Mented Cosmetics has closed a $5 million Series A round led by Corazon Capital and CircleUp Growth Partners.
Mented plans to use the capital to build the team and grow distribution with Ulta Beauty, Target and begin international expansion, said KJ Miller, cofounder and chief executive officer.
Miller and cofounder Amanda Johnson launched Mented in 2017 with nude lipsticks meant to work across skin tones. The duo raised $1 million that year, becoming the 15th and 16th Black women to ever do so.
Since its founding, Mented has expanded into a full line of makeup offerings, including foundation, blush, mascara and brow products, as well as nail polish. Foundation is the brand’s bestseller, Miller said, followed by lip products.
“We have from the very beginning said we want to be the go-to brand for women of color, really people of color, across the globe. But since our inception we’ve only sold here in the U.S.,” Miller said. On Jan. 14, Mented will begin shipping to Canada and the U.K. “We’re starting to expand shipping abroad — that brings its own operational complexity,” she said.
The additional capital will help with that process, she noted, as well as build out the team. In the past few months, Mented has grown from seven employees to 12, Miller said. She plans to hire a head of growth, head of finance and head of brand marketing by the end of 2022, for a total of 15 people, she said.
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“We’ve been running so lean since our inception,” Miller said, noting that she was looking forward to bringing in “reinforcements, particularly people at the top who can help me think strategically about getting to the next phase of growth.”
Mented will also launch into more Ulta Beauty and Target doors this year. The brand will go from 293 Target doors to 515, and from 487 Ulta doors to 587.
“Our core consumer is professional women of color aged 25 to 45,” Miller said. “What we’ve seen particularly since we’ve expanded into retail is that we are reaching a really broad audience of women beyond women of color.” Miller said Mented’s core customers are Black, Indian and Hispanic women, but that now the brand is also seeing Gen X women, mature women and white shoppers.
“We want everyone to feel welcome in the world of beauty, we don’t want anyone to feel like an afterthought. We’re working really hard to make sure that anyone who comes to Mented feels welcome … that’s something we’ll continue to work on with our products, with our marketing and our messaging,” Miller said.
Miller declined to comment on total company sales, but said she’s projecting the retail business will triple in 2022, and that sales from the Mented website will increase 60 percent.
Miller said the fundraising process was “interesting” because she was pregnant at the time. “I was very nervous about even mentioning to investors that I was pregnant. I didn’t get advice from anyone, like ‘oh, don’t tell anyone,’ but that was a pressure that I felt,” Miller said. “The investors that we have are very encouraging and very understanding that the reality is, I am a mom, I am a full person, and people have to be able to not just run their businesses, but grow their families … It was challenging, but heartening to be able to do both at the same time.”
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