By  on January 18, 2016

Sephora, already a savior for indie brands, is looking to give more women a hand with Sephora Accelerate, a new program designed to foster early-stage beauty businesses founded by women.The program is a key part of Sephora Stands, a social impact initiative that Calvin McDonald, president and chief executive officer of Sephora Americas, hopes will help to create a support system for both fledgling businesses and Sephora employees.“Sephora is uniquely positioned to support and inspire women as they achieve their goals, and from the beginning, [these types of programs have] been among the top requests from both our clients and our employees,” said McDonald. “While past efforts have been effective on a local level, Sephora Stands is a holistic new strategy which allows us to better leverage the depth of our expertise and the incredible passion of our employees for a more focused result.”His long-term goals: cultivating the next generation of beauty businesses, creating community social engagement and strengthening the support system for Sephora employees.Three programs will be offered: Sephora Accelerate for women entrepreneurs, Classes for Confidence for consumers and cast members alike, and Sephora Stands Together, a philanthropic emergency and hardship fund for Sephora employees impacted by natural disasters, family emergencies and other unexpected events.The program is built on three pillars — philanthropy, aligned social engagement and shared value, noted Corrie Conrad, named Sephora’s head of social impact a year ago.Sephora Accelerate is particularly important, noted Conrad, because female entrepreneurs traditionally do not have the same access to funding, professional connections and business instruction that male entrepreneurs do.  “About 85 percent of venture capital start-ups are led by men, even in an industry where women are the principal customers,” said Conrad. “The Sephora Accelerate program is designed to build a community of innovative female founders in all areas of the beauty industry. Rather than a competition-style format, Sephora embraces a more collaborative and supportive structure, creating an approach that catalyzes growth and infuses social impact into each brand’s work.”Ten slots will be available in the program each year, said Conrad, and will be chosen by Sephora in partnership with OpenIDEO, the social innovation platform of IDEO, the global design firm.Participants, called Fellows, must meet specific criteria, including being a founder or co-founder of their business, being committed to building social impact into the company’s DNA, and fitting within two broad categories: leading a company that creates a cosmetic product, or a company that creates technology or provides services related to beauty or that could be relevant to the beauty industry.Once selected, the Fellows participate in a boot camp at Sephora’s San Francisco-based headquarters designed to teach the necessary skills to run and build their businesses. They also gain access to a mentorship program comprised of Sephora’s network of beauty industry leaders, and then become eligible for possible funding through Sephora. “The goal of Sephora Accelerate is, by 2020, to support more than 50 women-led beauty businesses with a social impact through boot camps, mentorship, and small loans,” said Conrad. She declined to discuss the amount of proposed funding.  Sephora will make further announcements about the program in March.Classes for Confidence leverages the company’s existing educational infrastructure and adds complimentary, specialized in-store classes aimed at women who are making major life transitions. “Classes for Confidence offer a supportive environment where participants can learn and have fun, while also empowering Sephora store employees to make a difference in their communities,” said Conrad. “Education is a key strength for Sephora, and this program allows us to reach many people.” Currently being piloted in six states, the program, which will officially launch in April, has already benefitted local women re-entering the workforce, and those in transitional housing and shelter programs, she noted. Sephora’s goal is to inspire confidence in at least 100,000 women by 2020 through this program.Sephora Stands Together puts policy in place across the Americas to support employees, said Conrad. “We have this history of one-off support, as with Hurricane Sandy in New York and New Jersey,” she said. “This is built off that. We are committed to all employees in times of need, but this really plants our stake in the ground.”Sephora Stands will continue to take shape throughout 2016, noted Conrad. More information is available at SephoraStands.com.

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