Walker’s Legacy Profiles recognize unique women of color in business who embody the legacy of Madam C.J. Walker, the first female self-made millionaire. In this installment, meet KJ Miller and Amanda Johnson, Founders of Mented Cosmetics.
KJ Miller and Amanda E. Johnson, founders of Mented Cosmetics, started off as two college friends in dire need of a good nude lipstick that complimented their skintones. One night over wine and girl talk, they agreed to use their frustration as fuel to start their very own cosmetics line for women of color. Mented, short for pigmented, has become a huge success in the cosmetics market and provides nude shades for all women of all colors. Their journey is far from over, and they’ve got quite the story to tell!
Dayna Hood: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with Walker’s Legacy about your game-changing makeup line! Your lipsticks truly fill a void in the cosmetics industry and provide a nude for all skin tones. What are some challenges you face being WOC designing products specifically for women of color?
(KJ): Because we are our customer, we’ve found product development to be one of our biggest strengths. We know what our pain points are and we know where other companies have typically failed us. One challenge we face, though, is in delivering on our promise to be for all women of color. This takes a lot of testing across a lot of different types of women – but we love this work.
(AJ): We love creating products. Being the customer makes being the creator that much easier. I think the challenge is living up to our brand promise of being inclusive for all women of color. Getting products that are nuanced for different skin tones and undertones is difficult, but it’s a challenge we fully accept!
(DH): Your Instagram stories often hint at the launch of some new eyeshadow colors, and they are beautiful. What is your thought process when adding new colors to your line?
Mented is all about helping women perfect their everyday beauty routines, so when we think about new colors we are heavily focused on creating shades that women can wear day in and day out.KJ Miller
(AJ): We are very thoughtful about what products we add to the collection. We want to make sure our products are easy to use, pigmented, and work for a woman of color’s everyday beauty routine. Stay tuned to our IG stories to get hints on what’s coming next.
(DH): Collaborations are HUGE, and with so many different cosmetics lines partnering up with other brands, we have to wonder if Mented will do the same! If you could have a partnership with any fashion line or celebrity, which/who would it be and why?
(KJ): Beyonce, obviously. She’s a queen and we’d absolutely love to work with her!
(AJ): We are the ultimate in inclusivity so we’d love to work with Issa Rae, Mindy Kaling, and America Ferrera. They are great voices speaking up for women of color everywhere.
(DH): Both of you ladies are definitely WCW worthy, and there has to be a lady boss out there that inspires you! Who is your WCW, and why?
(KJ): For me it has to be my mom. She’s the hardest working woman I know, and she raised my sisters and I to be the same.
(AJ): Agreed! My mom is my hero and she has worked incredibly hard to give my sisters and I a great life. She is both soft and strong.
(DH): What advice would you give to women planning to start a business of their own? Would you give any additional advice to a woman planning to start a business with her friend? How do the two of you maintain such an incredible balance?
(KJ): My first piece of advice would be to make sure you’re passionate about whatever your business idea is. I tried launching a few startups before Mented, but always ended up walking away because my heart wasn’t in it. Running a business can really take over your life, so make sure it’s something you feel you can’t live without!
In regards to running a business with a friend: make sure it’s someone you have fun with! You’ll be spending so much time together, and that time will be much more enjoyable if you can laugh together. I also think it’s so important to work with someone you know you can trust, and who you know can resolve issues in a healthy manner. Difficult decisions will definitely arise, and you don’t want to be caught in those moments working with someone who doesn’t know how to resolve conflict respectfully.
My advice for starting a business is to just start it. Amanda Johnson
(AJ): Women often wait until they have a fully baked idea to move forward. However, that’s not how businesses are created. You have to be willing to take a risk and learn quickly.
When you decide to work with someone, which I highly recommend, just make sure it’s someone you can be totally honest with. Running a business is difficult and you need someone you want to celebrate the highs with and fight through the lows with. If you can’t be honest then it won’t work.
(DH): How important has social media been in helping you promote your business? Is there a specific hashtag that truly works for you?
(KJ): Social media has been incredibly important for us – we basically got our start on Instagram, and the community of women we’ve built has been rocking with us since before we even launched.
(AJ): We love the community we’re building on social media where we can engage with our customers. We love to hear from them and tell their beauty stories. The girls on Instagram have been supportive from the very beginning and we’ll never forget it.
(DH): Last but not least, please share your absolute favorite Mented lipstick shade.
(KJ): Mented #5
(AJ): Dope Taupe
(DH): KJ and Amanda, thank you for all that you do. You are making quite an impact in the cosmetics world, and your efforts do not go unnoticed. Keep us updated on which products launch next!
You can view the ladies’ Founder’s Video here.