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BY Abu Mubarik, 2:00pm February 17, 2023,

Rejected by Shark Tank, Melissa Butler’s vegan lipsticks are now the largest black-owned makeup brand at Target

The Lip Bar CEO Melissa Butler. Photo credit: CNBC.

In 2012, Melissa Butler started a line of vegan lipsticks as a side hustle while working as a data analyst at Barclays in New York City. She ventured into the cosmetic industry after noticing the current brands weren’t serving her needs. 

“I was really frustrated with the beauty industry,” she told CNBC Make It. “I hated the excessive amounts of chemicals [in lipstick], I hated the lack of diversity, I hated that if you wanted to get a high-performing product you had to spend a million dollars.”

As previously reported by Face2face Africa, she started creating lipsticks by hand in her Brooklyn kitchen, melting dyes together with vegan ingredients like shea butter and avocado oil before freezing them in sets in her fridge. 

“I didn’t come from a retail background, I didn’t come from a beauty background, certainly not a manufacturing background,” she said. “I was working you know 55, 60 hours a week but then coming home and making lipstick.”

Butler eventually quit her banking job to focus on her business full-time. She further revealed that she used her savings to support her business in the initial phase.

In 2015, she took her vegan lipstick business to ABC’s “Shark Tank” in a bid to woo the Sharks. However, she was rejected and criticized. One of the Sharks, Kevin O’Leary said her business was not going to survive.

“The chances that this is a business are practically zero,” O’Leary admonished her. “You only have so many minutes on Earth, don’t waste them trying to sell lipstick.”

Similarly, Sharks Lori Greiner, Mark Cuban, and Robert Herjavec said her business had no potential. Butler was devastated by how her pitch went and even described the panelists’ attitude as cruel. Nonetheless, she did not let that episode kill her entrepreneurial spirit, but rather learned the attitude of persistence.

Months after the devastating episode on Shark Tank, The Lip Bar Inc. is now the largest Black-owned makeup company at Target. Her product landed on shelves at 142 Target stores across the country.

“@thelipbar and @threadbeauty are taking up 6 shelves of space in select stores! I saw it for the first time on Wednesday and I cried my eyes out. I am so proud of where my team and I have taken the business and the beauty industry,” Butler posted on her Instagram page.

“Y’all may not know how MAJOR this is. We are the first black-owned makeup company to take up this much space,” she continued. “I just love making Black History during Black History Month.”

She even has billboards in Detroit, Atlanta, Houston, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. reading: “‘Shark Tank’ told me to quit. 10 years and 2 million units sold. Thanks, Mr. Wonderful.”

Following the success of her lipstick business, one of the Shark Tank investors that rejected her business idea came out to congratulate her.

“I’m proud of them for taking the heat. I’m proud that they’re entrepreneurs and successful. It’s a wonderful thing to see that happen. They were facing an almost impossible task because going into the cosmetics industry is so difficult to get market share,” ClicheMag quoted Kevin O’Leary as saying.

“But they pulled it off, so you gotta applaud them — there’s no question about it. But that is a tough space because the margins are so high that the competition is just brutal.”

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: February 20, 2023


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