Iman Defied The Beauty Industry With Her $25 Million Empire For Black Women

Former supermodel Iman has built a $25 million cosmetics business and she did it without a lot of support for her products. Retailers like Target and WalGreens tried to put her shades in the “ethnic sections” of stores and she had a lot of trouble securing distribution. But Iman didn’t give up, she just had to find a different route to get her line to the masses.

She started her own cosmetics line for women of color at J.C. Penney in 1994, and the brand’s sales skyrocketed to $25 million in just two short years. In 2004, she signed a deal with Procter & Gamble to take her brand to the mass market.

Iman said she never considered herself an ethnic brand. “I didn’t understand that it was if they have 1,000 doors, 200 are for women of color,” said Iman at WWD‘s Beauty CEO Summit yesterday. But even though retailers turned her down, she didn’t give up. She decided to move most of her business online. Despite strong sales, Iman is not completely satisfied with this set-up as most women like to test makeup before they buy it. ” I have customers from all over the world that look for the products, but I also have customers in the U.S. that can’t find the product in a store near them,” she said.

She also defied the odds again when she announced she wanted to make a liquid foundation specifically for black women. Retailers told her black women don’t buy foundation but Iman didn’t care. Her foundation now accounts for 75% of her overall sales.




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