Sephora Relaunches Its Incubator Program for BIPOC Prestige Beauty Brands
Sephora relaunches accelerator program with 8 selected BIPOC beauty brands, who will participate in the retailer’s 2021 Accelerate incubator program, which for the first time ever features a cohort comprised exclusively of founders of color. Now in its sixth year, the evolution of the program – which has previously focused on cultivating an international community of female beauty founders and supported the launch of more than 50 women-owned brands – reflects Sephora’s commitment to increasing BIPOC representation in prestige beauty and on Sephora shelves.
“Last year, we made a commitment to dedicate fifteen percent of Sephora’s assortment to Black-owned brands, and we quickly realized the role that our Accelerate program could play in not only helping us to reach that goal, but to set these brands up for long-term success and growth,” said Artemis Patrick, Sephora’s Executive Vice President and Global Chief Merchandising Officer. “The goal of this program has long been to provide meaningful, ongoing support for growing brands, and that is exactly what we’re aiming to deliver to our 2021 Accelerate cohort. Each of the eight participating founders is inspiring in their own right, and we believe wholeheartedly in their potential at Sephora; we are so excited to help shape their futures and to ultimately introduce these brands to our clients.”
In addition to months of Sephora-led curriculum and intensive support, this year’s program also features coveted mentorship from industry veterans, feedback and exposure to leading investment firms and venture capitalists. Taken together, these establish Sephora’s commitment to not only creating a program that educates, but also building a pipeline of support that promotes the long-term success of these brands at Sephora, and for the betterment of the industry at large. Upon completion of the program, all participating brands will launch at Sephora, putting the prestige omni-retailer on track to double its assortment of Black-owned brands by the end of 2021.
Adding elevated expertise and leadership to the Accelerate experience, Sephora has engaged a number of experts in their respective fields to share their knowledge and guidance with program participants, including, but not limited to:
- ADVISORS: Brand founders, Nancy Twine (Briogeo) and Vicky Tsai (Tatcha), in addition to investors, Janet Gurwitch (Advent International) and Alissa Williams (VMG).
- Additional friends of the program include: Julian Addo (Adwoa), Maeva Heim (Bread Beauty Supply), Mazdack Rassi (Milk Makeup), Amy Liu (Tower28), Aurora James (Brother Vellies), Josh McDowell (Main Post), Alisa Won (Sideman), Hadley Mulin (TSG), David Chung (iLabs), Nikki Walton, April Reign and other surprise guests.
The Sephora Accelerate program focuses on providing a robust curriculum, mentorship, merchandising support, potential funding, and investor connections to participants. Key milestones for this year’s program, which will take place virtually, include:
- ORIENTATION: To kick off the program, participants will be onboarded into the Sephora ecosystem, including forming relationships with their merchant sponsors, and hearing from brand visionaries Vicky Tsai of Tatcha and Nancy Twine of Briogeo about brand building, financial best practices and their journeys as founders.
- BOOTCAMP: Founders will complete a rigorous week of internal and external curriculum focused on setting up their brand for long-term success. This will include intensive workshops across all areas of Sephora’s expertise, including but not limited to, marketing, omni strategy, product development, investment strategy, media relations, supply chain & operations, inventory planning and much more.
- PRESENTATION PLANNING: Following Bootcamp, founders will continue to partner with their merchant sponsors to ready their businesses for launch and begin preparation for Pitch Day.
- PITCH DAY & GRADUATION: At the end of May, each brand founder will give a formal presentation to a group of industry experts, investors, and senior-level Sephora leaders in an effort to unlock investment and scale their brand. Pitch Day will be followed by a Graduation celebration for all eight brands and their merchant sponsors.
Meet the 2021 Sephora Accelerate Cohort, demonstrating leadership in beauty:
- Christina Funke Tegbe, Founder, 54 Thrones
54 Thrones is a natural, authentic and thoughtful beauty brand that celebrates and elevates African beauty rituals. The brand offers face and body products with African-grown, pure, and organic plant botanicals blended to protect, soothe and nourish your skin.
- Marie Kouadio Amouzame, Co-Founder, and Alice Lin Glover, Co-Founder, EADEM
Eadem is a beauty brand pioneering Smart Melanin Beauty — our products combine science-backed ingredients and heritage botanicals to effectively and gently care for skin of color.
- Alisia Michelle Ford, Founder & CEO, Glory
Glory is a skin care brand focused on clean targeted treatments formulated for melanin-rich skin from head to toe.
- Desiree Verdejo, Founder & CEO, Hyper Skin
Hyper Skin is a hyper-targeted skincare brand rooted in multiculturalism. The first issue that they are tackling is dark spots and discoloration on all skin tones and enhancing glow.
- Nia Wellman, Founder, Imania Beauty
Designed for textured tresses, with a scalp first approach, Imania Beauty is a hemp and wellness-conscious brand. They believe that caring for your hair should be both simplistic and nourishing.
- Priyanka Ganjoo, Founder, Kulfi Beauty
Kulfi brings celebration into beauty with fun and approachable products designed around South Asian skin tones and undertones. They are challenging toxic beauty standards in South Asian culture defined by Eurocentric ideals and patriarchy.
- Megan Graham, Founder, ries
Bringing luxury, function and convenience to the travel-beauty and toiletries market, ries offers reusable, leak-proof, TSA-friendly travel containers made of biodegradable material.
- Olamide Olowe, Founder & CEO, Topicals
Topicals is a beauty brand celebrating the fun of flare-ups with effective skincare and mental health advocacy.
All 2021 participants applied to the program in Fall 2020. Eligible applicants were required to be at least 18 years old, have a US-incorporated company, and be in the early stages of development (i.e., not yet widely distributed by others). In selecting finalists, Sephora also took into account each brand’s vision, innovation, and current stage of product developments.
To learn more, please visit sephoraaccelerate.com.
I have 15 years of experience in the retail industry including expertise in marketing, operations, merchandising, buying, shopping and technology. I am a speaker, consultant and former senior managing director of The School of Retailing, University of Alberta. My education includes a Bachelor of Commerce Degree from The University of Alberta in Marketing, Certificate in Real Estate and a Diploma in Fashion Merchandising and Buying from LasSalle College, a Canadian private school founded in 1959 by fashion designer Jean-Paul Morin.