Following a thorough review of dozens of applicants, the council members of Project Connect: Bridging the Digital Divide are pleased to announce Hue Beauty as the winner of WWD and Unilever Prestige’s latest grant program.
Founded by Janvi Shah, Nicole Clay and Sylvan Guo, Hue Beauty represents Project Connect’s vision to advance the industry by bridging the gap between technology and human touch. Purpose-driven, the beauty tech startup was born from personal struggle with a lack of representation in beauty and created to address the inclusivity gap in the market. Offering a clear solution between tech and touch with its unique photo imaging platform, social community of “Skin Twins” beauty advisors and physical sampling kits, Hue Beauty is on a mission to empower every beauty shopper to find the perfect makeup products for their unique complexion.
Hue Beauty was selected by the Project Connect Council after meeting a diverse set of criteria, which looked at how the project applicant clearly defined and solved a problem in the market, if the company prioritized social impact and if it offered industry advancements in bridging the digital divide between technology and human touch.
Members of the council include Vasiliki Petrou, Executive Vice President and Group Chief Executive Officer of Unilever Prestige; Amanda Smith, President of Fairchild Media Group (parent of WWD); Carla Nelson, Founder of the Black Fashion World Foundation; Kevin Fried, Director of Retail at Google; John Melo, President and Chief Executive Officer of Amyris, and Vicky Tsai, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Tatcha.
A connected journey
Three women of color, Shah, Clay and Guo, told WWD they had struggled with representation in beauty and find- ing makeup products that worked best for our skin tone – despite all being at different points of the shade spectrum. Unfortunately, the inclusivity gap in makeup is a problem that many women face today.
“Growing up, we all experienced the feeling of not being represented in mainstream beauty standards and were inspired to combine our backgrounds in beauty and tech to solve this issue,” the founders said. “As we started talking to customers, we realized that we were not alone — people want to see real, everyday people like themselves trying on makeup products. However, the process of finding someone who matched their skin tone and skin concerns was time-intensive and often unsuccessful.”
Further, Shah, Clay and Guo noted there are over 68,000 unique makeup shades on the market today, which has made finding the right shade match for one’s skin tone the number one pain point consumers have when shopping for makeup online. “Beauty brands know this is a problem and spend over 70 percent of their marketing budget on sampling or digital tools, which are huge expenses, but no one solution solves the problem, leading to low purchase conversion.”
Moreover, the Hue Beauty founders said, “brands also desire a deeper, more targeted connection with customers and are looking for tools that drive conversion and repeat purchases for complexion products.”
Notably, Shah, Clay and Guo found that none of the solutions on the market offered the personalized solution that consumers are looking for.
“That’s why we started our company,” they continued. “We have studied the market, the existing technologies and the customers and believe that Hue will disrupt the industry with solutions that bridge the gap between technology and touch. Many have tried to solve the problem of shade matching online, yet we’ve heard from countless shoppers and beauty brand executives that none of them have met the mark.”
“We felt what was missing was the human element,” the team said. “We found ourselves spending hours searching on Youtube, Instagram and TikTok for people with our similar skin tones to see what products would look good on our skin. More than ever, customers are craving personalized product recommendations from trusted sources, most commonly from friends or ‘genuinfluencers’ (microinfluencers who share authentic advice and product information).”
Similar to specified microinfluencers, Hue Beauty’s ‘Skin Twins’ offer a trusted source while also allowing customers to shop alongside people that share their specific skin tone and skin concerns. But offering consumers access to experts is just one part of Hue’s solution.
Poised to become the “Pantone” industry-wide standard for color matching, Hue Beauty integrates directly into beauty brands’ e-commerce websites, helping shoppers find the perfect shade matches for their skin tone through a combination of photo technology, “Skin Twins” and customized try-at-home shade sampling kits. Currently, there is no standardization for skin tone in the beauty industry.
“The combination of beauty tech, community and sampling (human touch) is what we believe will differentiate us,” said Shah, Clay and Guo. “Our photo tech will recommend three shades, and our Skin Twin community allows customers to verify their shade recommendations through high quality swatches and reviews from real people with a similar skin tone. Since exist- ing digital tools lack human touch, the ‘Skin Twin’ community differentiates the experience by giving a platform for customers to engage directly, fostering human connection. Lastly, sampling allows consumers to test not only their preferred shade match but also the wear and coverage on their skin.”
Already in beta with brand partners and shoppers, the company is committed to partnering with brands across the industry to collectively solve the long-standing issue of shade matching online. Through the unique combination of technology and human-touch the Hue Beauty founders aim to accelerate e-commerce makeup sales by achieving near 100 percent accuracy for shade matching – compared with existing solutions that are just 70 percent accurate on average.
In the future, Shah, Clay and Guo see “the opportunity to become the industry standard ‘pantone’ for color matching, extending from foundation to other color categories like lip, eye, skin care, nails and to global markets. We also envision expanding our ‘Skin Twin’ concept beyond skin tones to other dimensions like skin type and age. As we grow our customer base, our long term vision is to become the backbone of the at-home beauty shopping experience, personalizing the purchasing experience based on a customer’s Hue profile.”
“Project Connect will be a gamechanger in helping us to reach our goal of becoming an industry standard, as Unilever Prestige and WWD will give us direct exposure to beauty brand leaders across the industry for us to partner with to develop our shade matching platform. Additionally, we’ll greatly benefit from mentorship from Unilever’s industry leaders as we scale our business.”
Project Connect Council Members Recognize Hue Beauty
Vasiliki Petrou, Executive Vice President and Group CEO, Unilever Prestige
“At the intersection of tech, touch and purpose, Hue Beauty is not only helping people connect to the brands they love, but also to the community around them. We are excited to be celebrating Hue as the Project Connect winner and helping to scale their mission to set a new standard for representation in the industry. Their innovative, purpose-driven model has the potential to shape the future of the marketplace, and I can’t wait to see how they grow!”
Amanda Smith, President, Fairchild Media Group
“I was immediately drawn to the work of Hue Beauty because they are solving for a common pain point of finding the perfect foundation color for our individual skin tones with a tech forward platform that leverages a community and offers sampling. I will be following their success and cheering them on!”
Kevin Fried, Director of Retail, Google
“Hue Beauty is a brand that was founded and evolved with a customer-first mindset — which is the very embodiment of what consumers desire in the products they purchase. Makeup is an experiential category, so the creative use of technology to match skin tones, the engagement of a brand community and availability of try-at-home samples bridges the best of digital and retail experiences to exceed customer expectations. Brands that continue to evolve with digital to drive immersive experiences, regardless of whether shopping is on your phone or in a store aisle, is what will determine those brands that continue to grow in this dynamic retail landscape.”
Carla Nelson, Founder, Black Fashion World Foundation
“There is a season and a time for every business, and this is Hue Beauty’s time. Hue Beauty is revolutionizing the industry and sure to be a dominant force for decades to come. I’m so excited to see this talented diverse team of women win the Project Connect grant and I am looking forward to trying out their service!”
Vicky Tsai, Founder and CEO, Tatcha
“I’m so thrilled for Hue Beauty. As a woman who’s also struggled with representation in the beauty industry, I was immediately drawn to Hue’s mission. I can’t wait to see them bring their vision to life and help shape the future of what beauty looks like!”