This article is brought to you by the AVEENO® Skin Health Start Up Accelerator. Filled with helpful resources, this entrepreneurial hub is part of AVEENO’s commitment to creating a more diverse and inclusive industry to impact the health and beauty of all skin.

ESSENCE teamed up with AVEENO® to launch the AVEENO® SKIN HEALTH STARTUP ACCELERATOR, a pitch competition for Black female entrepreneurs to pitch their body care, facial care or scalp care product or brand that blends science and nature to address the skincare or scalp care needs of all consumers. One winner will receive $100,000 from AVEENO® and ongoing mentorship opportunities from AVEENO® business leaders, industry experts and Essence.

After receiving more than 100 inspiring entries, our panel of judges evaluated each brand’s pitch on their originality, innovation and thoughtfulness, and how they would advance the skin health of black consumers. They also took into consideration whether or not their product was different from what is already in the marketplace and how they were aligned with Aveeno’s values—leveraging the power of nature and science. And finally, the judges evaluated the brand’s strategy and business plan.

And now it’s time to meet the five finalists in the AVEENO® SKIN HEALTH STARTUP ACCELERATOR pitch competition. These brands have the opportunity to help create a more diverse, inclusive and equitable industry. 

AROME
Company Founder: Adeola Ogunneye
Location: Greenbelt, MD
Website: shoparome.com
Instagram: @shoparome
Facebook: @AromeSkinCare

Speaking hope and love over every product and batch made, Adeola Ogunneye encourages internal wellness through daily self-care and self-love practices, especially in the Black and Brown community. Arome, which stands for Aspire, Resilience, Originality, Magic and Empower, features radiant body butter and body crème. Each product is sent with an affirmation to uplift and add light to your day. Adeola wants to use her brand as a platform to empower other women. “Many of us are our biggest critics, crippling ourselves with fear and anxiety. Not to mention the general lack of representation of women of color also makes it difficult to believe that our aspirations are attainable,” she says. “It is my goal to put my best foot forward and allow my light to shine through myself and my business.”

The pitch competition is new territory for her, “My mind has been going 100 miles an hour evaluating worst case scenarios,” she says, “Pondering through the “what if’s” is inevitable. We have to make a conscious choice to either be a victim of the “what if’s” or to push past the fears.” As a first generation Nigerian-American, she seeks to inspire both communities and make Arome a household name—sold at large retailers, as well as local boutiques to provide women and men with a daily skin care routine that impacts their mind, body and soul. “We want lives to be positively influenced with increased reporting of daily self-love practices,” says Adeola. Arome will provide opportunities to individuals in the community with the goal to empower women through employment opportunities and philanthropic efforts such as providing donations, collaborating with mentoring programs, partnering with shelters and more.

LOOK GOOD LIVE WELL
Company Founder: Ariane Turner
Location: Atlanta, GA
Website: lookgoodlivewell.com
Instagram: @lookgoodlivewell_
Facebook: @lookgoodlivewell_

After battling stress-induced acne for most of her adult life, Ariane Turner transformed the pressure to present a flawless face into the skin care brand, Look Good Live Well. Full of nourishing ingredients that support your journey to optimum skin health, these products are free of toxins that are known to have long term negative effects, specifically in Black women. Look Good Live Well leverages creative imagery to celebrate skin positivity and inclusivity, clean ingredients that support the overall wellbeing, and gentle hydrating formulations to reset melanin-rich skin and allow it to function at its highest capability. “Connection and community are at the core of all that I do,” says Ariane. “We are committed to using a holistic approach and positive messaging to celebrate the strength and beauty of melanin rich skin, increase skin positivity, while at the same time offering clean formulations to lovingly support the skin’s natural function and help it reach its greatest potential.”

And when asked about the competition, Ariane says, “Naturally, I plan to win! I’m excited to use the $100k to collaborate with a team of creative black female freelancers to catapult my business to the next level.” But there is one thing that makes her nervous—public speaking, especially when layered the magnitude of this opportunity, and the impact that it has the potential to have on her company, her budding team and her customers. “What I recognize is that my nerves are rooted in my desire to do well, and to secure this opportunity, because I know how many people it has the ability to positively affect,” she says, “I’m using that energy to push me forward, to feel the feels and do it anyway!


