As Nyakio Grieco struggled to build and grow her now-18-year-old clean beauty brand Nyakio Beauty, she was hard on herself in those especially challenging moments, like repeatedly being told "no" by — or not getting any response from — investors and big retailers. But in hindsight, she knows that those weren't personal failures, but systemic ones.
"I'm now realizing that a lot of those hurdles that I wasn't able to get over or that were so incredibly challenging had everything in the world to do with being a woman and being a Black woman in this industry," she tells me, over Zoom. Same goes for the milestones, like Nyakio Beauty just launching at Target: "I know from my own experience that it shouldn't take two decades to get to success when you have a proven concept."
Grieco's hope is that she can help facilitate and accelerate that process for her fellow Black and brown beauty founders through a new e-commerce venture launching Wednesday: Thirteen Lune, which she co-founded with Patrick Herning, of the similarly named and similarly inclusive 11 Honoré.
"I know had I had this kind of website for myself early on, or a retailer that was really dedicated to making sure to amplify and support and see me, what a world of difference that would have made," she says.
Herning and Grieco, both Los Angeles residents, were connected through mutual friends. After a long (pre-Covid) coffee meeting, they knew they wanted to do something together that would be built around inclusivity. Given Grieco's area of expertise, beauty was a natural category to focus on. Then, the events that unfolded in the summer of 2020, amid a global pandemic, grew demand for products by Black-owned brands, in a double-edged-sword sort of way.
"I was able to be in this unique position of having a beauty brand and seeing my sales quadruple based on some pretty heartbreaking things and thought, 'Okay, now what?'" says Grieco. "Putting it in your shopping cart once or twice isn't going to solve the problem of systemic racism. You really have to get behind these businesses and help to see them to success."
So she and Herning pushed fast-forward on turning their discussions into something tangible, or whatever the Internet version of tangible is.
As the Black Lives Matter movement got more attention this summer, Grieco noticed something that I'm sure many of us have been frustrated by: While those Black-owned brand lists are helpful, supporting those companies on a regular basis can be difficult, simply because they're all carried at different retailers. Thirteen Lune solves for that by offering a thoughtful curation of these brands all on one platform. (By the way, the name is a combination of one of Grieco's favorite numbers and the number of the moons in the astrological calendar, and the word "moon" in French.)
With this new platform, Grieco also wants to challenge the incorrect assumption that products from Black-owned brands won't work on non-Black folks' skin or hair. So, yes, while a big part of Thirteen Lune's goal is to support great Black and brown-owned beauty brands — many of which cater to Black and brown consumers and their specific concerns, it also carries products that work for all shoppers.
"I've been buying products made by people who are not Black or brown my entire life with the expectation and the assumption that they work on my skin. It wasn't until I became a Black beauty founder and repeatedly got asked, 'Does this work on my skin too?' that I realized that there was a real disconnect," says Grieco.
The site is launching with a smaller curation of 13 brands (12 of them Black-owned, one brown-owned). However, it will soon expand to include what Grieco calls "ally brands" — companies whose founders are not Black or brown, but who have made an effort to create inclusive products that really work on, say, ashy skin or textured hair.
Allyship was a big theme when it came to getting Thirteen Lune off the ground with Herning, too: "It's a Black woman and a white gay man coming together to build this beauty platform. And that's what I hope that my kids get to see the world looks like, so I figured I'd better start now," Grieco says.
In that vein, the co-founder explains how she often talks about how creating this company and supporting Black-owned brands goes "beyond the bottle."
"It's been proven of brown and Black founders, that in our success, we often bring that success to empower generational wealth in our communities, and by doing that, we even the playing field and we really truly help to alleviate systemic racism," she says. "That's my real mission and what I think that I'm here to do."