9 Black and Brown Women Founders Pitched Their Beauty Businesses—And Now You Get to Vote

In a first of its kind pitch competition aimed at increasing diversity in the beauty industry, nine Black and brown women founders are competing in a virtual event created by Black Girls Ventures, Rare Beauty Brands, and Ulta Beauty.

The winner of the BGV x RBB Beauty Pitch Competition will get a distribution deal on Ulta.com next year, business mentorship from Rare Beauty Brands’ leadership, and some good old-fashioned cash prizes. All of the finalists will gain access to the BGV Connect Incubator, which offers resources to build their community, capital, and capacities through webinars, virtual pitch practice, and VC feedback sessions.

“We’re excited to make this first-of-its-kind competition possible to support Black and Brown women beauty founders,” said Shelly Bell, founder and CEO of Black Girl Ventures, in a statement. “Our partnership with Rare Beauty Brands and Ulta Beauty will provide our founders with increased visibility, access to funding, corporate mentorship, product distribution, and access to our incubator platform to grow their businesses in the beauty industry.”

The nine Black and brown women finalists who pitched are:

Gianne Doherty, Organic Bath Co., Boston

Organic Bath Co. believes in self-care made simple: Mindful moments, peaceful thoughts, and nurturing your skin from the outside in. We know what you put on your body is as important as what you put in it—so we created an award-winning bath and body line using only organic and natural ingredients that are safe, effective, and easy-to-use. Our products are an invitation to slow down and indulge. Nourish your skin. Enhance Your Natural Beauty. Trust that what you’re using is clean, not complicated.

Aja Frierson, Habit Cosmetics, Malibu, CA

Aja created Habit in 2013 when she couldn’t find a nail polish brand that had everything she was looking for: a clean formula that was good for her nails with gorgeous on-trend colors and sustainable packaging that looked good on her bathroom counter. After two years of development, Habit was finally born. Habit Cosmetics is a vegan and cruelty-free, non-toxic and sustainably packaged makeup brand with a focus on high-performance, multitasking formulas.

Chinonye Akunne, ILERA Apothecary, Detroit

Born to Nigerian immigrants, Chinonye developed a strong sense of pride for her Igbo culture. Through her studies and experience in the prevention of exposure to harmful chemicals in the workplace, she honed-in on her passion for creating holistic skincare products to protect and revive the skin and body. ILERA Apothecary was launched in 2015 with the values of creating plant-based skincare products with the highest quality and ethically sourced ingredients.

LaToya Stirrup, KAZMALEJE, Miami

In her 16 years of experience, LaToya led teams through the process of ideation, creation, development and launch to bring advertising campaigns and projects to life for some of the biggest global brands. In 2016, she launched her own brand, KAZMALEJE. From innovative hair tools to stylish cosmetic/travel bags and leisure wear to fashionable home accessories, KAZMALEJE creates lifestyle-amplifying tools and accessories that empower women, men, and kids to pamper and groom themselves with love, care, and style.

Kim Roxie, LAMIK Beauty, Houston

After her mother passed in 2014, it became Kim’s mission to give women of color access to safe, natural beauty products. LAMIK started as a local makeup shop and now offers clean color cosmetics for women of color who historically have been marketed more toxic makeup options than their counterparts. LAMIK is transforming the standard of beauty with makeup made with safe, natural, and organic ingredients.

Kitiya King, Mischo Beauty, Washington, D.C.

While pregnant with her son, Kitiya was unrelenting in her search for chic, richly hued polish that would cause no harm to her or her unborn baby. With a degree in chemistry and licenses in Cosmetology, Esthetics, and Makeup Artistry, Kitiya was well-equipped for the challenge before her—that of filling the void of luxe, non-toxic nail lacquer in the beauty landscape. In 2013, Mischo Beauty was among the daring to revolutionize a highly-toxic beauty segment–nail lacquer–which has been notorious for formulas with synthetic chemicals and endocrine disruptors. Mischo Beauty is committed to the philosophy to do no harm as they innovate across the beauty landscape.

Takia Ross, Accessmatized LLC d.b.a. KiKi Thunda Cosmetics, Baltimore

Takia is a professional make-up artist and owner of Accessmatized Make-Up Artistry and KiKi Thunda Cosmetics, a small batch cosmetics manufacturing company started in 2013. Busy professional women were looking for no-fuss lip products that they could rely on to help them to make a statement without saying a word. In response, she developed KiKi Thunda products, a line of highly pigmented, long-lasting, water-resistant, smudge-proof liquid matte lipsticks.

Angela Fields, CurlyCoilyTresses, Tampa Bay, Fla.

Angela created CurlyCoilyTresses in 2014 to provide fragrance-free hair care options for people with naturally textured hair. The CurlyCoilyTresses®️ difference is products that are: Effective, enriching, ultra-nourishing textured haircare in minimal-ingredient, carefully curated formulations. Clean, plant-based, ageless, genderless, cruelty-free, vegan formulations. Rejuvenating to chemically- and physically damaged hair restoring its youth-like luster while calming porosity using organic, wild-harvested, thoughtfully selected ingredients. 100% fragrance-, scent- and masking agent-free.

Symone Gates, Bade Collection, New York, N.Y.

Symone started creating pain management products she could use post-workout, utilizing herbs heavily researched and shown to relieve both inflammation and soreness. After a year of testing, she brought the Bädé Collection to life in 2017 and incorporated more advanced ingredients, such as hemp-derived CBD. Delivering skin-loving benefits in a luxurious and safe way is the continual driving force behind the Bädé Collection. With that in mind, all products are synthetic- and preservative-free and focus on simple formulations that consistently deliver.

The virtual competition was filmed on November 17, with the finalists each having three minutes to pitch and two minutes for Q&A with industry experts Chris Hobson, president and CEO of Rare Beauty Brands; Penny Coy, vice president of skincare, suncare, fragrance, and bath at Ulta Beauty; and Kendria Strong, executive vice president of marketing and innovation at Afro Sheen.

“At Rare Beauty Brands, we’re passionate about the world-changing power of entrepreneurship,” said Hobson in a statement. “We’re proud to take action by partnering with Black Girl Ventures and Ulta Beauty to create this important startup competition with a mission to lift up underrepresented groups, especially Black and Brown women.”

And now it’s your turn to see what these founders are bringing to the table and judge who should take home the title. The pitch competition starts streaming today; register here to attend. Voting closes on November 30, and the winner will be announced on December 2. The public can also offer financial support to any of the founders through Black Girls Ventures’ SheRaise platform.