Months later, when George Floyd was killed in May 2020, and protests erupted across the country, she found investors were galvanized as well.
“Suddenly, people were answering their emails,” Ms. N’Diaye-Mbaye said. “People that said no to me in 2019 were getting back to me.”
She was ready for the calls. Ultimately she raised $1.69 million in funding from angel investors. Most of the institutional capital came from Imaginary Ventures and Debut Capital, a fund that works specifically with Black, Latino and Indigenous founders.
Today, Ami Colé offers a breathable skin tint, a highlighter, meant to help achieve a dewy look, and a lip oil. Products are priced between $19 and $32.
“All I needed was the access,” Ms. N’Diaye-Mbaye said. “I’ve been asking for the access for years now, which was never granted to me or people made you feel delusional or crazy that you had more to offer.”
It is a frustration that Olamide Olowe, the founder of the skin care company, Topicals, shares. In 2015, while attending U.C.L.A., Ms. Olowe, 25, co-founded the beauty brand SheaGIRL, in partnership with SheaMoisture. SheaGIRL was an experiment for the brand to learn how to speak to Gen Z, Ms. Olowe said.
“After that, I knew I didn’t want to go get a job,” Ms. Olowe said.
Like Ms. N’Diaye-Mbaye, Ms. Olowe wanted to fill voids in the beauty industry by creating the products that she wanted to buy. But when she began fund-raising and pitching her product to retailers, influencers and investors, she was met with resistance.