A new competition for budding beauty entrepreneurs launches tomorrow in the hope of bringing more inclusivity to the beauty industry. Spearheaded by beauty giant Avon, the Beauty in Colour Start Up competition will be open to women of colour across the UK who are being encouraged to put forward product ideas, formulas, or beauty business proposals.
Participants will be competing for a £20,000 grant, mentoring and the chance to develop and distribute their product exclusively with Avon, while two runners-up will be enrolled onto a bespoke mentorship programme to support product and business development.
In collaboration with guest judges, journalist and business owner Ateh Jewel, beauty expert Nilam Holmes and CEO of the British Beauty Council Millie Kendall MBE, Avon's new initiative seeks to diversify the sector and confront the existing barriers faced by women of colour in two folds; through the creation of accessible products and opening up career pathways.
"This is all about giving people a chance, an opportunity," says Ateh Jewel. "I've been told throughout my career 'black doesn't sell, there is no market', I've had 20 years of being told 'no, this is not for you and be grateful the status quo', but what Avon is doing here is evening the playing field and giving someone a chance who has probably been told 'no' a lot."
While it may seem the industry has made significant strides in addressing matters of inclusivity; brands are making a conscious effort to release expansive shade ranges, beauty aisles are stocked with products catering to wider racial demographics and we are celebrating the visible sweeping successes of black beauty businesswomen like Rihanna and Pat McGrath (to name a few), there is still much work to be done.
"My children and I still struggle in terms of visibility. I'm 42 and I still get very excited when I see someone with dark skin in a beauty or fashion advert - that's sad. There are still many issues around colourism and microagressions, which people are just beginning to wake up to," Ateh adds.
Much of the progress we have seen in recent times tackles the issue from a consumer perspective - yes, those from BAME backgrounds may now be able to frequent beauty departments and find a foundation match that they can just about get away with - but what is happening behind the scenes presents an entirely different problem.
Research released this summer from UK think tanks indicates that despite black employees having more career aspirations than their white colleagues, 33 percent feel their ethnicity will be a barrier to their next career move, compared to only 1 percent of white employees.
James Thompson, Avon’s Head of Brand, Categories and Stores, states: “Avon celebrates beauty in all forms; we believe that all skin tones, sizes and ages are beautiful. However, we are aware there is room for greater inclusivity across the industry with regard to product ranges, ensuring our marketing reflects who our customers are, and most importantly in creating pathways into the industry for women of different backgrounds, colours and ages."
Millie Kendall adds, “We need to open up the doors and welcome more people into the beauty industry; as much as they may need our support, we also need their innovation, skills and passion."