The Just-Announced Clean Beauty Summer School Aims To Help Grow Black-Owned Businesses

Courtesy of Tower 28

Ten Black entrepreneurs will get the chance to present their product to a panel of industry veterans — including Sephora and Ulta Beauty buyers — as part of the just-announced Clean Beauty Summer School initiative, spearheaded by Tower 28. The program, accepting applications now through July 15, will offer the winning brand a $10,000 grant from the New Voices Foundation.

The idea came to Tower 28 founder and CEO Amy Liu by way of a follower who emailed her asking whether the toxin-free makeup company planned to provide grants to aspiring Black-owned beauty businesses. In June, Glossier announced a similar initiative in which the brand matched its $500,000 donation to social justice groups with a series of $10,000, $30,000, and $50,000 benefactions. And while Liu said Tower 28, a small brand itself, wasn't in a position to "make a meaningful monetary contribution," she replied with an offer of perhaps equal value instead.

"I realized that what I do have to offer to Black beauty entrepreneurs is my time, resources, and knowledge in an effort to help accelerate their businesses," she told The Zoe Report over email, calling it a "lightbulb moment." And so the first-ever Clean Beauty Summer School was born.

The 10 finalists who are selected from the applicant pool on July 15 will attend a 10-session course throughout August and September. The curriculum includes lessons in manufacturing, fundraising, marketing, financial planning, pitching, and more, all taught over Zoom by industry veterans like co-founder and COO of Credo Beauty Annie Jackson, Sephora Director of Merchandising Averyl Andrews, founder and CEO of Āether Beauty Tiila Abbitt, as well as Liu herself.

The program was built on four pillars: education, network, mentorship, and opportunity — "advantages that are not readily available for everyone," a press release from Tower 28 said. According to Liu, "the mentors came up with one focus they feel is their 'special sauce,' and this brainstorm session helped guide the 'syllabus' of the courses."

In order to qualify for Tower 28's summer school, beauty brands must be Black-owned, focused on clean and/or sustainable products (or at least working towards it — "we don't have specific definitions to abide by; we just want to encourage progress towards clean formulations, sustainable packaging, and social good in general," Liu says), and must have three employees or fewer.

The grand finale of the program is Pitch Day, when each finalist will present their product to a panel of judges, including Glossy editor Priya Rao, Sephora and Ulta Beauty buyers, and other potential investors from Wander Beauty and VMG Partners. Celebrity makeup artist Jamie Greenberg will moderate Pitch Day and Briogeo founder Nancy Twine will deliver the keynote speech.

The winner will be awarded with a $10,000 grant from the New Voices Foundation, an organization that supports women of color entrepreneurs. Those interested may sign up for Clean Beauty Summer School at Tower28Beauty.com.