Amanda Johnson and KJ Miller have become the 15th and 16th African-American women ever to raise $1million in venture capital. Johnson and Miller are the co-founders of Mented Cosmetics, a makeup line for women of color. They both met at Harvard Business School and planned on raising only $500,000 in pre-seed funding but they found themselves on the receiving end of more investor interest than they had ever expected!
The two have been working on Mented, which is short for ‘pigmented’. In January 2017, they started taking pre-orders for their first products: vegan, nontoxic nude lipsticks that were made especially for women of color and they officially launched the line in March.
This new investment will help them expand in product range, including eye palettes and will also help them grow a team.
“Our customer is always clamoring for more. Our end goal is that women of color feel prioritized in the world of beauty.” – KJ Miller
Much of Mented’s success has derived from organic marketing via social media from women using their platforms like Instagram and Facebook, as well as influencer campaigns.
To date, Mented has seen great success with organic marketing, relying on buzz from women using social platforms like Instagram and Facebook, as well as influencer campaigns.
“Word of mouth has been really exciting for us. Girls have been tagging their friends in their posts. The message is really resonating. Women of color were used to being treated as an afterthought. It’s not every day that you’re a priority.” – KJ Miller
Johnson an Miller’s success raising capital puts them in a rarefied group. Data show that although black women are the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in the U.S., they receive only 0.2% of VC funding. The average startup founded by a black woman raises only $36,000 in venture funding, versus the $1.3 million the average failed startup led by a white man raises before going kaput.
“We really think we’re onto something here at Mented. Even though women of color have a difficult time raising money, if there’s an under-served market, investors attack it.” – KJ Miller
This $1 million round was led by early stage firm iSeed Ventures, with Built By Girls (BBG) Ventures and Outbound Ventures participating.