Winnie Harlow has made history by being among some 100 Black female founders to have raised more than $1 million in venture capital funding. Harlow, a model, is the founder of the skincare brand, Cay Skin, and it is run by CEO Cass Devor, a beauty executive.
Ahead of Cay Skin’s launch last week, it raised a $4.1 million seed round in January. According to Fortune, this fundraise was relatively large for the skincare industry which recorded a median venture funding of $3.5 million for 2021.
“At first we were hearing a lot of ‘no’s,” Harlow told Fortune. “It was getting a little bit scary. I was remembering my start as a model, hearing all those ‘no’s in the beginning of my career. Persevering, continuing to push through, and saying, ‘I believe in this,’ and it comes to fruition—that was the same feeling I had with Cay.”
The latest round brought Harlow’s brand’s total funding to $6.5 million.
Harlow has vitiligo. The 27-year-old Jamaican-Canadian model first came into the limelight as a contestant on the 21st cycle of America’s Next Top Model in 2014. Born Chantelle Whitney Brown-Young, this fierce model dared to break into the fashion world by not allowing her skin condition to define her and her abilities.
Growing up, Harlow had to deal with taunts from her classmates and some shunned her because of her skin. She has since risen like a phoenix throughout her career and proven to everyone that no condition should stop them from living life to the fullest.
Harlow now focuses on inclusivity through her skincare line, which is creating sunscreen for Black skin.
“I wanted it to be representative of everyone under the sun, from light to dark,” she said. “Sun care is for everyone under the sun. It’s not just for girls who use products and it’s not just for little kids. So, I wanted this to be suitable to sit on my boyfriend’s countertop and for his aesthetic, and my countertop. And genderless and ageless.”
She added: “I really wanted to create something from scratch. It’s so easy to slap your name on a product, but this line has so much to do with me, from the ingredients to the packaging I’ve created. This is my brainchild. I did my own campaign, but I also had to cast other models, I had to book hair and makeup, and make sure that I got the right stylist and photographer. I’ve worn so many hats when it comes to Cay Skin.”