Two things led Melissa Butler to become an entrepreneur: She hated her Wall Street job; and as a Black woman, she couldn’t find lipstick that complemented her skin tone. “Growing up, I never saw people who looked like me and were considered beautiful,” she says. “As I got older, I started understanding how the beauty industry perpetuates this B.S., linear idea of beauty.” So Butler set out to create a better beauty brand, offering vegan, cruelty-free lipsticks in bold shades like purple and green. She had no idea what she was doing—but naivete served her well, forcing her to take risks when she had no other option. Today, thanks to relentless hard work (and a little bit of stalking), The Lip Bar is an eight-year-old brand with $2 million in funding and shelf space at Target. Here’s how she built it.
1/ Ask questions— and get answers.
Butler started by reading books on cosmetic chemistry, and when she needed more details, she went straight to the experts. “I was literally stalking cosmetic chemists on LinkedIn,” she says. “I’d ask them about very specific problems I had, rather than for general advice. When I made it easy for them to give me a direct response, I got specific feedback.”
2/ Get cooking.
Butler spent a year (and $6,000) experimenting with lipstick formulas in her kitchen, working all night after her Wall Str