Mented Cosmetics, a multimillion dollar business, was co-founded by KJ Miller. After struggling to locate beauty products that were appropriate for her skin, she and her friend—a fellow Harvard Business School alum—started their company in 2017.
Mented Cosmetics was founded in part to create truly inclusive beauty. She started out by sending links to her buddy Amanda Johnson so she could watch YouTube videos.
“I sent the link to Amanda and said, ‘We gotta do this; we’ve got to teach ourselves to make lipstick because we don’t want to pay all this money,’” she told Refinery29. The two first started nude lipsticks by hand in their apartments, precisely their kitchens, and later launched Mented Cosmetics, which has a specific focus: a makeup line for women of colour.
“Mented is short for pigmented,” Miller told 6abc. “We specialize in premium beauty for women of colour. We do really celebrate and prioritize women of colour because historically, we’ve been the ones who have been left out of the beauty industry.”
After five years, Mented Cosmetics has become a multi-million dollar business, forcing Miller to relocate the company from its prior location in New York to Philadelphia. Additionally, the business has secured $4 million in venture money.
Miller studied at Harvard, worked in retail buying and consulting, and tested out a couple other business concepts before founding Mented. She was hired as an analyst in a trial project to turn around a significant chain of department stores.
“What I quickly realized was that the role had not been well-defined, no one in the organization really knew what it was, and I wasn’t in the best position to learn about retail,” she said.
She later pivoted into the fashion jewellery team as an assistant buyer. Two years later, she became the head buyer for a mid-size e-commerce company, prompting people to question her judgement.
“They were like, ‘You’re a buyer at a multi-billion-dollar company, now you’re moving to this small e-commerce company most people have never heard of. What are you doing?’ For me, it made perfect sense because I was a small fish in a big pond, now I’m a big fish in a small pond,” Miller said.
It was at this point that Miller decided it was time to start his own business. In addition to starting a few enterprises, she enrolled in Harvard Business School. She began by operating a mobile hair salon with hair extensions for Black ladies.
Later, she ran across Johnson, her co-founder. Along with becoming great friends, the two collaborated on a few scholastic projects. Later, their friendship expanded beyond academic endeavors and into the world of business, giving rise to Mented Cosmetics. In addition to lipstick, the firm now offers nail polish, an eyeshadow palette, a contour/concealer stick, and other cosmetics.
Mented Cosmetics is available online, at hundreds of Target locations, and in more than 500 Ulta Beauty locations. Additionally, goods are available on HSN, QVC, and Amazon.com. Recently, the business secured $4 million in venture money.