Black and Brown skin tends to be underrepresented in the skin-care industry, oftentimes not included as part of clinical trials and research.
It’s part of the reason why Olamide Olowe started her skin-care brand Topicals, in 2020 with the mission to assist women with chronic skin conditions.
The skin-care startup has made history already. Olowe announced a $10 million financing round led by CAVU Consumer Partners, making the 26-year-old founder reportedly the youngest Black woman to raise more than $2 million in venture funding.
Prior to this, she was included in the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for 2022 for her previous fundraising of $2.6 million. On top of this, Topicals is the fastest-growing skin-care brand at retail makeup chain store Sephora.
It seems like Olowe has hit on a winning formula.
Reaching Her Target Market
In 2021, Topicals saw revenues increase three-fold in 2021. Here’s why. The brand is reaching an underserved market, people with skin conditions.
More than 85 million Americans, or one in four, have a chronic skin disease such as psoriasis or hyperpigmentation. Olowe, who herself suffers from a chronic skin condition, wants to erase the stigma around skin-related conditions. Her products help consumers treat flare-ups with ingredients and herbals scientifically proven to work by third-party, peer-reviewed clinical studies.
Pans for the Funding
According to Olowe, the latest injection of funding will be used to expand the company and generate brand awareness. The company plans to launch a 12-month accelerator program to support nonprofits in the mental health space and to address the connection between mental health and skin conditions. To date, Topicals has donated more than $50,000 to support nonprofits that offer mental health resources to marginalized communities.
Born out of her own need
Olowe, who was 23 when she launched Topicals, was seeking treatment for problems like boils and ingrown hairs in 2020.
“I grew up feeling really isolated and spent a lot of time going to dermatologists and primary-care physicians trying to find treatment,” Olowe told Business Insider. “I wasn’t getting results and I didn’t really understand why.”
According to Forbes, Olowe said 50 percent of dermatologists she sought help from did not know how to treat her darker skin. It was then she realized that she wanted to produce a product that tackled chronic skin conditions on darker skin tones.
“Darker-skin people were not as studied and weren’t well understood when it came to formulation for prescription or over-the-counter products,” said Olowe.
How She Started
Before her company got its latest round of funding, which brought total funding up to $14.8 million, Olowe said she went through about 100 pitches in two years. Her company launched with $2.6 million in seed funding.
Last year, under 100 Black female founders received $1 million or more in venture capital, according to ProjectDiane.
“It took me about two years and probably close to a hundred pitches to get funding,” she said. “I figured out really quickly, at 23, when I first raised capital how to be sure of myself and speak about my business in a way that no one could poke holes through,” she said. “I go into every room. I know what I’m talking about.”