Kevin Cureton admits recent efforts across the industry to support emerging businesses owned by people of color seems a little like déjà vu for him.
The chief operating officer of skin care contract manufacturer Solésence said there “was a similar type of engagement from Fortune 500 firms” in the 1980s and ’90s, “and there were a lot of new businesses that were started.” Unfortunately, there was little support from industry organizations — simply because they didn’t exist at the time. “And eventually many of these businesses just faded away,” he said.
But there are other reasons why so many brands didn’t make it. “On reflection, I wondered what was causing them not to be here now?” Cureton said, adding that as he looks back, he realizes that aside from not having opportunities to participate, “you really need to have an ability to be important to your partner customer — whomever it might be.”
That’s at the heart of Solésence, which anchors its product development in beauty science and R&D. The company works with brands on three possible paths to market: market-ready white label products; custom white label products, and custom product development. The products tout Solésence’s patented “active stress defense technology” as well as the company’s patented broad-spectrum UV protection, anti-oxidant benefits and other features.
Ultimately, having a passionate team is really what ends up building a company. And within that is diversity.
Asked about Solésence’s role in helping Black- and people of color-owned brands, Cureton said as a company, “We have a very diverse organization, which we’re really proud of — but we also feel we are in a unique [position] to ask: ‘How do we help? What can we do to really support this process and address some of these [industry diversity] issues?’”
In response, Solésence is helping business owners “really understand how the industry works, while providing access to services and marketing information,” Cureton said, noting that the company also has team members with deep industry knowledge and experiences to share. The knowledge sharing includes product development and pricing, and also creating products consumers truly need.
“We help them answer certain questions, such as, ‘Why should your business really exist in the first place?’” he said. “It has to be something beyond their own desire, which is important. But also ask, ‘How do you serve the greater good by having your business exist?’ And, ‘How do you serve the beauty community by having this business exist?’”
Solésence also works with business owners to “make sure they understand their reason for being.”
Cureton agreed that these can be tough questions to answer, but reiterated that this is essential on the product development and product positioning side of the equation. Of course, the other concern — especially for start-ups — is raising capital. “There is increasing access to capital, but that is still, in my opinion, one of the bigger hurdles for Black and brown businesses: limited access to capital,” he said.
To succeed, having the right team in place can make all the difference. A committed team matters.
“Ultimately, having a passionate team is really what ends up building a company,” Cureton said. “And within that is diversity. Because we have a diverse team, we have diversity in terms of how people look and their cultural experiences. But we also also have diversity in how people think, and how they create.”