Millions of people got to know Melissa Butler and her business, The Lip Bar, on a 2015 episode of reality TV show Shark Tank.
After pitching the “sharks,” a group of millionaire and billionaire investors, her line of vegan and cruelty-free lipsticks in nontraditional and highly pigmented shades was rejected. Not so surprisingly, there were no female investors of color on the panel who could understand the appeal or see the market.
There was, however, a consumer base yearning for quality, well-priced lipsticks in vibrant pinks and shocking teals.
“Indian women have no representation,” Butler says. “Asian woman have little representation [outside of] Korean skincare. Brands are having to react.”
The company, whose products cost $14 or less, went from making $260,000 in revenue in 2015 to $479,000 in revenue in 2017, says Butler.
The exposure from the show didn’t hurt, either. She says she had 120,000 page views on her website the night her episode aired.
Now, the Detroit-based company is on track to quadruple its revenue in the next year as its products are on shelves at 44 Target stores across the country.
She says she wanted her products, which are available in 36 colors and formulas in addition to seasonal colors, to compete with MAC in quality but at a more affordable price point.
Although Butler is working full-time as the company’s CEO, it wasn’t always that way. In fact, she was working at financial services firm Barclays for four years while toiling away at her business.
“I felt very unsatisfied at work,” Butler says. “I was dealing with dynamic work but then transitioned to mundane work.”
It became all about collecting that paycheck, she says. That realization helped her shift her savings into high gear so she could quit her job with a plan and work on The Lip Bar full time.
She says she stopped shopping designer sales and going to brunch, and began unsubscribing from Gilt and Groupon emails — essentially anything that tempted her tospend money.
With enough savings, Butler not only quit her job but also moved to a lower-cost city: her hometown, Detroit. She’s also focused on joining the fleet of companies bringing manufacturing back to Detroit with a new factory and a “Made in Detroit” label, according to The Detroit News.
As her business continues to boom, she has some wise words for entrepreneurs: do a lot of research, have a reason to exist, and be insanely passionate and insanely prepared.
“Know the landscape and the competition,” Butler says. “Know why there’s room for you in the market.”
- Amanda Eisenberg / She Spends Issue 41