Unilever Joins Lazard Executive in Beauty Bakerie Investment

  • Company’s venture arm invests $3 million in cosmetics firm
  • Startup part of growing trend serving women of all skin tones

Unilever has led a funding round in Beauty Bakerie, a cosmetics maker based in San Diego, joining investors including Lazard Managing Director William Lewis and American Express Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Chenault.

Unilever Ventures, a subsidiary of the Anglo-Dutch maker of Dermalogica skin care and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, has acquired a minority stake in Beauty Bakerie as part of a $3 million seed funding round, said Cashmere Nicole, the startup’s founder and CEO. Unilever declined to detail what percentage of Beauty Bakerie it’s acquiring.

Nicole founded Beauty Bakerie in 2011. The company, which employs 25 people, markets products to women of all skin tones and has been promoted by U.S. Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas. Other investors include Adebayo Ogunlesi, the chairman of Global Infrastructure Partners and a Goldman Sachs board member, and Charles Phillips, CEO of software company Infor and a former president of Oracle Corp. The brand’s cosmetics are sold in over 100 countries including the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Brazil, Nicole said.

“Capital was not a necessity at this time, but we want to accelerate Beauty Bakerie’s growth trajectory in a meaningful way,” Nicole said. The cash will fund marketing efforts, inventory management and other needs, she said.

The brand has garnered a following among young African and African-American women, whose spending power is being increasingly targeted by consumer giants. L’Oreal, for example, has built a hair-care research center in Johannesburg to increase sales on the African continent. Earlier this week, French luxury-goods maker LVMH beat estimates for third-quarter sales in part on the strength of Fenty Beauty by Rihanna, a new makeup line developed with the Barbadian pop singer.

Unilever’s investment comes in the wake of the company apologizing for an advertisement released by its Dove soap brand earlier this month that some perceived to be racist.

The company’s shares rose 0.9 percent to 4,456 pence in London at 11:11 a.m.

Unilever was first connected to Beauty Bakerie earlier this summer through investment platform CircleUp, said Chris Pachinger, CircleUp’s business development director. Earlier this summer, Unilever also used the platform to invest in hair-loss supplement brand Nutrafol, Pachinger said.

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