Ulta Beauty Kicks Off Muse Accelerator Program for BIPOC Brands – WWD

Ulta Beauty Kicks Off Muse Accelerator Program for BIPOC Brands – WWD

Ulta Beauty is doubling down on BIPOC-founded brands.

The nation’s largest beauty retailer is inaugurating a new program to reinforce early-stage beauty brands with BIPOC founders, according to a statement. Called the Muse Accelerator program, it will pair eight brand founders with mentorship, brand development resources and a $50,000 capital infusion.

The program is meant to support brands that have been historically underrepresented — and underfunded — in the beauty industry. “It’s about amplifying underrepresented voices,” said Monica Arnaudo, Ulta’s chief merchandising officer. “It’s about us curating and nurturing a diverse assortment, and bringing in a diverse assortment that is meeting the needs of our community.”

Last year, Ulta highlighted Black voices in the industry with its Muse 100, a grant program highlighting 100 Black creatives and entrepreneurs in beauty. It also signed the 15 Percent Pledge, and committed to $25 million in diversity, equity and inclusion commitments.

“We really need to build out an ecosystem to support those objectives, and one way that we can do that is by creating an accelerator that will provide time, resources, education and mentoring support to BIPOC brands. We’re creating this community of people to really support this effort,” Arnaudo said.

The program includes a 10-week curriculum with training in brand strategy, succeeding in retail and navigating supply chain logistics. It concludes with pitches to investors and Ulta Beauty merchants.

Accepted applicants will also be paired with a mentor. Among them are Shontay Lundy, founder of Black Girl Sunscreen; Ron Robinson, founder and chief executive officer of BeautyStat; Desirée Rogers, CEO of BLK/OPL; and Julissa Prado, founder and CEO of Rizos Curls.

“I wanted to give my support to the Muse Accelerator because I know firsthand that the right mentors can not only help you with marketing opportunities but more importantly, connect you with other professionals that are necessary for raising capital,” Robinson said via email. “For me, it is important to give back to other entrepreneurs by helping them with these two important objectives and Ulta Beauty is giving me this special opportunity.”

“It’s hard to launch in retail for any brand, especially Ulta Beauty, because we’re so big,” Arnaudo said. “It takes a lot of work, and you’ve got to be well prepared. We know it isn’t easy, and our main intention is that we’re setting brands up for success. It’s not about surviving, it’s about thriving.

“Oftentimes, when brands enter [retail], they don’t fully grasp what they’re getting into, and that comes across in many aspects. That could be the supply chain piece, or understanding how to drive awareness and marketing, or even basic things like how to merchandise the products, or how to build the right time,” Arnaudo continues. “This ensures that we’re providing them with a really, really great understanding of what it takes to come into any retailer.”

As reported by WWD, Ulta’s net sales topped $2.3 billion for the quarter ending April 30, up 21 percent from $1.9 billion for the same period in 2021.

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