Entrepreneurs of color push to get inclusive beauty products on shelves

Entrepreneurs of color have historically received less money from investors than their white counterparts, research shows. Three business owners share their story.
7:05 | 07/22/21

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Transcript for Entrepreneurs of color push to get inclusive beauty products on shelves
so defined and juicy after we are done with our treatment. Reporter: For lulu Cordero, luscious curls are a way of life. This is decadent. Reporter: The 33-year-old afro-latina is the founder of Bamba curls, a hair care line helping redefine the concept of beauty. I think someone's ready for her closeup. What does Bamba curls represent to you? Bamba curls is a celebration of curls, kinks, and melanin. For me it was important to do that. As a little girl growing up, I did not often get to see representations of beauty that look like myself or my mom or a lot of the women, really in my community. Reporter: As an immigrant from the Dominican republic, she grew up straightening her hair. Now her business leans into natural curls, using a formulation of ingredients passed down from generations of afro-caribbean women. People started to notice the results I was getting with my own formulations. They started to ask me, you know, well, I'll buy it off of you, I'll buy it. Reporter: Lulu struggled to find outside investors to launch her business. So she dipped into her own personal credit line and savings to fund her dream. What were the venture capitalists telling you? They're like, everyone wants straight hair, why would anyone want to byproducts for curls? Why is it important to celebrate curls, kinks, and melanin? What's the point? Literally someone told me, what's the point? Reporter: Entrepreneurs of color like lulu have historically received less money from investors than their white counterparts. More than half of all new businesses over the past decade in the country have been started by people of color, and yet black and latinx founders have received only 2.4% of all venture capital raised since 2015. We can't compete with these massive multimillion-dollar advertising budgets that a lot of these companies have. Reporter: Looking for a way to even the playing field, lulu connected with thirteen lune, an e-commerce hub dedicated to lifting up brands for people of all colors. We have brands from Africa, from southeast Asia, from China, from the Dominican Republic. Reporter: Nikeo Greco, cofounder, as beauty business entrepreneur herself. I didn't recognize the barriers that I faced until I was much older. I sort of assumed that, it's supposed to be this hard. Reporter: Nikeo launching the site last summer after the racial awakening following George Floyd's murder. People who are black and brown spent the most on beauty, so they deserve to have more representation on shelves. People looked at this past year of racial reckoning as an opportunity to do something. In what way is looking at these companies, in what way is that helping the larger equation? You're helping to elevate a founder of color, helping them to grow their businesses so that they can build generational wealth and they can inspire the next generation. Reporter: Here in this lab in elmwood park, New Jersey, another member of the 13 lune family is working on the next big thing in beauty. This is the ingredient that has taken the industry by storm. Reporter: Ron Robinson is a cosmetic chemist and a 31-year veteran of the beauty business. I fell in love with this industry that combined my science background with this art of creating cosmetics. It was love at first sight. Reporter: But as a black man in a field that was overwhelmingly white, Ron says he often felt sidelined and It was tough. What can I say, what can't I say? If I see a campaign that's not being diverse, can I say something? Basically, I felt that I needed to stay in my lane. Be quiet. Just follow the mainstream. Reporter: In 2019, he finally decided to flex his entrepreneurial muscle, creating his own skin care line. We had a lot going for us. Three patents. A great team of experienced cofounders. A plan. A concept that tested off the charts with consumers. There was a lot of, yes, what you're doing is interesting, it's exciting. But no checks were written. Reporter: Undaunted, Ron risked it all, bringing beautyset cosmetics to life by dipping into his retirement nest egg, withdrawing $85,000. A big gulp, like oh my god, did I just do this? It better work! Then we just saw improvement, results, growth, new retail partnerships. We're in Saks, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, blue Mercury, Macy's, Bloomingdale's. Super growing, super fast, and thrilled about it. Beauty inclusivity. What does that mean to you? Not just doing things for optics. Meaning including a diverse array of people, products, et that's what really inspires me about what 13 lune is doing, is helping to set a new standard of how all brands should look about including others and being more diverse. From inside out. From top down. Reporter: Lulu says the visibility Bamba curls received on 13 lune helped pave the way for partnerships with major retailers. These curls are going to be Bamba. We've sold out at Nordstrom, we've sold out at 13 lune, hopefully selling out at Bloomingdale's and Macy's too. You literally can't keep up with demand? Yes, we literally can't keep up with demand. What is it like for you, the Dominican immigrant girl in you, to know that your baby, that you created, is featured in these giant American corporations? I am my ancestors' wildest dreams. To know that I'm doing this for my culture, for my community, making them proud, making them be seen, that means everything. Reporter: For entrepreneurs who put it all on the line to feed their dreams, success is about more than a return on investment. It's about investing in change. The future of beauty is inclusive. I want to shout that from the rooftops. People want to see that the products work for them, for their skin or their particular texture of hair. They want to see humanity and the rainbow that we are.

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