Milani Cosmetics is ready to play with the big guys.

This story first appeared in the March 21, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Last month, the multicultural cosmetics brand staffed up for what is expected to be its biggest push since Milani was launched in 2002.

At that time, there were cosmetics brands tailored for black women, but only a few mass-market choices for women of all ethnicities. Milani chief executive officer Ralph Bijou and president Laurie Minc saw the market opportunity and unveiled the line of vivid colors designed for every skin tone.

Milani is the number-one multicultural brand at mass and the fifth-best-selling based on dollars per points of distribution, according to Nielsen.

This year, top retail executives gave buyers the edict to add brands for multicultural shoppers. With Milani hitting critical mass, the company hired a cadre of veteran executives with a goal to expand sales by adding to its 10,000 existing doors, as well as extending space in accounts already stocking Milani.

Stepping into the key role of chief marketing officer is industry veteran Mona Monaghan-Kelliher, who has held executive positions at Sally Hansen, Revlon and Estée Lauder. One of her first tasks was to commission much-needed research on shoppers of different ethnicities.

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Armed with key learnings, Milani will unleash its first national advertising campaign next month, featuring four multicultural models who will also appear on in-store materials. Industry sources estimate spending will exceed $5 million. A social media campaign is also up and running.

The stepped-up efforts come as ethnic shoppers, a growing consumer base, continue to outspend Caucasians in beauty, even during recessionary periods, according to Nielsen.

Monaghan-Kelliher said research helped Milani identify the best way to merchandise its vibrant colors. “We learned women who buy Milani love rich, saturated color that is vibrant, color-true and long lasting,” she said. A small tweak in the merchandising display put eye shadow with eyeliner adjacent to mascara, and lipstick next to lip gloss. It resulted in a 6.6 percent jump in retail sales within the last year.

The company also rounded out its executive ranks by hiring a vice president of sales and business development, a vice president of product development, a chief financial officer and a vice president of regulatory. In addition to expanding its team, Milani has an arsenal of new items. Brilliant Shine, which will be featured in the ad campaign, is a new gloss that is described as shiny while also delivering hydration without a tacky feel. More is to come. Monaghan-Kelliher said, “We started out as a line for women of color and morphed into a line for women who love rich, vibrant color and are not afraid to experiment.”