How K.J. Miller and Amanda E. Johnson turned their side hustle into a multi-million dollar beauty brand

Abu Mubarik May 31, 2023
Mented Cosmetics founders Amanda E. Johnson and KJ Miller. Photo credit: mentecosmetics via Instagram

Meet K.J. Miller and Amanda E. Johnson, founders of Mented Cosmetics, a multi-million dollar cosmetics brand celebrating the beauty of diversity. Miller serves as the CEO, while Johnson serves as the company’s COO. The company prides itself on being a makeup brand for women of color.

When the duo decided to create their cosmetic brand with melanin in mind back in 2015, there was no Fenty Beauty or innovative makeup brand for black women. The idea for Mented was inspired by the difficulty Johnson experienced when searching for the perfect shade of nude lipstick to match her dark skin tone for more than three years, according to IPSY.

“Once we had our big light bulb moment to create nude lipsticks for women of color, we quickly went into planning mode,” says Johnson. “K.J. was a consultant at the time, and I had come from an investment banking background, so planning and strategy is what we do.”

The brand started as a project the founders pursued on weekends in the kitchen of Miller’s Harlem apartment and has now grown into a popular beauty brand that celebrates individuals of all hues with its inclusive shade range. At the time, Miller and her co-founder were both full-time employees and managed the company as a side hustle

“We bought the molds, we bought the ingredients, we bought the colorants, and we made our original capsule collection of nude lipsticks,” Miller told Refinery29. And from there, the team relied on feedback from family, friends, and influencers before officially opening for business.

The duo created the product by watching YouTube videos and hand-mixed formulas in their kitchen. Within a few weeks, the business partners perfected their nude lipstick line for women of color. They also created six shades ranging from a warm pink with brown undertones to a dark chocolate brown.

Mented Cosmetics now includes products ranging from foundations to bronzers and even nude nail polish, on the promise of inclusive everyday makeup for real women.

“We spent the rest of that year sending those products out to influencers because we wanted their feedback,” Miller told IPSY. “What we found, along with loving the lipsticks, was that they were willing to share them with their audience. At that point, we didn’t even have a website you could shop for, but they were just so excited about the shades that they were posting about us and tagging us. Luckily, we did have an Instagram account.”

Today, Mented Cosmetics is sold in over 500 Target and about 400 Altos stores, as well as In 2020, the multi-million-dollar beauty brand closed a $5 million Series A round in funding. 

Last Edited by:Editor Updated: June 11, 2023


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