The 15 Percent Pledge and other social justice movements intended to give diverse communities more seats at the table have helped change the conversation around Black founders and Black businesses. However, these movements will never succeed without investing in educating and supporting Black founders. Black founders face a myriad of unique challenges that affect our ability to succeed entrepreneurially. Only 4% of Black-owned businesses in the United States survive past the start-up stage, even though 20% of Black Americans start businesses.
More new Black-founded businesses were formed over the past year than have been created in the past 25 years, according to the Kauffman Foundation’s annual report. To support this movement, I launched BrainTrust Founders Studio, a tech-enabled, membership-based community platform for Black beauty and wellness industry founders. Even before we officially launched, Founders Studio secured over $100 million in soft value from corporate partners including JPMorgan Chase, Salesforce, Shopify, Afterpay, BeautyUnited, Clearco and SheMedia. These invaluable partnerships will help to solve critical business needs, provide marketing resources and supply financial growth tools to support Black beauty and wellness founders. The Founders Studio launched in beta with a hand-selected group of 25 inaugural founders and will be opening the waitlist for new founders to join in 2022.
My passion for my community has led me to serve as a mentor and advisor to countless young founders, where I have seen first-hand how the lack of access to formal resources creates roadblocks to success for Black founders — roadblocks that their non-Black counterparts often do not experience. Knowing that a pipeline of successful, Black-founded beauty and wellness brands would change the paradigm within the $500 billion global beauty and wellness industry, I started BrainTrust Founders Studio as a scalable way to create parity and equity by providing resources in business, finance, marketing and technology through a global community of founders.
With BrainTrust Founders Studio, we are providing an ecosystem for new and existing founders based on four core pillars: community, education, mentorship and capital. Founders Studio was born out of BrainTrust, the social media and brand development agency I founded in 2015, where my team and I worked with more than 200 brands, founders and talent, including Halle Berry, Drew Barrymore, Morgan Freeman and countless others. Through our strategic partnership with Beautycon and subsequent three-year relationship with Sally Beauty, Cantu Beauty, Urban Skin Rx, Blushington and more, BrainTrust was thrust deeper into the world of product development and retail.
I am also the host of “Business of the Beat,”a beauty and wellness podcast focused on diversifying the faces we see leading the beauty industry. On the podcast, I speak with BIPOC founders and executives about building their brands while representing and serving underrepresented consumers. Our expertise in all facets of the beauty and wellness business has given me a unique perspective within the industry which can now be shared with countless Black entrepreneurs through BrainTrust Founders Studio.
How BrainTrust Founders Studio Works
At the core of the Founders Studio ecosystem are educational and financial resources, as well as a data repository for trends and industry intelligence, supporting founders at all stages of their business journey. The three tiers of membership — “Start,” “Grow” and “Accelerate” — reflect these different stages.
Starting is always the hardest part. That’s why “Start,” the first tier of membership to Founders Studio, is free. We want to provide the foundational support that will foster long-term and sustainable growth, connecting participating entrepreneurs with resources based on their company’s needs. For example, if the company is pre-seed or pre-revenue, the founder will be provided with education-based modules on topics like how to make a business plan, how to secure a manufacturing facility and how to implement a direct-to-consumer strategy.
Because Founders Studio is a tech-enabled platform that combines artificial intelligence, machine learning and automated business systems, it is able to match founders with personalized resources, including agency and partner relationships and operational services, business and financial resources, executive coaching, retail distribution and follow-on capital and investment. Underneath the surface, the Founders Studio is a data repository, brand and market trend intelligence platform and “search incubator” to identify new brands to invest in.
The corporate launch partners will offer everything from mentorship and expertise to access to capital. JP Morgan Chase, which supports local communities to ensure that entrepreneurship, innovation and commerce thrive, will provide professional financial guidance, wealth management, one-on-one business coaching, mentorship and more. Nine out of 10 Black founders lack the investment and working capital opportunities that are available for many non-Black founders — a shocking, but true, fact. Our goal is to level this playing field by empowering Black beauty and wellness founders with inclusive economic opportunities, improved business performance and pathways for growth, while also unleashing millions of dollars in untapped revenue.
Black women as a group spend $7.5 billion annually on beauty products, resulting in 80% more spent on cosmetics and twice as much on skincare products than the general market, yet Black consumers have needs that often remain unaddressed. The market potential is enormous, and Black buying power by 2022 is estimated to be at $1.5 trillion. Diversifying products with ingredients and methodologies that consider the needs of multicultural consumers not only makes good business sense, but it will also contribute to a more socially just and inclusive industry.
BrainTrust Founders Studio will change the paradigm within the global beauty and wellness industry by establishing a robust and viable pipeline of successful, Black-founded businesses. As CB Insights notes, “Understanding the difference between ‘niche’ and ‘underserved’ audiences remains crucial, as there exist many demographics with untapped potential.” BrainTrust Founders Studio’s platform will serve as a necessary commercial conduit between Black founders and the wider $500 billion global beauty and wellness industry.
BrainTrust Founders Studio is built on the idea that collaboration breeds creativity and that success for one leads to success for all.