The Beauty Behind The Brand Week 1: Mented Cosmetics
Updated: May 28
I’ve had the honor of getting to know the brains behind 6 different black-owned, vegan-friendly beauty brands who are not only changing the beauty game, but creating it. We’ve talked everything from venture capital funding as a woman of color and advice for other entrepreneurs, to the experiences that gave them the 20/20 vision they needed to glow up.
As part of The Beauty Behind the Brand series, I’m delivering their stories, a few product reviews as well as discount codes and giveaways to some of their favorite products. That’s right, you can learn about incredible black women AND get VIP access to clean, non-toxic beauty products that were specifically designed for every shade of black and brown skin. Instructions for your chances to win at the end of each post!
From left to right: KJ Miller and Amanda E. Johnson
First up is Mented Cosmetics. As KJ Miller and Amanda E. Johnson know, any classic look starts with a nude palette. But, the products on the market offered to black and brown beauties at best left our skin looking bare, and at worst, chalky. With the problem and solution firmly in their hands, KJ and Amanda decided to make it their mission to create nude and neutral products that are centered on women of color --- and we thank them for it!
Mented started as a set of neutral lipsticks in 2017 but has since transformed into a nude-based line for full-face [and nails] that we didn't know we needed...until now. We’re talkin’ velvety matte lipsticks that match your undertones, moisturizing foundations available in 16 different shades, and an “OG” eye-shadow palette that can go with the flow of your day.
The products speak for themselves but I was fortunate to hear a little bit more from the dynamic duo that has given us face....and then some!
S: When Mented started in 2017 the focus was on nude lipsticks. You all have had such incredible success in such a short amount of time and simultaneously scaled up your cosmetics line to full face and lips. How did you manage both the growing pace of a new business, while expanding your offerings?
KJ: We focused on what our customers wanted and needed. We survey them regularly and interact with them at our pop-ups and on our social media channels. They’re very vocal about the types of products they want to see from us, and we love it when we can give them what they want most.
S: Mented is described specifically as an upscale beauty brand for women of color. Why was it important for your brand to make this distinction?
KJ: It was important to us that our customers know we’re creating high-quality, premium products for her. Every product we make is vegan, non-toxic, and paraben-free, which is what our communities deserve.
S: What does vegan-friendly and cruelty-free mean to Mented?
A: It means we don’t put our products through unnecessary animal testing, or use any animal byproducts, because we want only the best for our consumer.
S: There is a myriad of problems black women face. What sort of criteria did you all prioritize to determine the area you wanted to influence or solve for?
KJ: Our brand is focused on giving voice to all women of color whose beauty journeys have been previously ignored, which is why we focus on creating deeply pigmented shades that work on a wide range of skin tones.
S: They say hindsight gives you 20/20. What experience gave you 20/20 vision and what is it that you see clearer now?
A: There are so many things about launching a brand that you can only learn by doing. One example for me is supply chain management - we’ve built a much more robust supply chain in the last year, but we had to learn the ropes to even know how to do that.
S: Black women are the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in the U.S. They own $1.5 million businesses generating $44 billion a year yet they receive only 0.06% of venture capital [VC] funding [digitalundivided.com]. Additionally, there’s a shortlist of women who have received a seven-figure VC deal. An article in 2018 cited you all were the 15th and 16th women to do so. What do these statistics mean to you and how did you push them out of the way to pursue the funding you ultimately received?
KJ: Fundraising is difficult no matter who you are, but it can certainly be more daunting when you know how few of the success stories are about people who look like you. Ultimately, we couldn’t let that be our focus. We knew we had an amazing project and a customer base who wanted to spend their money on a brand that celebrated and prioritized them. We fought our way into the right rooms and kept working at it until they were fighting to meet us.
S: I understand when first starting out, you all pitched to more than 80 venture capitalists for seed money. This last time, you pitched to a third as many firms. What parts of your strategy changed this second time?
A: What changed is that when we started out we were just an idea, by the time we raised our last round we were a multi-million dollar brand. Money talks.
S: What advice would you offer to other black female entrepreneurs that are exploring venture capital funding?
A: Focus on clearly stating the problem you’re solving, how your product addresses that problem, and why you’re the right person to solve it.
S: In addition to Mented products of course, what are some things that make you feel confident and beautiful?
A: My skincare routine - it’s pretty long but it helps me feel my best.
KJ: I do my hair every single morning - it’s my crown and having it done makes me feel beautiful.
S: What’s next for Mented? Can we get a sneak-peak into any new product launches?
KJ: You’ll have to stay tuned!
We've teamed up with @mentedcosmetics to giveaway some of their favorite beauty essentials ($100+ value)! One lucky winner will receive:
(1) Summer Sangria Liquid Lip Collection (5 liquid lipsticks)
(1) Peach for the Stars Blush
Giveaway open to US residents only. No purchase necessary. Giveaway ends May 31st at 11:59 EST, winner announced June 1st.
Follow these easy steps for your winning chance:
Stay tuned on these social accounts for the announced winner!