A collective of beauty industry leaders and experts have joined together to create Clean Beauty Summer School, an initiative aimed at nurturing the growth of emerging Black-owned beauty brands through education, network, mentorship and opportunity. Despite being the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the U.S., Black women often do not have access to the essential tools for growth as easily as their white counterparts. From Glossier’s pledge of $1 million in donations and grants, to Credo’s “Credo for Change” mentorship program, to Lashify’s $100,000 incubator project, the beauty industry has started to address the disparity through initiatives designed to empower BIPOC brands.  And Clean Beauty Summer School is its latest effort.

Spearheaded by Amy Liu, Founder and CEO of clean beauty brand Tower 28, the program brings together Amy’s valued network of fellow founders, entrepreneurs, investors, retailers, buyers, and other industry change-makers to recognize and uplift 10 hand-picked Black brands. “Overall, I hope the collective beauty community is inspired by seeing collaboration over competition in action. There’s room for more diversity – of founders, products, images and thought. And together we can make lasting change,” Amy said. The program’s announcement drew more than 300 applications in just two weeks. All applicants had to be majority Black-owned small businesses (three employees or less) in the beauty or wellness space with a focus on clean and/or sustainable products. The 10 finalists are: 54 Thrones, a luxury botanical skincare line; Aspen Apothecary, a CBD-infused fragrance line; Rosen, an acne-targeted skin care line; Peak & Valley, a line of adaptogen blends; Doubledown Cosmetics, clean skin care and cosmetics; Alodia, clean hair care comprised of shampoo, conditioner and oils; Base Butter, clean skin care; Frigg, CBD and adaptogen-infused topicals and ingestibles; Hanahana Beauty, clean skincare and wellness brand with shea butter as the hero ingredient; and Ode to Self, skin care employing scent therapy.

Each finalist receives 10 informational sessions via Zoom on topics ranging from product development, digital marketing, retail strategy, financial planning and fundraising from an esteemed roster of mentors. They include Annie Jackson, COO & Co-Founder of Credo Beauty; Dianna Ruth, COO & Co-Founder of Milk Makeup; Courtney Nelson, a consumer investor and former advisor to WhoWhatWear and Kosas; Dorian Morris, CEO & Founder of Undefined Beauty; and Dawn Francisco, Board of Advisors at martech start-up Narrativ, amongst others. “I am most excited to roll up my sleeves and connect and share my own experiences and knowledge with these entrepreneurs,” said Averyl Andrews, Director of Merchandising at Sephora and one of the program’s mentors. “I’ve worked with many small beauty businesses over the past 13 years at Sephora, and I look forward to bringing those insights to this group and beyond. The potential snowball effect of Clean Beauty Summer School is so exciting.”

Nancy Twine, founder and CEO of Briogeo, will kick off the program as its keynote in mid-September, during Pitch Day. When asked what she wished she knew back when she was launching her brand, Nancy said several lessons came to mind.

“One of the hardest choices as an entrepreneur is deciding to take action to pursue your dreams. I wouldn’t be where I am without embracing and accepting failure, learning to be resilient, and leaning on my network. Seek out mentors and create your own personal board of directors. And make sure to pay it forward!” Nancy said.

Pitch Day is where all 10 finalists have the opportunity to pitch their brand before a panel of judges, including Jessica Phillips, VP of Merchandising at Ulta Beauty; Divya Gugnani, the CEO & Co-Founder of Wander Beauty; Priya Rao, the Executive Editor of Glossy; and Alisa Williams, investor partner at VMG Partners, amongst others. When asked how the brands can help distinguish themselves in the judging process, Alisa offered: “I believe confidence is an important underlying characteristic that shines through in pitch competitions. Finalists should first and foremost be proud of what they have built today – being an entrepreneur is not an easy job! Finalists can distinguish themselves by being very knowledgeable on their business – it is important to not only highlight the strengths, but share potential watch-outs and ways they can mitigate their challenges. Having a long-term vision and painting the picture for the judges can help us understand why this is a brand to invest time, energy and resources behind.”

The winner of Pitch Day will not only secure meetings with major retailers such as Sephora and Ulta Beauty, but will also receive $13,000 in services from HeadKount to start building retail partnerships, plus a $10,000 grant from New Voices Foundation, a non-profit serving WOC entrepreneurs. Richelyna Hall, the Director of New Voices, affirms the benefits of being a part of their community: “Whether they come from a New Voices pitch competition, mobile accelerator or social media channel, when businesses join the New Voices Family they gain access to grants along with vital learning, coaching, and mentoring opportunities. These startups led by women of color are also plugged into the New Voices’ vibrant ecosystem, which can connect them to additional capital opportunities, retailers, partners, mentors, and other stakeholders that are critical to growing and scaling their businesses.”