Helping Black beauty founders claim more shelf space

In 1973, Eunice Johnson founded Fashion Fair, a cosmetics company that became the first beauty brand designed exclusively for Black women. Women with darker skin tones would now no longer have to blend foundations themselves. This prestigious international brand allowed Black women to finally have the glamourous, more equitable department store shopping experience they deserved.

“The elegant ladies behind the counters at department stores, all Black and dressed to the nines... Young ladies going with their mothers to buy makeup for their first prom or dinner dance... That’s the legacy of Fashion Fair, and it’s part of our history,” says Desiree Rogers, now co-owner of Fashion Fair.

To keep this legacy alive, Desiree rebooted the iconic brand in 2019, due in part to the much larger market availability today for beauty products aimed at people with more melanated skin tones.

Despite the progress in the beauty industry since Fashion Fair’s groundbreaking launch, there is still a long way to go to achieve equity. Today, Black cosmetics brands make up only 2.5 percent of revenue in the beauty industry, even though Black consumers are responsible for over 11 percent of total beauty spending, and Black consumers have reported high rates of dissatisfaction with many of the current beauty products available to them. Black beauty brands account for a maximum of seven percent of brands carried by most stores, but Black people are still underrepresented within the industry and founders raise capital at lower rates than non-Black brands.

To help move toward a more equitable market, McKinsey has conducted research and identified solutions, convened Black beauty founders, supported the 15 Percent Pledge to increase representation in stores, and helped develop founders through our Next 1B program, part of our 10 actions toward racial equity.

Desiree and McKinsey senior partner Tiffany Burns explain more about McKinsey’s efforts, the industry, and how Black beauty founders are making their mark.

Why is McKinsey focusing on beauty founders in particular?

Tiffany: Black beauty consumers are growing in their spending, but at the same time, their needs aren’t being fully met. It’s a lost economic opportunity for real growth. Even as Black beauty brands offer amazing new products, a constellation of issues, including underinvestment in new brands and not enough representation on retail shelves, holds them back. It’s a problem that presents a lot of opportunity, but requires convening multiple partners to solve—a natural role for us to get involved.

What is McKinsey’s approach to promoting Black beauty founders?

Tiffany: We’re working on four fronts: research, convenings, supporting emerging founders, and working with retailers on expanding representation. Our research helps make the economic case and the convenings create a community of founders to offer mutual support and solutions.

Our Next 1B program is a 12-week institute that offers skill building for entrepreneurs, and our work with the 15 Percent Pledge was focused on its strategy to scale in a sustainable way, to make sure it has pledges from the right blend of retailers so Black brands will show up in a variety of stores—department stores, drug stores, cosmetic stores, and more.

What has been the impact of McKinsey’s work?

Desiree: I’ve been involved with McKinsey’s convenings and really felt the community support. It makes such a difference to know there’s other founders to bounce ideas off who face similar challenges. And out in the industry, I always make sure the retailers we deal with—Walmart, CVS, Ulta, Target, Sephora and more—have McKinsey’s research and refer them to McKinsey with any questions.

Retailers have told me how McKinsey’s work has changed how minority audiences will be presented in stores moving forward—they’re not to be ignored. That is huge.

Desiree Rogers, Fashion Fair Co-Owner and Black Opal Beauty CEO

Retailers have told me how McKinsey’s work has changed how minority audiences will be presented in stores moving forward—they’re not to be ignored. That is huge. It’s phenomenal to see the change, and to see the excitement on the part of the retailer.

What motivates you to tackle this issue?

Tiffany: I worked in retail before coming to the firm, so I’ve dug into this issue. As a Black beauty consumer myself, I’ve seen the full spectrum of challenges and opportunities. Making progress here benefits so many people.

Desiree: When you invest in companies that are minority owned, it’s likely that money will support their communities in terms of who the company hires and its philanthropic giving. I believe together we can hold hands and create some real scale among companies that are owned by minorities in this country—and we’ve got to have that.

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