Almost ten years after being founded, Glossier has left its mark on the industry and started many conversations. The first beauty brand to spawn from social media and reach unicorn status, captured the hearts of millennials from its early days, and continues its ventures today in the hopes of having the same impact on a strong-minded Gen Z. Through extreme highs and a few lows, the business has worked to improve its services and products while remaining true to its defined values of “inclusivity, customer devotion, curiosity, and courageousness.”
In May 2022, founder of Glossier Emily Weiss stepped down as CEO, stating that she wanted to take more time to focus on serving as Glossier's founder. Former Nike executive Kyle Leahy became CEO, effective immediately. Almost a year later, Glossier is laying out plans for its brand refresh, which began with the promotions of former Senior Vice President of Global Marketing Kleo Mack to CMO; and Marie Suter, Senior Vice President and Executive Creative Director to Chief Creative Officer. The once online-only, direct-to-consumer brand is now stocked in Sephora and has recently opened several new permanent brick-and-mortar stores, including the reopening of its flagship in Soho.
With a mission to change how the world sees beauty, Glossier decided to return to the source, announcing its third annual grant program that will help the industry grow stronger from within. As part of the Grant Program for Black-Owned Beauty Businesses, Glossier committed $3000,000 to six businesses in the US, as well as doubling down on the mentorship it currently offers provided by Glossier team members. The news of the grant relaunch comes after it was revealed that in 2022, Black founders raised only 1% of all venture capital funding, a decrease from the 1.3% they raised in 2021. This occurred although Black consumers account for over 11% of the US beauty market, and contribute $6.6 billion in spending to the beauty market annually.
"We created our Grant Program for Black-Owned Beauty Businesses with the recognition of this inequity, and with the hope of changing our industry, where there's been a lasting legacy of exclusion and barriers to access with fundraising, mentorship, and more," a statement on the brand's website reads.
Since 2020, Glossier has partnered with 30+ founders from 26 beauty brands, providing them with total grant funding, curriculums, and mentorship for business programming. These brands include Range Beauty, Young King, and Luna Magic that have appeared on Shark Tank, and Skimdo, which won Allure's Best of Beauty Award. Brands involved in the grant program are given exclusive access to Glossier's entire network of venture capitalists, C-suite executives, and past grantees.
To be considered for the grant, businesses must be beauty brands with physical SKUs (no salons, service providers, or spas) and be able to outline the inspiration and purpose behind their business, as well as what differentiates them from the broader community and its business plan―including how the Glossier Grant Program will help to achieve these goals. Brands are also offered the chance to actively participate in four months of business development and programming classes. The six successful businesses will then be appointed a Glossier executive advisor and taught essential lessons from supply chain to product development and influencer marketing. They will also be given the opportunity to receive support from Glossier's community of partners, such as Shopify and Google.
"At the highest level, we believe Glossier is a transcendent brand, entering year nine of a 100-year journey. Our mission is to change how the world sees beauty. We view that through the brand that we build, our leadership team, the company culture we build, and our impact on the world. Our leadership evolution is integral, in terms of the trajectory of our brand and where we see it going for the next phase of its growth," comments CEO Kyle Leahy.
The grant program follows past controversy for Glossier, which saw many Gen Z fans take to social media to suggest boycotting the business after a slow response to claims of racism put forward by Glossier retail employees through the Instagram account @outofthegloss. Eventually, former CEO Emily Weiss released a statement on Instagram that addressed the issue: "It's become clear that we've failed to ensure that all voices are heard and protected within our internal community. Thank you to our former colleagues for holding us accountable—I am sorry we let you down. We are committed to building the future of Glossier retail and the future of Glossier around an equitable, inclusive, and anti-racist employee experience."
Shortly after the statement, the brand pledged $1 million to organizations fighting racial injustice and Black-owned beauty businesses, followed by the first grant program in September 2020. Since then, Gen Z has continued to voice its opinion of the brand, with many stating that these sorts of initiatives are the active change they wish to see. However, others have expressed their discontent, suggesting that such pledges are simply performative.
Regardless of one's viewpoint, Glossier's pledges and commitments to becoming more inclusive can only create opportunities for those previously left behind in beauty. With cancel culture occurring every day and the court of public opinion deciding what is acceptable, Glossier's decision to repeatedly commit to a BAME grant initiative is sure to be disputed. Still, it is ultimately a step in the right direction to make the industry inclusive as a whole.
"When I look to the future, it's about elevating our brand. It's about elevating our product and ensuring we're delivering quality innovation and efficacy with products that inspire our community. We're focused on bringing Glossier to more people, which is really where our omnichannel strategy comes into play, with opening more stores, entering into Sephora, and redesigning and elevating our website," adds Leahy.
The application window is open now through to April 11, 2023, with plans to expand the grant program to the UK Black beauty business in collaboration with Black Girl Fest next month.
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