The Nitty Gritty:
- How Amanda and KJ turned their passion for beauty — and their frustration with a lack of diverse color palettes — into a brand-new business in a saturated market.
- Why they were part of the product formulation process every step of the way.
- How they established Mented as a trusted brand — even before launching products — by building relationships with YouTube and Instagram influencers.
- Why talking with customers pushed Amanda and KJ to not only offer Mented cosmetics online, but in person, too.
- How Mented grows organically today by celebrating and prioritizing women of color.
Today on Profit. Power. Pursuit., I chat with Amanda E. Johnson and KJ Miller of Mented Cosmetics, an everyday beauty brand for women of color. What started it all? Searching for the perfect shade of nude lipstick. Disappointed by palette options, KJ and Amanda took matters into their own hands — mixing and pouring — in their own kitchen.
While KJ and Amanda no longer hand pour Mented lipsticks, they’re still a part of product development every step of the way. Hear how their journey started when the two attended Harvard Business School, where they’re at now, and where Mented is heading in 2018.
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On standing out in a saturated market
We’re creating an everyday beauty brand for women of color. That truly is unique. If you look at some of our peers, so many of those brands are trend focused — the glitter, the unicorn, the galaxy. What was missing in the market — and what we would argue is still missing — is a brand that’s focused on the everyday, foundational, basic beauty needs of women of color. And that’s where we think Mented will continue to win.
— KJ Miller
The marketplace is crowded — so how do you stand out? Amanda and KJ decided, early on, that focusing exclusively on everyday beauty for women of color was how they’d claim their space in a crowded market.
Their own frustrations and disappointment with trying to find beauty products that worked for them started it all. For years, Amanda searched for a nude lip color — and she just couldn’t find the right shade. Her search uncovered an untapped market — and the pair decided to solve their own problem.
On product development
Once we found a great manufacturer who was willing to work with us on a smaller scale, the process began of creating the stable formula. We probably spent 3 or 4 full days in the lab, not only working to shade match but working to create a formula that both of us loved.
— KJ Miller
A clear mission leads the way to a powerful product. Although KJ and Amanda tested different colors in their own kitchen, they knew they needed to work with a manufacturer to create a stable product that they — and their customers — would love.
On word-of-mouth marketing
We’ve said from the very beginning that Mented is about prioritizing and celebrating women of color — and because that’s been our message from the very beginning, it’s resonated and women have felt celebrated and prioritized. As a result of that, they’ve been excited to share with their friends and family.
— KJ Miller
Working with YouTube and Instagram influencers naturally drummed up talk about Mented — and now, word-of-mouth marketing is a large aspect of Mented’s marketing success. But you can’t pay for word-of-mouth marketing — so how do you get people to share your product or service with their networks and communities?
For KJ and Amanda, it ties back to their mission of celebrating — and prioritizing — women of color. No other beauty brand has done that — until now. And that commitment shines through everything they do — from the way they communicate their brand values to how they treat their customers.
Listen to the full episode with Mented founders Amanda Johnson and KJ Miller to hear more about how to use your own dissatisfaction to start your own company, how to break into a saturated industry, and how to celebrate (and listen to) your customers to give them a product they want to share with others.
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