Sephora is teaming up with socially minded beauty entrepreneurs to make the world a more beautiful place.
At Sephora, changing the lives of women one lipstick tube at a time is all in a day’s work. But that’s not the extent of our empowerment efforts—not even a little bit. Through Sephora Accelerate, our newly launched program, we’re uniting with women entrepreneurs to help foster their businesses and the social impacts tied to their innovative ideas. From a makeup line that helps fund cancer treatments with every purchase to skincare that enriches the lives of women in Ghana, Sephora Accelerate has found real-life women making real-world change. The Sephora Glossy picked the brain of Sephora’s Head of Social Impact, Corrie Conrad, to get insight on why it’s important to foster women in business, how big names in the biz are getting involved, and how beauty can be used to make a difference. JESSICA VELEZ
How did Sephora Accelerate come to be, and what’s the overall goal for the program?
“With our Sephora Stands social impact programs, we seek to use the strengths of Sephora for even greater good in our world. One of the first things that struck me upon joining Sephora last year was our unique history of working with entrepreneurs. We have a strength there.
“In the late ’90s, when Sephora got its start in the US, many of the big beauty brands known at the time didn’t want to be sold in Sephora. Our innovative teams sought out new brands—often start-ups that no one had yet heard of—and worked with the entrepreneurs to grow those businesses. It helped them and it helped us. The model worked.
“With Sephora Accelerate, we aim to use that strength for even greater good by focusing specifically on female founders leading early-stage beauty businesses with a social impact. The goal of Sephora Accelerate is to build an ecosystem of support for more than 50 female founders of beauty businesses with a social impact by 2020. We’re dedicated to building a community of innovative female founders designing the future of beauty.”
Why does the program focus primarily on women?
“Prior to Sephora, I was working in tech, where women are very under-represented in leadership and at all other levels. That’s not the case here at Sephora, and it was a refreshing change. However, I soon realized it wasn’t the case across the beauty industry. Even in beauty, where most of the clients are women, female founders are still underrepresented. We have a unique opportunity to draw from our history of working with entrepreneurs to build a supportive community that can help change that by inspiring confidence and fearlessness among female founders.”
What’s the biggest struggle beauty entrepreneurs face, and how does Sephora Accelerate counter it?
“There’s been some great research done on the gender inequality—there are more men than women who are entrepreneurs. It’s hard to be an entrepreneur no matter what (I know, I’m married to one!), but the data shows it’s even harder for women entrepreneurs.
“Some of this could be due to what some researchers have called a ‘confidence gap,’ where studies have shown that women and men with similar qualifications will have very different levels of confidence in their abilities. The men will tend to be much more confident in their abilities than the women will be in theirs, even though they have comparable experience. Additionally, access to networks, mentorship, and funding all rise to the top as struggles that are even harder for women, since most of the existing channels are male dominated. Imagine pitching a beauty business idea to a panel of male venture capitalists who have never even been in a Sephora.
“To address these challenges, Sephora Accelerate is working to inspire confidence and build a community of support for female founders through hands-on learning, mentorship, and access to funding.”
Sephora Accelerate is under a bigger initiative called Sephora Stands. What’s your role with Sephora Stands, and what do you love about it?
“That’s right! Sephora Stands is the umbrella for all of our social impact work, including Sephora Accelerate. Specifically, through Sephora Stands, we aim to use the strengths of Sephora for even greater good by supporting women entrepreneurs, our communities, and our employees.
“I’m the Head of Social Impact for Sephora and I lead Sephora Stands. Right now, what I’m really enjoying is seeing the vision become a reality as all of our Sephora Stands programs are really getting going this year. I also love hearing the personal stories of how our work is helping people and touching lives both within and beyond Sephora. Several of our entrepreneurs shared that Sephora Accelerate is life-changing for them, and with our Classes for Confidence, we’re regularly hearing from colleagues in our stores that ‘This is why we do what we do.’ To me this reflects that using our strengths for great good not only helps others, but is also very motivating and inspiring internally.”
