CEW Honors Beauty Founders at Inaugural Visionary Awards in Los Angeles

The Cosmetic Executive Women — the New York-based nonprofit of beauty entrepreneurs — came West to host its inaugural Visionary Awards recognizing female leaders in Los Angeles.

Held at Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica on Tuesday night, the event honored Randi Christiansen of Nécessaire, Shontay Lundy of Black Girl Sunscreen, Donda Mullis of Raw Sugar, Katherine Power of Merit and Versed, and Amy Liu of Tower 28. The five founders were celebrated for their work in leadership and innovation, breaking barriers, representation, community and social impact, and entrepreneurship and economic impact.

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The event kicked off with keynote speaker Nancy Twine, founder and chief executive officer of hair care brand Briogeo. “The CEW Visionary Awards highlights the achievements we oftentimes overlook in ourselves,” she said. Twine, a past CEW award recipient, encouraged the honorees to savior the moment and celebrate their journeys.

One of her first challenges in scaling Briogeo was securing an early investor, she told the audience. “Prestige hair care was still a really small segment at the time, [12 years ago],” said Twine, who sold Briogeo to Wella Company in 2022.

She went on discussing the roller-coaster of entrepreneurship: “Being a founder means constantly navigating risks and managing fear. And let me tell you, fear can be a powerful motivator. It shapes our paths and our decisions. And when we confront and overcome our fears, they turn knowledge into expertise. And that expertise empowers us to bring our visions to life.”

It’s courage that turns visions into reality, she added.

Her first six years were tough, she said. She reinvested small profit back into the business “and I also used our inventory to collateralize the line of credit that I personally guaranteed.”

But that time also allowed her to experiment freely, which led to “enormous growth” after innovative launched and successful campaigns, and allowing her to pick the right investors on her terms. Twine has since become an investor herself.

As the program continued, the honorees discussed their backgrounds and brand missions.

For Lundy, it was in 2016 that she launched Black Girl Sunscreen. “I couldn’t find a sunscreen that rubbed into my complexion without leaving a white residue,” she said. “But unbeknownst to me, I wasn’t the only Black woman that was having the same issue. I’m standing here before you because I did something about it.”

She used $33,000 of her life savings to start the business. “You know how corporate America tells you to put money in your 401(k) and save for your retirement? I was like, ‘nah,’” she said to laughs and applause. “I’ll take the risk.”

Black Girl Sunscreen is now sold at 15,000 retail locations and has hit number one as a bestseller in beauty and personal care in Amazon. She told inspiring entrepreneurs to listen to their intuition and have a strategy in place.

“Everything doesn’t have to come to you today,” she said. “Let the ground form beneath you, get your bearings, stand up, walk, understand the process and how things work, ask a ton of questions and before you know it, you’ll be running.”

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