Building a Broader Brand, Sephora's Incubator Program Announces 8 BIPOC-Owned Prestige Beauty Brands in Development

Illustration for article titled Building a Broader Brand, Sephora's Incubator Program Announces 8 BIPOC-Owned Prestige Beauty Brands in Development
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Any makeup lover is all-too-familiar with the ubiquitous black lacquered displays and striped shopping bags of Sephora—but until recently, finding Black brands on its shelves proved a bit more challenging. The world’s premiere beauty marketplace has been working to change that image, inside and out: after becoming the first retailer to sign on to Aurora James’ 15 Percent Pledge last June, the omni-retailer went a step further than simply rushing to fill its shelves with Black brands (though customers can now quickly locate those brands at Sephora’s website via a convenient tab).


In October, it was announced that the retailer’s annual Accelerate program, a now six-year-old incubator designed to develop independent brands into Sephora-worthy businesses, would for the first time focus exclusively on predominantly Black BIPOC beauty entrepreneurs for its 2021 class. Additionally, last month, it unveiled a comprehensive, research-backed action plan against racial profiling among its staff and in its stores.

On Tuesday via a press release, the retailer gave more details about the 2021 Accelerate program—which has previously focused on cultivating an international community of female beauty founders and supported the launch of more than 50 women-owned brands.” Now, Sephora has announced new details about the program, including the eight chosen brands that will benefit from in-house development and mentoring—this year conducted virtually and including advisors and female BIPOC luxury beauty founders Nancy Twine of Briogeo and Vicky Tsai of Tatcha. Additional “friends” of the program include: Aurora James (Brother Vellies), Julian Addo (Adwoa), Maeva Heim (an Accelerate graduate and founder of Bread Beauty Supply), Mazdack Rassi (Milk Makeup), Amy Liu (Tower28), Josh McDowell (Main Post), Alisa Won (Sideman), Hadley Mulin (TSG), David Chung (iLabs), Nikki Walton, April Reign (#OscarsSoWhite) and other surprise guests, as well as investors Janet Gurwitch (Advent International) and Alissa Williams (VMG).

Most importantly, this year’s brands will all ultimately find a place in Sephora’s assortment.

Per the release:

In addition to months of Sephora-led curriculum and intensive support, this year’s program also features coveted mentorship from industry veterans, feedback and exposure to leading investment firms and venture capitalists. Taken together, these establish Sephora’s commitment to not only creating a program that educates, but also building a pipeline of support that promotes the long-term success of these brands at Sephora, and for the betterment of the industry at large. Upon completion of the program, all participating brands will launch at Sephora, putting the prestige omni-retailer on track to double its assortment of Black-owned brands by the end of 2021.


“Last year, we made a commitment to dedicate fifteen percent of Sephora shelf space to Black-owned brands, and we quickly realized the role that our Accelerate program could play in not only helping us to reach that goal, but to set these brands up for long-term success and growth,” said Sephora’s Executive Vice President and Global Chief Merchandising Officer Artemis Patrick in a statement.

This year’s eight participants applied to the program in Fall 2020; eligibility requirements included being at least 18 years of age with a US-incorporated company in the early stages of development (and not yet in broad distribution elsewhere). According to Sephora, further criteria in the selection process included each brand’s vision, innovation, and current stage of product development.


As described in Sephora’s release, its 2021 Sephora Accelerate Cohort includes:

  • Christina Funke Tegbe, Founder, 54 Thrones
    54 Thrones is a natural, authentic and thoughtful beauty brand that celebrates and elevates African beauty rituals. The brand offers face and body products with African-grown, pure, and organic plant botanicals blended to protect, soothe and nourish your skin.
  • Marie Kouadio Amouzame, Co-Founder, and Alice Lin Glover, Co-Founder, EADEM
    Eadem is a beauty brand pioneering Smart Melanin Beauty—our products combine science-backed ingredients and heritage botanicals to effectively and gently care for skin of color.
  • Alisia Michelle Ford, Founder & CEO, Glory
    Glory is a skin care brand focused on clean targeted treatments formulated for melanin-rich skin from head to toe.
  • Desiree Verdejo, Founder & CEO, Hyper Skin
    Hyper Skin is a hyper-targeted skincare brand rooted in multiculturalism. The first issue that they are tackling is dark spots and discoloration on all skin tones and enhancing glow.
  • Nia Wellman, Founder, Imania Beauty
    Designed for textured tresses, with a scalp-first approach, Imania Beauty is a hemp and wellness-conscious brand. They believe that caring for your hair should be both simplistic and nourishing.
  • Priyanka Ganjoo, Founder, Kulfi Beauty
    Kulfi brings celebration into beauty with fun and approachable products designed around South Asian skin tones and undertones. They are challenging toxic beauty standards in South Asian culture defined by Eurocentric ideals and patriarchy.
  • Megan Graham, Founder, ries
    Bringing luxury, function and convenience to the travel-beauty and toiletries market, ries offers reusable, leak-proof, TSA-friendly travel containers made of biodegradable material.
  • Olamide Olowe, Founder & CEO, Topicals
    Topicals is a beauty brand celebrating the fun of flare-ups with effective skincare and mental health advocacy.

Aside from providing mentorship, merchandising support, potential funding, and investor connections to participants, the program’s curriculum includes: orientation and onboarding into the Sephora “ecosystem” and relationship-building with their merchant sponsors; and a “bootcamp” featuring “a rigorous week” of internal and external curriculum and intensive workshops across all areas of Sephora’s expertise, focused on setting up participants’ brands for long-term success.

Following the bootcamp, participants will have the support of their merchant sponsors as they ready their businesses for launch and begin preparation for Pitch Day at the end of May, in which “each brand founder will give a formal presentation to a group of industry experts, investors, and senior-level Sephora leaders in an effort to unlock investment and scale their brand.” The program culminates in a graduation celebration for all eight brands and their merchant sponsors. Upon completion of the program, all participating brands will launch at Sephora.


“The goal of this program has long been to provide meaningful, ongoing support for growing brands, and that is exactly what we’re aiming to deliver to our 2021 Accelerate cohort,” said Patrick. “Each of the eight participating founders is inspiring in their own right, and we believe wholeheartedly in their potential at Sephora; we are so excited to help shape their futures and to ultimately introduce these brands to our clients.”

Maiysha Kai is managing editor of The Glow Up, host of The Root Presents: It's Lit! podcast and Big Beauty Tuesdays, and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door. May I borrow some sugar?