In a startup landscape where female-led companies are funded at a drastically lower rate than those with a male founder — receiving only 3 percent of total venture capital dollars between 2011 and 2013, by one Babson College estimate — Sephora is aiming to give female beauty entrepreneurs a much-needed lift. The beauty retailer is kicking off a new program this year called Sephora Accelerate, which will put 10 early-stage startups through a bootcamp at its San Francisco headquarters, provide them with mentorship and give them a stage to present at a demo day in August. Though Sephora officially announced the program on Tuesday, it took applications until Dec. 31 and will select its class of participants by March.
The program is part of Sephora's larger social impact agenda, which includes beauty classes for women reentering the workforce or living in transitional housing and shelters (starting in April) and support for employees affected by natural disasters or major life events; and in that vein, it's requiring that its startup applicants also have a socially minded element in addition to a female founder. That could mean sourcing sustainable materials or donating a portion of revenue to charity — the exact impact will depend on the sort of business at hand, which can range from brands producing physical beauty products to apps and services.
Though the 10 chosen startups will only receive a small sum of money ($2,500) in addition to their all-expenses paid trips to the program's events, the major opportunity is clearly in building relationships with industry experts and getting face time with the team at Sephora, one of the biggest powerhouses in the beauty industry. We'll be looking to see who gets into the accelerator come March, so watch this space.