Kristen Noel Crawley wants Black women to not just lean in to the beauty industry, she wants them to disrupt it entirely.
Starting last year, the KNC Beauty founder, known for her cult-favorite lip, eye, and face masks, and essential Supa Balms, partnered with Revlon to provide completely free virtual educational courses for entrepreneurial Black women venturing into the highly competitive—yet lucrative—beauty industry. Aptly titled KNC School of Beauty, Crawley hosts a series of panels and discussions featuring the beauty world’s most influential trailblazers in the hair, makeup, skin care, and wellness industries. The curriculum is crafted to empower budding entrepreneurs with invaluable insider advice about building a beauty business. Attendees will also have a chance to receive a $10,000 grant courtesy of Revlon for their soon-to-be brands.
For Crawley, the concept of the beauty school is centered on her firm belief that every industry—not just beauty—should believe and invest in the inherent power and cultural influence of Black women. By sharing her personal insight of creating her own brand from the ground up, as well as the experiences from her fellow industry colleagues, Crawley hopes to inspire a new generation of Black women in beauty to bet on themselves.
Today, the KNC School of Beauty returns with a dynamic lineup of girl bosses, including Brooke DeVard, Olamide Olowe, Karen Young, and Chandra Coleman Harris, with discussions hosted by Crawley herself. Below, we speak with the beauty founder about how her school came to be and how she hopes to see Black women shape the industry from this moment forward.
What inspired you to create the School of Beauty program? Why was this something that you decided Black women beauty entrepreneurs needed?
I was inspired to create KNC School of Beauty at a time when I felt our community needed advice and empowerment from within. It was at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement this past summer that I decided to develop this initiative further and connect with other successful Black female entrepreneurs at the top of the beauty industry. I wanted to secure a platform for us to speak on the trials and tribulations of building a business within a market that is discriminatory towards both women and people of color. I felt there was an audience here that could use the advice we have to impart to the next generation of budding entrepreneurs and really turn it into action.
I’ve been so thankful to my longtime partner, Revlon, who absolutely stepped up to the plate and has been a huge support from the beginning. They’ve provided a 10K grant as part of the prizes for each of our School of Beauty sessions, and it’s been such a major cornerstone in the opportunities we’re able to provide here. I want other Black women to know that they can build something larger than themselves that will leave a legacy for generations to come.
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Black women make up a major percentage of beauty consumers. Why has our buying power been overlooked for so long in recent years?
I feel like Black women have been overlooked in the beauty market because we haven’t necessarily always been the standard of beauty society strives toward. In ad campaigns and on products, white women have long been the focal point of beauty and, therefore, the consumer most prominently targeted. I think that over time, however, companies have started to see the investment Black women make in their beauty regiments and can now feel our influence in the market when it comes to trends and top products. Now that our consumer power has grown, so has our representation within the industry both behind the scenes and as the face of beauty for many leading brands.
What do you believe are the most important factors for women to understand when going into the beauty industry? What challenges are out there that we constantly have to overcome?
I know that as women we need to be prepared for those people who are always going to try and change our minds or steer us in a different direction, thinking that we can’t strategize or invest in ourselves 100 percent. When walking into a room, you have to be steadfast in your vision for yourself as an entrepreneur and hold onto the goals you have for your business. Others would rather try and shape us to fit their mold as opposed to the one we want to create for ourselves and for our community. It’s important to persevere as women in this industry, because we truly are the ones who hold all the buying and selling power. Especially as Black women, our voices and ideas matter, and we shouldn’t have to consistently prove ourselves in a space where we make the greatest impact.
Who are some other women you admire in the beauty industry, and why? Who inspired you to start your own beauty empire?
Through the conversations I’ve had as a part of KNC School of Beauty, I’ve grown to admire so much all of the women who have joined me in our various sessions to impart their wisdom and share their personal stories of success and failure. I want to shout-out Nancy Twine of Briogeo, Melissa Butler of the The Lip Bar, Trinity Mouzon [Wofford] of Golde, Shontay Lundy of Black Girl Sunscreen, Jamika Martin of Rosen Skincare, and Beatrice Dixon of Honey Pot, who have all been a part of the School of Beauty and are making major strides in our industry.
For our third session on February 9, we’ll be introducing Brooke DeVard of the Naked Beauty podcast, Olamide Olowe of My Topicals skincare, Karen Young of OUI the People, and Chandra Coleman Harris from our School of Beauty partner, Revlon. I’m so excited for the advice that will be shared, because I personally learn an immense amount myself and am always blown away by the depth of our conversations. Women like these are truly the ones that have inspired me all along in my journey to build KNC Beauty and grow it into what it is today.
What do you think is the biggest industry misconception about Black women business entrepreneurs?
I think the biggest misconception is that people tend to believe Black-owned brands are developing products solely for Black women or people of color, and not the full array of beauty consumers out there. While, of course, some lines cater more to the specific needs of Black women in regards to hair and skincare, I feel that many Black entrepreneurs want to create products that can be appreciated by all beauty enthusiasts. I have always said that KNC Beauty is for everyone, and I want to maintain that ethos with each of the products I release. I think it’s important to be inclusive, and I know our collective outlook on beauty could be much better with this approach.
What do you believe to be the future of Black women in the beauty industry?
I think we’re headed to the top! Matter of fact, I know that we have a place in this industry, and I can see our influence growing every day. Our look and our features are so sought after within the world of beauty now, and there’s no denying that we have something everyone wants. It feels so empowering to be a Black woman finding success in this business, and I think this is just the beginning for a lot of other girls out there who have the same dreams I did. I think that the KNC School of Beauty speaks to the legacy that can be made if we support one another and make our community’s impact greater.
You can register for KNC School of Beauty here.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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