Pound Cake is on a mission to shake up the beauty industry

June 17, 2024By Inside Beauty Articles, Views

by Megan Moyer, corporate marketing manager, as appeared in Inside Beauty for Drug Store News

Perseverance pays off. When Camille Bell, CEO and co-founder of Pound Cake was tired of lip color products looking different after application from the color advertised, she decided to do something about it. With co-founder and chief branding officer, Johnny Velazquez, they envisioned a lip color that was formulated to appear the color indicated based on a person’s skin and lip tone. Bell said, “A lot of the beauty brands don’t formulate with darker-skinned folks in mind first. We saw an opportunity for us to offer color cosmetics in a new way that was never done before.”

Camille Bell
Camille Bell

While both were working full time for non-profits, they conducted market research to understand consumer preferences. Velazquez pushed for a clean product and both Velazquez and Bell wanted their products to be vegan. Bell said lip tone affects the way color shows up, much like foundation. They worked with multiple labs to refine the formula, because, as Bell shared, “Two of them dropped us as clients saying we were being too picky and difficult.”

After hosting focus groups to get to the exact color they wanted, Pound Cake’s crème-matte liquid Cake Batter lipsticks were introduced in five shades of red for different skin and lip tones.

Read more: Ulta Beauty supports BIPOC brands’ retail readiness through MUSE accelerator program 

Bell and Velazquez documented their journey leading up to the product launch and found a community online that was following their story. “By the time we got to launch, a lot of people were really invested in our success. We had a successful Indiegogo campaign, which is a whole community-based platform. It’s like Kickstarter, so you tap into your community to donate to help you.”

Cake Batter won the Allure Best of Beauty Award in 2021, and Bell says, “To launch with the Allure award was incredible, and I think it really helped establish that we are a serious company and that the product we created and took years to build is worth it.” Bell says in their first year of business they focused on generating as much press and brand awareness they could and that’s what helped build their customer base.

Women wearing Pound Cake lip colorWhen asked how they connect with consumers, Bell emphasized their focus on education. “We have really great email marketing where we educate, educate, educate. We just feel like education is key and even though Johnny and I really know what we’re talking about, you have to say things three times to a customer in different ways for them to get it. And once people get it, that’s how we get them coming back. I think it’s just really honing in our education and email marketing.”

Pound Cake was chosen to participate in the Ulta Beauty MUSE Accelerator program for eight early-stage Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) founders in their journey to retail readiness in 2022. Bell found great value in the program, from meeting like-minded entrepreneurs, building lasting relationships with mentors, and refining their pitch, to a better understanding of managing finances and the supply chain. The $50,000 they were given helped propel the business forward.

Read more:  A legacy brand broadening its base 

Bell believes the development of a stronger pitch was integral to earning the Black Ambition Prize they received in 2022. Bell said the Black Ambition grant also helped tremendously. “It first afforded Johnny and I the opportunity to officially go full-time with Pound Cake. We were both working full-time jobs until the funds were deposited into our account in January 2023. Additionally, the funding helped us launch in over 700 Ulta Beauty doors and fulfill a 100,000-unit purchase order (PO) from another vendor. Simultaneously, it also allowed us to switch labs and start on new product development in France that we’re launching this year!”

Women wearing Pound Cake lip color

Bell and Velazquez are excited to extend the Cake Batter line into shades of brown this year, just in time for fall. “We’re super excited and we also don’t see a lot of brands focusing on browns,” Bell shared.

Read more: Beauty benefits: Focus on ingredients

Pound Cake is currently sold direct to consumer, and at Ulta Beauty and Credo Beauty. Ultimately the pair want to expand their retail partners in the U.S., and eventually expand outside of the U.S. because many of their email subscribers are in the UK, Australia, and India.

Awards for Pound Cake 

  • TIME Magazine’s Best Invention of the Year 2022
  • Essence Best in Black Beauty Award (2023)
  • Byrdie Beauty Award (2023)
  • Harper’s Bazaar Icon Award (2023)
  • WWD Editor’s Choice Award (2023)
  • Good Housekeeping’s Very Best Products of the Year (2023)
  • Self Magazine Health Beauty Award (2023)
  • Nylon Beauty Hit List Award (2023)
  • Allure Best of Beauty Award (2022)
  • Glamour Best of Clean Award (2022)