Two years ago after being frustrated by a lack of diversity in the beauty and wellness space, Brittany Brown realized a need for a platform that would support women of color in natural beauty, wellness and healthy living. The result is Project Beauty Expo (PBE), an intimate tradeshow experience connecting press, retailers and multicultural consumers with indie brand founders for a full day of shopping, networking and live demos.
“The indie brand category has tremendously grown over the past few years,” said Brittany. “However, [despite] the growth of so many apothecary stores, boutique retailers and other retail giants adapting to this change, many brands of color are left behind, especially in categories such as natural color cosmetics. I saw the need for a space to discover brands of color that are not always included on the shelf.”
The 28 year-old first launched the concept in Washington D.C. in 2016, before bringing the show to New York City in 2017.
“During our first year, we had no idea if this was something brands would be interested in or if natural-istas would want to attend, so we kept it very simple, limiting the event to only four brands,” explained Brittany. “After positive response, we transitioned to NYC in 2017, where the event grew to 22 exhibiting brands, secured several press mentions, and doubled in attendance to 200.”
This year, PBE returned to NYC on August 12, spanning two venues of the Mercantile Annex in Midtown Manhattan. About 45 brands participated in this year’s show.
“We advertise to brands on our website and through social media, and they also find us through word of mouth or referrals from past exhibitors,” Brittany explained. “Sometimes we also reach out to brands we discover on social media to see if they are interested. The application process allows us to sift through brands to try our best to make sure we have an event full of diversified brands while also limiting the number of brands to a certain amount. We don’t intend to exceed 50 brands per event.”
At this year’s event, in addition to discovering emerging brands, guests were given the opportunity to attend a panel discussion focused on diversity in the beauty industry and entrepreneurship. There was also a GIF photo booth complete with Instagram-worthy green foliage accented with the show’s signature millennial pink hue. New this year, PBE debuted its new e-commerce venture, PBE Merch Shop, which features the work of talented designers and creatives. The first item for sale is a bold, graphic yoga mat designed in collaboration with eco-friendly brand, Sugarmat ($72).
As for the future, expansion plans are in the works.
“PBE is definitely expanding the platform to create more experiences centered around helping women of color excel in the natural beauty category. Stay tuned for some exciting announcements this Fall,” she revealed. “For now, the tradeshow event is yearly, since we want to gain enough momentum and backing to hit other markets (the company currently doesn’t have any investors). Ultimately, we are looking to expand to multiple cities throughout the year.”
Here, some of the beauty and wellness brands CEW Beauty Insider discovered at this year’s event:
Ingestibles: Tumeric-based brand, Golde offers a range of powders using the potent super-herb for its beautifying, healing and mood-boosting properties ($26). While, Forever Wild Organics churns outtea formulas ($10 for 8 oz), designed to be used internally as a drink and externally as a soothing treatment to stimulate the natural hair growth cycle.
Multi-purpose: Kreyòl Essence is best known for its Haitian Black Castor Oil ($15, 3.4oz), sustainably harvested from farms in Haiti using a traditional hand processing method. The oil can be used on the hair scalp, face and body. Similarly,
Limegreen, offers a collection of skin care products, all of which serve at least three purposes. It’s Multi-Wash ($18), for example, can be used as a shampoo, body wash and facial cleanser.
Hair Treatments: Board-Certified Dermatologist, Shari Hicks-Graham, M.D., developed LivSo, a non-prescription line of moisturizing hair products that aims to reduce dryness, flaking and itching. Growing brand, Girl+Hair, also founded by a doctor, Dr. Camille Verovic, offers a natural hair care product line, specifically created for protective styles.
Skin care: Elle Johnson Co. is a botanical based luxury skin care line with an uncomplicated three-step regimen. It’s Clear 3 complete skincare bundle ($36) features a cleanser, toner and moisturizer, which can be ordered specific to a customer’s skin type. Another brand, Jacq’s was created after the founder faced an ovarian tumor during her pregnancy and turned to nontoxic solutions to meet the challenges of her changing body. The brand offers a collection of skin care, bath and body products using tropical ingredients locally sourced in South Florida.
Developed by Mariam Mouna Guessous, a Usui Shiki Ryoho Reiki practitioner,
I See You Wellness is a wellness line features a range of self-care items including candles, oils and affirmation cards Mariam says is “Reiki infused.” Another scent-driven brand, Blade + Bloom creates small batch apothecary candles inspired by scent memories -the brand’s “little black dress” candle ($30) is a favorite amongst its users.
Wellness: LuvScrub is aiming to take over the popular dry-brushing trend with the introduction of its mesh body exfoliator, a staple used in the cleansing routine of West Africans.