“I’m the woman who doesn’t believe in No. I’m a fighter, a thought leader, a beauty advocate and expert, a risk taker, an HBCU grad and a business maven”
Lip Bar Founder Melissa Butler is out to challenge beauty standards, strongly advocating for inclusion, diversity and representation.
A fighter and a rebel right from time, the Detroit native, frustrated by the lack of diversity, limited range of colours and an influx of chemical filled cosmetics, in 2012, leveraging on her background in chemistry, launched her vegan lipstick brand, The Lip Bar, in her kitchen while working on Wall Street.
She made $27,000 in her first year of sales. In 2015 she decided to launch full by taking her idea to the award-winning ABC business reality tv show – Shark Tank with a pitch for her beauty brand, but things didn’t go as expected and she faced brutal rejection from all judges who dubbed the lipsticks “unmarketable.”
Looking back at facing that rejection, Butler stated in an interview with The Detroit News, “Honestly, they were very cruel. But it worked out in the end because we got tons of exposure.”
On what her Shark Tank experience taught her about herself and her business?
“Be open to failure and receiving advice. Be open to learning. But also, be confident in your ability to move the ship in the right direction. If you aren’t confident, those moments of resistance will eat you alive. Shark Tank taught me a lot; it taught me that I was stronger than I thought and to focus on my North Star. It proved to me that I wouldn’t let anything get in my way of changing the way women think about beauty. So listen and learn in those moments of doubt but keep pushing forward. People are always going to have opinions and in today’s world with social forums, comments, etc., people are going to share their thoughts. Feedback is a blessing and a curse because it can be hurtful but that’s where growth happens, for you and for the company or product. To this day I always follow my instinct and my advice would be for young entrepreneurs to do the same, but be open to an unbiased outside opinion.”
Dusting herself up, via LinkedIn she began searching for potential corporate buyers, and eventually made a connection with a buyer at Target. As of 2018, The Lip Bar is in stock at several hundred Target stores in the United States. Today, The Lip Bar is noted as a pioneer on beauty and inclusion and the company is now sold in Target and Walmart stores.
Butler has been featured by INC Magazine, Forbes, Women’s Wear Daily, Entrepreneur, Allure, Essence and more. Melissa’s passion for beauty and business led her to give a Ted Talk on the intersection of beauty and culture in 2018.