ROCKY ROBINSON

Company Founder: Audra Robinson
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Website: itsmerocky.com
Instagram: @youresocuterocky
Facebook: @youresocuterocky

Believing that Black girls deserve a self-care experience that tells them they matter, and products they can call their very own, crafted for their unique skin care need, Audra Robinson created a yummy, skin nurturing line of personal care products. Their signature shower gel, lotion, and lip balm are made with ingredients like aloe vera, mango butter and shea butter oil, and are designed to foster positive self-identity, good hygiene, and routine. After seeing a pitch competition last year and not feeling ready, Audra was inspired to make this her year. “This is the year of mastering operations and scaling up our dreams. This is the year Black girls and women will continue to be celebrated and recognized from The White House, to boardrooms, the classroom and Zoom,” she says. “It is our year to shine bright as a brand.” But even her amazing spirit of winning doesn’t mean she isn’t nervous. She usually prefers to stay in the background, “but I have learned that Rocky is about more than just me, there are 15 million Black and brown girls in the US. This is for our girls, to give them something I did not have growing up, an image that looks like them, something that tells them they matter,” she says. 

The real star of this brand is Rocky, an illustrated character, who was intentionally created with deep skin tone and textured hair.  She is the hero of the brand and celebrates the beauty, brilliance, and magic of Black girls!  “I believe that first, you must start with inner health, and it will radiate outwards. For my primary consumer, Black and brown girls, 12 and under, for too long, she has been left out of the beauty conversation, being overlooked and marginalized is unhealthy,” says Audra. “Empowered girls, who are healthy both inside and out, mean a brighter future for everyone.”

ALODIA HAIR CARE
Company Founder: Dr. Isfahan Chambers Harris
Location: Upper Marlboro, MD
Website: alodiahaircare.com
Instagram: @alodiahaircare
Facebook: @alodiahaircare
YouTube: @alodiahaircare

As a trained PhD Scientist, Isfahan Chambers Harris has used her expertise to research human diseases, but her favorite “laboratory” is the kitchen, where she creates products for herself, her 7-year-old twin boys, and 14-month-old son. After years of struggling with a damaged scalp and broken strands, she launched Alodia, a science-based hair and scalp care brand made with clean, natural ingredients. After speaking with hundreds of people about their hair care regimens, she saw a trend with textured hair types and scalp disorders, such as seborrheic dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, and dandruff. “When creating our scalp system, our priority was to create a system that treats chronic scalp conditions that primarily plague black and multicultural people, a demographic that is severely underserved,” she says.

For the past four years, Isfahan, her family and her team have gone all in to Alodia to make sure that they are growing and moving in the right direction. “We are 100% self-funded, relying on family savings, small loans and revenue for growth,” she says. “Being the Grand Prize Winner will be life changing for our business. The funding will allow us to complete our clinical study, launch additional scalp products, file patents and launch into Target stores. The magnitude of what’s at stake is what makes me nervous,” but the future is bright for this brand as they get ready to launch on Amazon—and this momprenuer isn’t slowing down. If they win, she will be taking the big box stores by storm to help people all over the country feel good in their skin.

MELANINA ORGANICS
Company Founder: Simoon Cannon
Location: Fayetteville, GA
Website: mela-nina.com
Instagram: @melanina_skincare
Facebook: @MNNatural
YouTube: @mela-nina

Growing up with rashy, dry, and scaly skin, Simoon Cannon was picked on, so when her daughter got eczema too, she created Melanina Organics. Now she has product lines for women, men and children as well as seniors and babies that create instant relief and long-lasting skin maintenance. Now that she is a finalist, she hopes that the time invested in developing healthy beauty products that use natural ingredients to deliver efficiency relief is recognized as a needed contribution in the beauty space. More of a scientist than a marketer, Simoon has never thought of her company as a brand until now. “Through this process, I now have a better understanding of what we are selling and what proposition our products offer our target audience,” she says.

She is hoping to win this competition to execute on her new brand strategy and scale up production of her products. “I hope to start a trend of creating awareness of Black scientists and creatives in the beauty space and provide safe products that work and make us feel naturally beautiful,” says Simoon. “I want our customers to realize how important they are to us, that we would defy convention and create products specifically because of how beautifully and wonderfully they are made by God.” Check back on March 18th to see who will win the AVEENO® SKIN HEALTH STARTUP ACCELERATOR pitch competition. If you didn’t get to take part, don’t worry, visit Essence.com/aveeno for tips and tricks from industry experts to take your body care, facial care or haircare product or brand to the next level.