to give you 100%, you have to give your business 100%,'" Melissa says. “I knew that The Lip Bar would never have grown the way I wanted it to if I wasn't actually focusing on it."
Though she wasn't doing too shabby on the sales front, her desire to take her business to the next level encouraged her to seek further funding from the infamous investors of hit business reality show Shark Tank. Unsurprising to Melissa, the “sharks" were less than supportive of her already profitable business, with one investor even going as far as to say, "I can see a massive market share in the clown market," before referring to Melissa and her business partner as "colorful cockroaches." Despite the controversial statement and walking away without a deal, the founder ultimately had the last laugh.
“We went to Shark Tank basically knowing that we wouldn't get an investment, because if you watch their show they basically only invest in stay-at-home moms or tech companies, but you have to remember that Shark Tank is like reality TV right now, so it's literally the most exposure that you can get as a brand. And so we went on there for marketing."
The strategy worked, sending over 30,000 hits to their website when the show aired last year in February, and another 120,000 within the first two weeks of the premiere. The increase in their brand presence also lead fashion sites such as Nasty Gal and Forever 21 knocking on their door. “A lot of our opportunities have come organically. We've never paid for marketing. It's just been an awesome experience and so because I think The Lip Bar keeps growing and the appreciation for our very cool packaging, for our story, for our product, has gained us interest."
Still, Melissa hoped to get her products in stores with alongside fellow trailblazers serving the natural and multi-cultural market such as Miss Jessie's and Shea Moisture, and took the initiative to blind email Target's corporate team pitching her products. "I'm a firm believer in going after and getting exactly what the hell you want. I had been working on this idea of a price drop, and I'm like you know what's going to be perfect for this? Target, because my customer shops for their hair care two aisles away, and now my products are more affordable and so I'm a stalker. I blind call all the time. What can they do? They can answer or they cannot. And if they don't' answer I'll email them again."
It worked! The Lip Bar is available for purchase on target.com and is available in more than 450 stores across America.
Although the team is staffing up to accommodate the increase in sales, Melissa isn't allowing looming deadlines to stress her out or, “As an entrepreneur, you'll find times where you're so devoted to your business, that you forget to take care of yourself," she speaks from personal experience. “For me, it was very difficult to understand that I deserve all time off, and I had to learn to stop beating myself up from it. Now, I literally take vacations."
Taking time to kick back doesn't mean that the beauty queen is relaxing on the mission. With the brand on the cusp of making nearly a million dollars this year, Melissa hopes to not only grow in sales, but in awareness of the issues that plague the beauty industry.
“We decided to start using really dark women because I notice there are tons of self-esteem issues directly related to complexion."
"It's so troublesome, and so we decided to start using very dark models in very bright lipstick colors. And to really put them at the forefront, not as the object, but as a beautiful woman."
In a society where little brown girls aren't often shown their beauty through mainstream media, Melissa and her team strive to turn the anomaly into the norm—one bold and beautiful campaign at a time.
If you missed Melissa's appearance on Shark Tank, you can watch a clip here.
- Melissa Butler Sparks Innovation & Beauty Ingenuity With New Complexion-Based Launch - xoNecole: Women's Interest, Love, Wellness, Beauty ›
- 6 Ways To Start A Business With Little To No Money - xoNecole: Women's Interest, Love, Wellness, Beauty ›
- Best Nude Lipsticks Black Women, POC - xoNecole: Women's Interest, Love, Wellness, Beauty ›
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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Feature image by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
If you haven’t scrolled upon Olivia McDowell's TikTok famous dinner parties, you may need to reconfigure your "For You Page."
What began as a passion for hosting aesthetically themed meals for her closest friends has quickly become a viral sensation. With an astonishing 12 million viewers, women describe Olivia’s picturesque dinner parties as the “dream girls' night,” complete with classy cocktails, beautiful table settings, elegant outfits, and, most importantly, food plated to perfection.
Seemingly reigniting the feminine urge to host fancy dinner parties, Olivia has perfected the finer details. Overlooking the skyline in her beautiful NYC apartment, she never fails to make her signature handmade pasta dishes while simultaneously looking effortlessly chic in the wardrobe of dreams while doing so.
Replying to @nara0630 what should the theme of my next dinner party be? #minivlog #nycliving #dinnerpartyideas #caviarinnewyork
What I love most about hosting intimate dinners for close friends are the connections and relationships that form over food. They don't require a caviar budget with a high-rise apartment, it just takes determination and a little creativity. Watching Olivia’s journey inspires viewers to be a part of a community of positive and uplifting women who share common interests and tastes in food, fashion, and decor. Simply stated, she’s raising the bar of friendship goals.
If you’re aspiring to host a holiday-themed dinner party this season, check out the four tips that will guide you along the way.
Choose Your Theme
Replying to @emz.life.tsv what was your fav part? 🤍 hope this gives you some inspiration to host a fancy friendsgiving too! #hostingtip #dinnerparty #pastamaking
Set the ambiance with a thoughtful theme, which will indeed be your guiding light for less stress during the planning process. Establishing a theme sets the tone for everything else to fall in place, such as menus, table design, and presentation. For example, a holiday-inspired dinner party is a perfect occasion for elegant all-white decor paired with draped table cloths, pillar candles lit atop luxe holders, floating floral arrangements, and, for a personal touch, handwritten place settings.
Utilizing free resources such as Canva for menu templates and creating a “Dinner Party” moodboard via Pinterest is perfect for gathering dinner inspiration for themes, decor, and recipes for the special occasion.
Simplify the Menu
How to host your own pasta making dinner party — part 1: pasta making from scratch 🤍 Hosting dinner parties has become my favorite thing to do this year. More goes into it than you expect, the prep, planning, guestlist, tablescape, etc. but it’s always worth it in the end. What do you guys want to see next? #hostingtips #dinnerparty #pastamaking
Don’t overcomplicate the menu. A simple dinner party formula to use as your guide to making sure your guests leave full of food and joy is appetizers, salads, entrees, sides, desserts, and beverages. As a starter, assemble an aesthetic spread that your guest can nibble on while awaiting the main course with starters such as bread, cheese, jam, nuts, and fruit. A simple salad will do, complete with a light dressing right before your entree. For a main dish, pasta recipes always go a long way and also allows your guests to interact with one another, which leads to McDowell's third dinner party hosting tip.
Include an Interactive Element
Replying to @itstai.tv 🖤 #girlhood
To break the ice and encourage guests to get to know one another, introduce interactive elements to the evening. Moments of interaction allow everyone to connect, like capturing content for social media or memorializing the essence of the night through fun Polaroids. Olivia also encourages her guests to participate in the pasta-making dinner process as a group, or if hosting a brunch, her friends indulge in building their own coffee bar as an opportunity for forming connections and conversation starters. Group board or card games are also great for laughs and healthy competition to help get the vibes flowing.
Don’t Forget the Dress code
Replying to @samantha_mendiz when all of your friends are the main character 🖤🥂 #dinnerparty #nycfashion
Tis’ the season for glamour and sparkles, so why not go all out with a super chic dress code? You can’t have a picture-perfect holiday dinner party without the coordinating attire to match. When planning, make sure to make the required attire specific yet broad enough for a range of personalities and preferences to comfortably partake while looking stunning doing so.
Featured image by Justin Lambert/Getty Images