What were you pleasantly surprised to see unfold with this first Sephora Accelerate program?
“One of my hopes for the Sephora Accelerate boot camp was that it would mark the beginning of a special community. Each of these women is a founder and leader. They are visionaries and doers. They know best the many challenges they each face as entrepreneurs, and sometimes those challenges may seem insurmountable. I wanted them to know they were not alone, and to see them emerge with greater confidence in their own abilities. Over the course of the week, I was thrilled to see that community forming and confidence growing. It takes a lot of courage to be open and vulnerable, and these women are the bravest.”
The entrepreneurs each have their own social impact. How are they using beauty to make the world a better place?
“I truly believe we can change the world for the better through our work. We can build a supportive community for incredible entrepreneurs seeking to use their company’s strengths for even greater good. We can create a world where women lead as many businesses as men, where supply chains are transparent and all people earn a living wage, and where our planet is protected for future generations. Our Sephora Accelerate cohort of entrepreneurs shares this vision, and yes, each of their businesses has its own social impact.
“Eu’Genia Shea (@EuGenia_Shea) makes high-quality shea-based products with at least 95% pure shea content. Its fully transparent supply chain empowers women and their families in Ghana.
“GlossGenius (@glossgenius) is an innovative digital personal assistant for independent beauticians. Its mission is to empower the next generation of independent entrepreneurs in the beauty industry with powerful business management, client engagement, and marketing tools.
“Laxmi (@ByLaxmi) is a luxury skincare brand dedicated to prioritizing humanity. They formulate with pure, rare, and effective botanicals that work on your skin, and provide work for women around the world to end global poverty.
“Myavana (@MyavanaHair) is a data-driven social platform that offers personalized hair analysis, consultations, and product recommendations. Its social impact mission is to advance women in STEM fields through beauty with its STEM Hair Care Academy.
“One Love Organics (@OneLoveOrganics) creates certified organic and environmentally friendly skincare of the highest quality. It manufactures its own products and is one of only 10 ECOCERT-licensed manufacturers for natural and organic cosmetics in the US.
“Sahajan (@SahajanSkincare) creates ayurvedic-inspired, organic skincare—marrying the ancient traditions of Ayurveda with modern science. It’s exploring ways to promote wellness and mindfulness through Return to Ritual events.
“Stylerz (@StylerzMX) allows you to discover top beauty salons, spas, and barbers in Mexico, so you can book an appointment when and where you want from your smartphone or PC. It provides free courses to salon owners to learn the basics of digital marketing tools and works with salons to donate hair to cancer organizations.
“Thrive Causemetics (@ThriveCause) is beauty with a purpose, creating high-performance, vegan luxury cosmetics. For every product purchased, one is donated to a woman going through cancer treatment.”
How do the entrepreneurs embody fearlessness, a trait that’s part of the Sephora ethos?
“I’m inspired by each of these women. They each have an incredible story of courage as they stepped out to create their companies. As we sat around a table and shared some of our personal journey stories, I was struck by the common theme of perseverance in the face of adversity. These women have grit, determination, and passion. They may not always feel fearless, but they take bold steps forward in the face of their fears.”
What happens during the boot camp part of the program?
“During the boot camp we held a series of sessions, panels, and hands-on workshops. The cohort of entrepreneurs learned from Sephora’s experts, and we brought in OpenIDEO, the social innovation team at IDEO, to help design the boot camp content.
“One of my favorite parts of the week was having Pamela Baxter, former President and CEO of Dior and LVMH Perfumes and Cosmetics, as our expert in residence. The cohort lived together in a historic San Francisco mansion for the week, and Pamela stayed there with us. It was a blast.
“To see more of the fun from that week, check out our @SephoraStands Twitter and Instagram feeds, and follow the entrepreneurs, too!”
What comes after that?
“For the next few months the Sephora Accelerate cohort of entrepreneurs will have monthly check-ins with their mentors and a series of virtual sessions leading up to the Demo Day, which happens at the end of August. For Demo Day, all the entrepreneurs will return to San Francisco and present their progress to Sephora leadership for feedback.”