BrainTrust Founders Studio, the largest members-only platform dedicated to Black founders of beauty and wellness companies, is investing in the parent of hair care brands CurlMix and 4COnly. This marks the fourth $1 million investment by BrainTrust Fund since launching its $25 million investment arm earlier this year.
“Kim Lewis grew Listener Brands into one of the top five Black-founded hair companies in the US because she’s an extraordinary entrepreneur and, like most Americans, has curly, wavy, or coily textured hair and wanted better products,” says Kendra Bracken Ferguson, one of the founders of BrainTrust Studio. “America’s beauty and wellness buyer is younger, more racially and ethnically diverse than ever before, and is shopping for brands that serve their needs and their inclusive, sustainable values at a scale that speaks to a permanent shift, not a fad,” adds Lisa Stone, another founder of BrainTrust Studio.
Listener Brands joins a portfolio that includes BeautyStat, Thirteen Lune, and Uoma Beauty.
“We designed BrainTrust Fund as a ‘blue ocean’ investment opportunity to capitalize innovation by Black entrepreneurs in beauty and wellness, whom we expect to continue to outperform as leaders of culture and creativity, and anticipate will continue to be underfunded,” according to Kendra, who serves as BrainTrust Studio’s CEO.
VC-funded Black beauty ventures have a superior track record compared with non-Black counterparts, yet fewer than 1% of venture capital investors are Black women and fewer than 1% of Black women founders are funded by the venture capital community.
“The BrainTrust Fund exists so that as the massive and growing multi-trillion-dollar beauty and wellness marketplace pays off, Black founders, supported by Black funders and allies, may participate in creating and selling what shoppers want,” says Lisa, who serves as BrainTrust Studio’s Chief Investment Officer.
BrainTrust’s fund is co-led by a diverse team of female experts in consumer operations and investments. The companies identified for investment are in the beauty and wellness space across 20-plus sub-sectors, from fragrance to technology. To qualify, a company must have at least one Black-identifying founder as a member of BrainTrust Founders Studio. The founder must also be open to mentorship from investors, and company revenues must exceed $1 million. BrainTrust Studio has more than 120 members who have collectively sold more than $100 million in products via 23,000 retail doors and online in the past year.
BrainTrust Fund Investor Karla Martin, Managing Director and Global Luxury, Retail and Ecommerce Lead for Deloitte, confirmed that leading retailers and corporate acquirers are actively searching for solutions to consumer demand with products that are vegan, clean, and also racially and ethnically inclusive.
“My clients are buying what they cannot build fast enough for today’s consumer,” says Karla. “The notion of beauty has expanded more in the last 10 years than the previous 40, including size, age, race, ethnicity, and gender. And those new segments of consumers, and in particular younger consumers, want to feel more connected to the brands they use and want brands with a clear purpose. I have two daughters, our kids read labels and they read the news. It’s not going to stop.”
The BrainTrust Fund, anchored by WestRiver Group, includes an investor community that resembles beauty and wellness shoppers by design.