Jaé Joseph wants to bring “cultural integrity” to beauty investing.
Joseph is the cofounder of Black Apothecary Office, a new incubator for entrepreneurs of color in the beauty, wellness and tele-heath markets. Founded this year in the midst of the social justice movement, BAO has garnered interest from 100 brands and plans to work with five at a time.
Its acceleration program involves a three-month, remote educational course with exercises on branding, legal services, operations, financial literacy, sales, marketing and networking. At the end of the course, brands receive the opportunity to work with a third-party manufacturer and a seed investment from BAO, which is developing a fund to invest in 100 brand founders of color.
“Women of color have a unique relationship with beauty and wellness — it’s a social activity and a self-care indulgence,” Joseph told WWD. “It is not as transactional as the industry would like to think.”
In a statement, BAO cofounder and chief executive officer Brianna Wise said her role in the company “shows little girls who look like me that Black women can be leaders, building a culture where we are at the forefront of making decisions in the beauty and wellness industry.”
This year’s Pull Up for Change and #BuyBlack movements have raised awareness of the historical lack of opportunity granted to brand founders of color, especially Black and brown women entrepreneurs. Latinx and Black beauty consumers outspend their peers, but are underrepresented within corporations at all levels. They are also the least likely to receive venture capital.
“Mentorship has been increasingly linked to workplace diversity initiatives,” Joseph said. “It’s almost become a trend.”
Incubators and accelerators have a tendency to “mask” mentorship as “gatekeeping,” he continued.
“Mentors need to be critically aware of the power and control bestowed upon them and the potential tensions this role can generate,” he said. “This is particularly important when they are given the responsibility of deciding who should enter the profession and who will be excluded for good.”
BAO is looking to accelerate start-ups with a focus on mental health awareness, wellness, fitness, chronic conditions, supplemental medicine, weight loss management, prenatal and postnatal services, skin care, vitamins and education.
The company is partnering with Empower Us Agency, which aims to foster economic parity by giving Black entrepreneurs social and financial capital opportunities.
BAO is especially focused on restoring and preserving “cultural integrity” within the beauty industry by ensuring that consumers of color are authentically represented by the brands that market to them.
“A lot of big companies make Black and brown consumers feel as though they’re getting something profound or sustainable by placing a Black face on the front,” Joseph said. “Instead, they’re just getting merchandise.”
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