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BRAINTRUST FOUNDERS STUDIO DEBUTS VENTURE FUND FOR BLACK FOUNDERS

Gaby M. Rojas

BrainTrust Founders Studio, the largest members-only platform dedicated to Black founders of beauty and wellness companies announced the BrainTrust Fund, a planned $25 million venture fund. The BrainTrust Fund invests exclusively in early stage companies identified via BrainTrust Founders Studio, whose 120+ members collectively sold more than $100 million in products via 23,000 retail doors and online in the past year. 

“We designed the BrainTrust Fund as a ‘blue ocean’ investment opportunity to capitalize on innovation by Black entrepreneurs in beauty and wellness, whom we expect to continue to outperform as leaders of culture and creativity,” says General Partners Kendra Bracken-Ferguson and Lisa Stone, citing reports that fewer than one percent of venture capital investors are Black women and fewer than one percent of Black women founders are funded by the venture capital community. “The BrainTrust Fund exists so that as the massive, multi-trillion-dollar beauty and wellness marketplace grows, Black founders, supported by Black funders and allies, may participate in creating and selling what shoppers want,” says Bracken-Ferguson and Stone.

The BrainTrust Fund is:

  • Co-led by a diverse team of women who are experienced consumer operators and investors;
  • Investing in beauty and wellness companies across 20+ sub-sectors, from fragrance to AI and technology;
  • Companies must have at least one Black-identifying founder as a member of BrainTrust Founders Studio, who seeks coaching and advice from investors, and has repeatable revenues of $1+ million or more.

The BrainTrust Fund also announced a $1 million equity investment into Listener Brands, Inc., the parent company of hair care brands CurlMix and 4COnly created by Founder and Chief Executive Officer Kim Lewis. Listener Brands is the fourth investment by the BrainTrust Fund, joining a portfolio that includes BeautyStat, Thirteen Lune and Uoma Beauty.

“Kim Lewis grew Listener Brands into one of the top five Black-founded hair companies in the U.S. because she’s an extraordinary entrepreneur and, like most Americans, has curly, wavy or coily textured hair and she wanted better products,” says Bracken-Ferguson and Stone. “America’s beauty and wellness buyer is younger, more racially and ethnically diverse than ever before, and shopping for brands that serve their needs and their inclusive, sustainable values at a scale that speaks to a permanent shift, not a fad.” 

BrainTrust Fund Investor Karla Martin, managing director and global luxury, retail and ecommerce lead for Deloitte, said that leading retailers and corporate acquirers are actively searching for solutions to consumer demand with products that are vegan, clean, and also racially and ethnically inclusive.

“My clients are buying what they cannot build fast enough for today’s consumer,” says Martin. “The notion of beauty has expanded more in the last 10 years than the previous 40, including size, age, race, ethnicity and gender. And those new segments of consumers, and in particular younger consumers, want to feel more connected to the brands they use and want brands with clear purpose. I have two daughters, our kids read labels and they read the news. It’s not going to stop.”

The BrainTrust Fund, anchored by WestRiver Group, includes an accredited investor community that resembles beauty and wellness shoppers by design, fund partners said. Most identify as women (77 percent) and BIPOC (76 percent), and all are experienced leaders in today’s consumer marketplace, from beauty, wellness, and consumer packaged goods, to e-commerce, marketing, media, and funding and growing startups.

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