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3 Lessons from a Diversity Breakthrough in Cosmetics

One of my favorite podcasts these past 4+ years is "How I Built This with Guy Raz." It helped fuel my entrepreneurial fire as I was looking to exit broadcast journalism in 2018. Every entrepreneur has unique components of their story that look different than ours. There are also business lessons we can learn from each of those unique stories.

Melissa Butler is the founder of The Lip Bar, an all natural lipstick brand inspired by her love for all-natural bars of soap. She has made major waves in the cosmetics industry, which is historically very hard to break into. She's a proud black woman who brought tenacity and a few key moves that led to her breakthrough.

Here are 3 lessons that stood out to me from Melissa's story:

  1. Focus Messaging on Audience's Outcomes: I love the story of how Melissa got Target to carry her lipsticks. It highlights the fact that your story needs to be told differently to different audiences. It's not a different story, you just tell the same story differently. Melissa had no connection to any buyers at retail stores, so she started searching LinkedIn for "Target buyer," "cosmetics buyer," etc. Melissa emailed one Target buyer and focused primarily on what The Lip Bar could do for Target, rather than what Target could do for them. Brilliant! She told her story, but she highlighted that her customers aren't shopping at Target for makeup. Carrying The Lip Bar products would attract new customers to Target, and make that buyer who brought in the Lip Bar products a HERO! This is a point that is often overlooked by most businesses...yes, mine as well at times. You need to customize your story to your specific audience's world. Make them the Hero! This is why salespeople and organizations use our Instant Clarity online course and workshops. The process gives you a framework to work through for each of your unique audiences so that they want to engage with you. Target is a strategic business partner, not a customer who needs/wants lipstick. Remember, Melissa didn't sell Target by just listing out her product details, quality, etc. She sold Target because she helped them see how she could help them become a hero.

  2. Creative Collaboration: Before the Target breakthrough, when she was just getting the business going, Melissa decided take the makeup counter directly to customers. Her ex-boyfriend helped convert a shuttle buss into The Lip Bar Truck. They took it on a tour and quickly learned she needed a permit to park it on the street. So, then she had the idea to partner with stores in different cities to park the truck in front. BINGO! Her most successful partnership was when Urban Outfitters in Washington D.C.'s Georgetown neighborhood hosted the Lip Bar Truck for a day. That is creating a WIN-WIN-WIN. Urban Outfitters and the other stores benefited by having the flashy truck attract people in with a product (lipstick) that didn't compete with their offerings. Customers of those stores benefited by being introduced to a new product. And Melissa and The Lip Bar clearly benefitted. That is creative collaboration. Instead of "how can I get more of the pie," the thought is "how can we together build a bigger pie that feeds us all more!"

  3. Your Story + Excellence = Results: Melissa has a great story and prominently displays that The Lip Bar is a black owned business. She ultimately, however, doesn't expect or want that to be why her business is successful. In the podcast she said, "As a black business owner I don't want you to support my business. I want you to shop my products because we make it easy for you to understand what products work for your complexion, not because you feel bad about something. Our goal is to have lifetime value with our customer, and a more than transactional relationship with our customer." Boom, mic drop.



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