Photo: Maiysha Kai

This is not a product review.

At least, it’s not a product review in my standard Big Beauty Tuesday format. Frankly, since I recently returned to my home office (also known as TGU headquarters) after weeks away, I haven’t really had time to properly dig into the new products awaiting me upon arrival—and I like to give my brands adequate attention (so stay tuned).

But in the meantime, this is a love letter to striving and thriving beauty entrepreneurs, as well as a primer for the aspiring ones in our midst.

In the past three months that I’ve committed to using and reviewing almost exclusively black-owned products—which have primarily come from small, female-owned businesses—I’ve talked a lot about products, but rarely about presentation. Since The Glow Up is as much about inspiring and informing the next generation of black beauty entrepreneurs as supporting current ones, honest feedback seems information worth sharing, and I’ve certainly received more than a few requests for it.

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Think Outside (& Inside) the Box

Returning home last week to packages from Shea Radiance, Prime Beauty and online beauty boutique Coil Beauty, I found myself unexpectedly tickled upon opening each box—and no, not just because there were goodies inside.

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There was such clear intention put into those first impressions: from the fun-yet-protective packaging to the branding and labeling. Without fail, this has been one of the first tipsoffs in distinguishing those brands that are ready for prime time from those that should still be beta-testing—and for good reason. After production, packaging is the most expensive part of any entrepreneur’s journey, and quality costs.

But it does pay off: Even fairly simple, clean design can make a huge impact; like Shea Radiance, which is on brand with its botanically inspired, well-designed labeling, and otherwise lets its products speak for themselves (though it’s only been a few days, they’re already speaking to me, but more on that to come). Investing in visually impactful, professional-looking branding instinctively instills trust in customers—and that’s half the battle.

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Don’t Hold Back

We’ve all heard the phrase “fake it ’til you make it.” For entrepreneurs, that also often translates to “spend it to earn it” and “give some to get some.”

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I’m always amazed by how many products I’ve been asked to review and endorse sight unseen, let alone experienced. And, yes, there is a dramatic difference in the care and attention I pay to brands who send me products, as opposed to simply telling me about them. Those are just the facts.

That’s not a greed grab, since at this point, I’m short on storage space. But if you’re attempting to enter the beauty world, it’s good business to never lose sight of how deeply personal beauty is.

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Prospective clients need to sample, experiment and play with your products—and even to mix and match, if possible. Think about it: That’s why the Sephora model works. It gets potential clients hooked before they leave the physical store.

It’s an advantage most small brands don’t have, meaning they’re instead dependent on word of mouth, meager marketing budgets, and members of the press, like me—which means a little product can go a long way.

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Take our friends at Prime Beauty, who sent me not one, but three, of their black girl-friendly “brownzers” to try out. No, not all of them are perfectly suited for my skin tone—but so much the better, since I can now form my own focus group of fellow brown-skinned girls to get feedback from across the spectrum.

This is the type of foresight and thoughtfulness I’m talking about when building a brand: In sending a variety of products to one reviewer, they’ve potentially garnered multiple new fans.

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Easy Does It

On the subject of earning new fans: Staying current generally translates to staying in business—and these days, convenience is key.

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The easier it is for me to discover and try out your product, the more likely I am to fall in love with it. One-stop shopping? Even better.

While it may not be everyone’s ideal business model, online beauty boutiques—especially those curated for clientele of color—make it easier to reach a broader base as it’s easier for us to find products we might not otherwise encounter.

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And while entry to these marketplaces isn’t guaranteed or even easy, the process and feedback can also provide an opportunity to up a company’s game, as quality, product and presentation all have to be on point before it sells through these third parties.

Case in point? Coil Beauty’s a “made for shade” boutique I’d yet to try, but became an instant fan after receiving a curated box of goodies from its array of brands, which include Girl + Hair, Camille Rose, Scotch Porter, Soultanicals, Pear Nova and more.

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Any entrepreneur knows it’s essential to have it all in the bag. Having it all in the box? Even better.

Photo: Maiysha Kai

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Take It Personally

Remember when I said beauty is personal? One thing I’ve really appreciated from almost every beauty brand I’ve sampled in the past few months is a personal touch; generally in the form of a handwritten note or advice specifically tailored to the products and included for my convenience.

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It’s the equivalent of the handwritten thank-you notes many of our mothers and mentors always urged us to send. It tells the recipient you value their business, feedback and comfort while using your products—and I always smile when I see one.

And while I’ve shouted out a few specific black-owned brands I think are doing things right on this Big Beauty Tuesday, I could easily shout out a dozen more I’ve encountered over the past few months (Marjani Beauty, Heat-Free Hair, and Thank God It’s Natural instantly come to mind).

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Collectively, they’re helping me prove the point that our brands possess as much (or better) quality, service and polish as any other, and I simply can’t help wanting to see more. (And, yes, that’s a greed grab.)

And, so, I say this with love, melanin and perhaps an implied comma: Black beauty entrepreneurs do it better.