How Mented Cosmetics Co-Founders Revitalized Beauty Options for Women of Color

When they saw a gaping hole in the beauty business, two Harvard alums, created their own inclusive cosmetics brand for women of all hues.

By Lori Leibovich

In one sentence, what does your company do?

KJM: Mented Cosmetics is an upscale beauty brand offering fully pigmented products for women of all hues.

What are you solving for?

KJM: Amanda and I started the company because when we surveyed the beauty landscape we didn’t see any prestige brands celebrating and prioritizing deeper skin tones. So we created one.

Why should people care about your company and what you’re doing?

KJM: We believe everyone should be able to find themselves in the world of beauty. Helping women who have previously been neglected by traditional beauty brands feel beautiful is our number one priority.

What’s one big mistake you made when you first started your company, and one big thing you got right?

KJM: One of our biggest mistakes was listening to too many voices. We took meetings with every investor who would see us, and in the beginning, we tried to adapt to everything we were hearing. Luckily we grew out of that pretty quickly and realized we knew way more about this business than the people we were talking to.

One thing we got right from the beginning was building a community of customers and influencers and listening to them. We launched new shades within four months of launching because we listened to our community’s feedback. Every product we’ve launched since then has been informed by their perspective.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give other women looking to start their own business in the cosmetics space?

KJM: My advice is broader—it’s for any woman looking to start a business: get started now. Today. Don’t wait. It may be a great idea or it may be a terrible one. You might get it off the ground or you might fail. But one thing’s certain: you’ll never get there if you don’t start taking steps now.

If it’s cosmetics, pick a launch product and start making it (we made our first lipsticks in the kitchen). If it’s an app, learn how to code (or if you can afford to hire someone, do that). If it’s a service, test it out on some friends. Unless your business is building a rocket ship, there’s a good chance you have the tools you need to get started. So do it.

Unless your business is building a rocket ship, there’s a good chance you have the tools you need to get started. So do it.

KJ Miller

What’s one thing that makes your life easier

AJ: Google is my everything. My email, my calendar, my documents, my chat, etc. Life is easier because I can access everything I need from anywhere.

What is the best thing about having a co-founder?

AJ: My co-founder is the one who I laugh and cry with in the same moment. She knows more intimately than anyone the challenges and the triumphs of this crazy roller-coaster.

What is the most challenging thing about having a co-founder?

AJ: Two people decided to create a company because they are so passionate about the problem they are solving. Sometimes that passion can be a lot to contend with. Likewise, you probably chose your co-founder because they are brilliant and amazing. Sometimes two amazing geniuses can butt heads. It’s all a balance that open communication and respect can solve.

Describe an instance when you “failed forward”?

AJ: Failing forward is an everyday occurrence in startup life and you learn to move forward quickly and not take it too personally. For example, we had an eyeshadow manufacturer that promised us the dream. Their formula was great, but their operations were terrible. We had no sense of that when we started. Once we launched, the product was so successful it sold out. So, we needed the product quickly, our manufacturer couldn’t deliver, and we were panicked. We worked with them to continue to get shipments of what we needed, but parallel pathed our efforts and found a new manufacturer. The learning is that we now have a much more stringent manufacturer selection process and onboarding procedure. For a product company, this is normal. Once we got over the panic we created the internal structure we needed to help prevent this from happening again.

How will you know when you’ve made it?

AJ: We’ll know we’ve made it when we’ve become a successful household name. We’ll know we’ve made it when beauty companies use Mented as a goal for how they serve their women of color customers. We’ll know we’ve made it when all women feel included in the world of beauty.

Every product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase through one of our links, The Helm may earn a commission.

Read next

Bootstrapped

How Afton Vechery Sold Modern Fertility for $225 Million, Just Four Years After Launch

The 31-year-old co-founder reveals how she set out to solve the $2 billion women’s fertility industry on the premise that women should track their fertility like they track their steps.

By Kaitlin Menza

Bootstrapped

How Tia Became the One-Stop-Shop of Women’s Healthcare

Co-founder and CEO Carolyn Witte opens up about how she built the modern medical home for women in the United States.

By Dana Drori

Women at The Helm

Henning Founder Lauren Chan on Balancing Purpose with Profit

After the model and former magazine editor launched Henning, a luxury plus-size womenswear label, she quickly proved the most important thing a brand can be is human.

By Lauren Fisher

Women at The Helm

How Melanie Elturk Took Hijab Fashion Mainstream in America

Defying cultural norms, the founder and CEO of Haute Hijab quit her stable job as an attorney to pursue her side hustle full-time.

By Lauren Fisher

Bootstrapped

Why It’s Never Too Late To Launch Your Own Business

Former chemist and mother-of-four Keri O’Shea was in her mid-40s when she felt the desire to “do something besides be a mom.” With co-founder Heather Durst, she launched her swimwear line Blu using a personal investment of $8,500.

By Dana Drori

Still Standing

Carol’s Daughter Founder Lisa Price on Being Black-Founded vs. Black-Owned

The 58-year-old opens up about how she started her beauty brand out of her kitchen in 1993 and sold to L’Oreal in the face of backlash in 2014.

By Jenna Birch