The Unique Challenges and Assets of Being a Black-Owned Beauty Brand in the Clean Beauty Space

    Allure: What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve faced as a Black-owned brand in the clean beauty industry?

    Gianne Doherty: Many of the biggest obstacles are still around financing and raising capital. Black women received just 0.27 percent of venture capital in 2018 and 2019.

    Martey-Ochola: Access to a broader customer base as well as marketplace, due to the perception that Black-owned beauty brands are designed to support the Black-demographic market. This limits access to affordable capital, retail outlets, and partnerships. Changing the consumer perception of Black beauty brands to be more inclusive, where applicable, is necessary.

    Karim Orange: This year, thanks to BLM, we are seeing a shift in this. [Moving forward,] you will see more Black-owned clean beauty brands because of this shift.

    Allure: Can you tell us about some of the initiatives you have in place to support the Black community beyond your products?

    Orange: On behalf of United Shades, I will be hosting workshops with Pretty Brown Girl foundation, which was named one of nine youth organizations to give to for Black Lives Matter. I will also be giving 100 percent of my percentage of United Shades sales to the organization one day a month.

    Naa-Sakle Akuete, founder of Eu’Genia Shea: Eu’Genia Shea provides organic and quality training to our 5,000 pickers in northern Ghana, purchases nuts from them at fair prices, manufactures shea butter in-house according to the methods my mother developed as president of the Global Shea Alliance, and then fills each of our tins by hand. 

    In this way, we can guarantee the quality every step of the way and make sure that each of our highly concentrated balms soothes everything it touches. Plus, we donate 15 percent of our profits back to our processors — real women from northern Ghana who tackle the patriarchy daily.

    Allure: The spotlight shining on Black-owned brands in the clean beauty sector is long-overdue, and we all have to make sure this isn’t a fleeting moment. What can allies do better to create equity and support independent, Black-owned brands?

    Martey-Ochola: Allies can do better by speaking about Black brands the same way they speak about other brands. Compare us to other top-selling products and consumers will switch their purchase decision from “Should I support Black businesses or should I buy what I know I love” to “I should try this product because it’s getting rave reviews, and it’s also cool that it’s a Black-owned brand.”

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