Later in 2021, a direct-to-consumer (DTC) beauty platform named Thirteen Lune was launched in LA with $1mn in seed funding from Gwyneth Paltrow, Diddy and Gregg Renfrew, announced $3mn in additional seed funding.
It might not be that much of a significant development, especially in a beauty market where dozens of startups announce funding almost every day, but this deal stood out for some reasons apart from its celebrity backing.
First, Thirteen Lune's co-founder Nyakio Grieco, a veteran person in the cosmetics industry who earlier launched a skincare brand, sold to Sundial Brands - now a part of Unilever. Nyakio's new e-commerce platform offers products from 100 varying brands, 90% of which were founded by Indigenous, Black, and people of color. While the leading outfit financing was Fearless Fund, a venture company that women of color founded. Fearless Fund is making its mark via an exclusive focus on backing women of color.
Interestingly, a hitch with JCPenney immediately offers Thirteen Lune the form of reach that most infant startups can only dream about. JCPenney partnered with Sephora; however, Sephora's contract with JCPenney is expiring in 2023. So covering the spots right now are in-shop "JCPenney Beauty" stores, and Thirteen Lune is a featured component of that offering, with 10 locations up and running. Thirteen Lune plans for 600 different locations by the end of 2023.
Putting the pieces together, Thirteen Lune has persuasively come out as one of the first inclusive beauty platforms. Grieco revealed a bit more this week, though she ducked some questions about the financial mechanics of the JCPenney deal due to a confidentiality agreement with the outfit.
Some excerpts from the conversation done byTechCrunch are revealed here:
Q: How did you start in the beauty business?
Nyakio: I'm a first-generation American of Kenyan descent. Around 20 years ago, I left my job in Hollywood to form a beauty brand based on the secrets of Kenyan family beauty. My grandmother was a Kenyan coffee farmer while my grandfather was a medicine man, and I felt that the continent of Africa at the time was significantly underrepresented in premium beauty. So I left my job to start making my grandmother's coffee scrub and to learn to create products based on sustainable oils, the kind that my grandfather could go out in nature and extract to treat the skin.
I started as a very independent brand out of my apartment in my 20s and served every role: founder, shipping and receiving, customer service, accounting. I learned very quickly as a young Black woman and the first-time entrepreneur how difficult it was to raise money, but I could get a little bit of friends-and-family capital together to take the products to market.
Q: You deal in several products that a 3rd-party logistics company sends out to clients because you need to own that experience. How do you vet what you're selling?
Nyakiao: A product has to have a strong founder story, because people buy into people before they buy into a product. We also have what we call our beauty vanguard, which is influencers, makeup artists, celebrities and friends who help us because we have such an enormous amount of products coming our way. And we have specific standards, including that we want all products to be clean, nontoxic, with good-for-you ingredients. [And we want them] to serve a need, focusing on our melanin-rich, textured-hair customer first — those who have been the most underserved — but also to represent the globe.
Q:What are some of the products that are geared more toward people with melanin-rich skin? Also, as a Greek-American with fair skin, what are some products that I perhaps haven't been exposed to but might turn to Thirteen Lune to order?
Nyakiao: Melanin rich [could apply] all the way from somebody who's just slightly darker than maybe you all the way to a tone much darker than myself, and we often have a sensitivity to certain acids and chemical exfoliators and things like that will burn our skin or just color our skin. We're more prone to hyperpigmentation. We're more inclined to eczema and rosacea and those types of skin conditions. So the products that we bring to the shelf are things like a chemical peel made with maybe azelaic acid and not other acids that would be too harsh for our skin.
It's the same with textured hair. Shampoo is shampoo and conditioner is conditioner, but at the end of the day, especially as we are moving to a place where we are living with such multiracial and generational qualities and properties to our hair and our hair texture, [brands are on the rise like] Bomba Curls, which was created by an Afro-Latina founder named Lulu Cordero. She grew up with Dominican culture and back in those days, it was about having the straight — they call it "Pelo malo" — hair to look more like white women from the Western world. And it caused a lot of damage to her, so much so that she suffered hair loss going into her college years.
She also happens to be brilliant and she was a chemistry major and she started playing with ingredients while she was in her college chemistry lab that would help to stimulate her hair growth; she started researching things that come from the earth and her culture like coffee and castor oil, and she developed her own hair oil [that was later lab-certified as counter safe]. That doesn't mean that my friends that are blond-haired and blue-eyed can't useBomba Curls. The difference is that [the product] was created by a Black woman who understands our hair texture and understands the damage that we have done to our hair for so long, and she's able to deliver on her promise [to repair that damage].
Q: You are planning to launch a private label brand as well. Why?
Nyakiao: When we look at Thirteen Lune and the data that we're getting and will have access to [regarding] what this customer still needs and how we can better serve he, she, them, they through the lens of inclusivity, I'm excited about being able to create again. I love being a beauty retailer, but I'm a beauty founder first. That's my passion, and I've missed being in a lab and being able to create. It's literally my happy place.