The Lip Bar: Natural Beauty With An Edge
Posted On Feb 02, 2016
Melissa Butler, a Detroit native and Florida A&M University graduate set out to challenge the typical standard of beauty. In a society where the traditional form of elegance is extremely limited and one dimensional not many, if any cosmetic entrepreneurs or brands were willing to step outside of the societal norm by redefining the beauty landscape. What many may have considered to be intangible or unimaginable, this maven proved that with a firm belief, passion and vision matched with the willfulness to succeed, it would soon pay off and mark the beginning of the phenomena of The Lip Bar beauty brand.
In what was undeniably a risky move, Butler abandoned her corporate career on Wall Street to tackle the unknown of becoming a cosmetic chemist and launch a start-up beauty brand. Fast forward to present day, and the risk proved to be worthwhile, reaching soaring heights to grace the pages of Essence and Cosmopolitan Magazines, recognition in the New York Times and Huffington Post and not to mention featured appearances on nationally syndicated television shows (Bethenny and Shark Tank).
I had an opportunity to chat with my fellow Rattler [Current and former members of the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical student body] about the trials and triumphs of entrepreneurship, the uniqueness of the brand, her unforgettable appearance on the hit show ABC’s Shark Tank, plus so much more.
Melissa Butler: It’s very interesting because often times people who ask this question have already formulated a specific idea or mindset. My journey with The Lip Bar has been completely different from most beauty brands that have been established. I honestly never consumed myself with makeup or grew up having a want or need to play with lipstick or cosmetics. I founded The Lip Bar stemming from more of a frustration for makeup than a love for it [makeup]. At the time, I wanted to engulf myself in a healthier, organic space because through my continued research I learned a wealth of information pertaining to genetically modified foods and chemicals we ultimately consume on a daily basis.
I did not want to expose or subject myself to unnecessary toxins and chemicals, therefore, I insisted on taking a more natural approach to my own lifestyle. I stopped eating chicken and turkey as well as began creating and using natural hair and skincare products such as soap and body butters. I noticed that locating natural hair and skincare items were extremely easy. On the other hand, finding a lipstick paired with a more organic approach was difficult to find on the market.
During this time, being a 23 or 24-year-old I wanted to wear bold, vibrant colors that were still natural. As a solution, I began formulating lipstick in my very own kitchen because my belief was that beauty should not have to compromise your health. I still wholeheartedly believe that in order to have a super fun lipstick I shouldn’t have to utilize all of the unnecessary chemicals that come along with it. For me, it’s always been less about the product and more about my belief because essentially everything that was being offered by cosmetic companies were only available in a narrow range of hues. As a woman of color, the difficulties for me to find a basic nude lipstick to match my complexion, not to mention out of the box colors was very frustrating. At the end of the day, I set out to establish my brand because I believed in challenging the current standard of beauty.
NY: What’s been the hardest barrier to overcome in terms of establishing your business and making the transition from corporate America to entrepreneurship?
MB: My biggest challenge was understanding that first, you absolutely can’t do everything by yourself, regardless of how hard you try, it’s literally impossible. At several points throughout my tenure at The Lip Bar, I’ve worn many hats and the reality is I’ve had to take a step back in order to move forward and ask myself, “Melissa, what is your expertise?” “What are you really, truly good at?” and “What should you outsource?” I’m an Aries, a fire sign and because of this I’m very aggressive and I like being very independent but in terms of running a startup, it’s virtually impossible to be independent. You’re actually the complete opposite because you definitely have to be independently dependent on a variety of things that are completely outside of your control.
NY: Were there any doubts in pursuing entrepreneurship and establishing your very own beauty brand?
MB: I would have to answer both yes and no. I have never doubted my ability to get the job done because I’ve never once looked at failure as an option. I also say that with a grain of salt because I am not afraid of failure. I realize failure can happen and if failure happens I know it is not the worst thing in the world because I am very confident that I can pick myself up by my bootstraps. Initially, running a business that you do not know anything about can be intimidating but it was never a matter of “I can’t do this” because I’ve always, truly believed in the purpose of the brand.
NY: How does being a beauty entrepreneur affect your dating life?
MB: In the beginning it was extremely difficult but as of lately it’s actually very interesting because I truly believe in the Law of Attraction. Since I’ve started The Lip Bar, I have really only dated other entrepreneurs and it’s not because I personally seek them out. In that regard, I’ve been fortunate to date others who just get it. They are rooting for me and understand the entrepreneurial struggle but right now, I’m single and working on it.
NY: Your company previously appeared on Shark Tank. What was some of the feedback provided by the panel?
MB: When the episode finally aired the segment centrally focused on what would would be considered great for T.V. Their feedback included telling us that our products were a waste of time because there was not a market for bright colors or out of the box lip shades. They also stated the larger cosmetic companies would crush us and we had to tell ourselves, that their feedback was not the end all and be all because they did not understand the market [and that’s OK]. There is definitely a proven market for it because MAC Cosmetics which is owned by Estee Lauder has produced a bold blue lip color.
NY: Did their comments encourage or discourage you from continuing to move forward with your personal aspirations for your brand? In what ways?
MB: They 100 percent wanted to discourage us from continuing our journey. At the time when we filmed the show, we did not have our mobile truck but they assured us it was a terrible idea! Luckily I was very strong-willed because I knew this was a wonderful idea to continue to move forward with. The Lip Bar truck which is similar to a food truck except it is for cosmetics is an interactive experience. It was our way of ensuring that we had complete control of our distribution channels and total control when consumers wanted to access products because trying on various lip shades is a very intimate experience and should be treated as such with one on one interaction.
The Shark Tank judges urged us not to move forward with it but we still moved forward with our original plans despite their feedback. The support has been great and everyone believes it is [The Lip Bar truck] the coolest thing ever! This is why it is important to believe in what you are doing because no one can discourage you and that’s exactly what Shark Tank tried to do.
If you’re ready to challenge the traditional beauty standard, online retailers such as Forever21.com and Nastygal.com carry a small assortment of The Lip Bar products. Staying true to the mantra of women empowerment, The Lip Bar insists now’s the time to “have a toast to life, a toast to love and a toast to beauty!” My fellow New Yorkers be sure to check out Ricky’s SoHo, Union Square and Astoria locations as well as Ricky’s in Miami where The Lip Bar products are exclusively sold.
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