Founders Of Mented Cosmetics Become 15th, 16th Black Women Ever To Raise $1M Capital – Forbes
The cofounders of Mented Cosmetics, a makeup line for women of color, have become the 15th and 16th African-American women ever to raise $1 million in venture capital to grow their business.
Amanda Johnson and KJ Miller, who met as Harvard Business School classmates, were planning to raise only $500,000 in pre-seed funding, but found themselves on the receiving end of more investor interest than they’d expected.
The duo, both 31, had been bootstrapping Mented, which is short for ‘pigmented’. In January 2017, they started taking pre-orders for their first products: vegan, nontoxic nude lipsticks formulated especially for women of color. The company officially launched in March.
This investment will go towards an expanded product range, including eye palettes, as well as growing a team and doubling down on marketing.
“Our customer is always clamoring for more,” Miller said. “Our end goal is that women of color feel prioritized in the world of beauty.
To date, Mented has seen great success with organic marketing, relying on buzz from women using social platforms like Instagram and Facebook, as well as influencer campaigns.
“Word of mouth has been really exciting for us,” Miller said. “Girls have been tagging their friends in their posts. The message is really resonating. Women of color were used to being treated as an afterthought. It’s not every day that you’re a priority.”
Johnson and Miller’s success raising capital puts them in a rarefied group. As data from investor Kathryn Finney’s Project Diane shows, although black women are the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in the U.S., they receive only 0.2% of VC funding.
The average startup founded by a black woman raises only $36,000 in venture funding, versus the $1.3 million the average failed startup led by a white man raises before going kaput.
“We really think we’re onto something here at Mented,” Johnson said. “Even though women of color have a difficult time raising money, if there’s an under-served market, investors attack it.”
This $1 million round was led by early stage firm iSeed Ventures, with Built By Girls (BBG) Ventures and Outbound Ventures participating.
Mented is the culmination of years of its founders’ experience. Miller comes from a retail operations background, having worked as a buyer for Sears and Kmart and a manager in consultancy Deloitte’s retail practice. Johnson did a stint at Goldman Sachs as an investment banker before working in marketing for Time, Inc. and digital development for Barney’s New York.
In September, Kristina Jones of legal tech startup Court Buddy became the 14th African-American woman to raise $1 million.