Kristen Noel Crawley is unafraid of sharing her secrets to success. The Los Angeles-based mogul in the making and mother of two is the founder and head of KNC Beauty, known for its cult-favorite eye and lip masks that have taken Instagram by storm. As a Black entrepreneur, Crawley felt motivated by the Black Lives Matter movement to reflect on how she can affect change for marginalized communities. Her solution is to share her business acumen and skills through the upcoming launch of KNC School of Beauty, a virtual program geared towards young female and BIPOC entrepreneurs. “I want to give every resource, every email, every tip that I can, because at the end of the day, there’s room for everybody,” Crawley tells CR.
The entrepreneur’s own journey in the beauty industry began after traveling for the first time in her late teens. On one trip to Tokyo, Crawley found herself wandering the beauty aisle of the Japanese department store Don Quijote, and discovered lip masks. Inspired by the idea, she took it back to the U.S. and set out to make a cleaner, all-natural version. A monthly beauty column and hours of planning later, KNC Beauty was born.
Crawley’s brand quickly became a favorite on social media, with shiny, colorful lip masks cherished by A-list celebrities like Kim Kardashian West and Emma Stone. Since its launch in August 2016, KNC has added star-shaped eye masks, lip balms, and a lip scrub to its lineup, all readily adopted by fans of the label.
What consumers of Crawley’s genius beauty products miss on the surface are the hours of hard work it takes to start a business from the ground up, and that’s what Crawley hopes to share with KNC School of Beauty, which opens its virtual doors on July 14. Crawley describes her own entrepreneurial experience as the inspiration behind the program.
“Creating a business and not having any support was very difficult,” says Crawley, who didn’t get to see “behind the scenes” until she was in the director’s chair. “I had to learn everything on my own, and I made a lot of mistakes, so what I’m trying to do is help women–especially Black women, because we have our own unique set of challenges–to give them the keys, the codes to success.”
For Crawley, one of these keys is a strong mentor-mentee relationship. She is no stranger to this, and cites her work as a panelist and her personal relationships with female small business owners as fundamental in the planning of KNC School of Beauty. In her own formative years, Crawley says she lacked someone to show her the ropes and ask her guiding questions about her business. She wondered how she could condense what she learned for herself, asking “How can I bring it to everyone?”
According to Crawley, the answer lay in the women she knows and admires who are already changing the face of beauty. Featured advisors for the program include industry trailblazers such as Nancy Twine of Briogeo, Trinity Mouzon Wofford of Golde, and Melissa Butler of The Lip Bar. While selecting advisors, Crawley’s main goal was to assemble a team of “really strong and powerful women who have very established brands.” Their curriculum at KNC School of Beauty’s “four-semester” crash course will cover a variety of topics, including entrepreneurship, how to grow from adversity, marketing and branding, and investments.
Crawley herself is excited to learn from her colleagues. She met Butler, whose Shark Tank rejection turned into Target’s number one beauty brand, at a summit for Black entrepreneurs hosted by Richelieu Dennis and felt inspired by her story. It was an easy decision to invite Butler and others aboard. “These are women who are doing really major things, and we all have started at the bottom in a sense,” Crawley says. “Nothing has been handed to us, none of us have come from famous families, or very wealthy families with lots of connections, so it’s very aspirational to a regular, average person.”
One of Crawley’s main goals for KNC School of Beauty is that accessibility is reflected not only by its carefully curated cast of mentors, but also financially. Tuition for the program is free of charge, and one student will receive a ,000 grant for their business. Instead of tuition, Crawley asked her longtime partner, beauty brand Revlon, to donate ,000 on behalf of the school to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Revlon has also partnered with KNC School of Beauty for a social media takeover, giving students the opportunity to use its platform to tell their brand story, and a chance to win a seat at Revlon’s virtual Diversity Roundtable this fall. Crawley saw these initiatives as a “no-brainer,” because she believes information on how to build your dream business should be free.
For some, that information doesn’t come without a cost. “I really hate when people are stingy with knowledge, and I feel like in the beauty industry especially, there’s a lot of people who don’t want to share information. So I want to be the complete opposite,” she says, adding that perhaps the issue stems from the unnecessary struggles women face to earn their place in a competitive industry. Crawley, however, is an open book, “Me helping somebody isn’t going to diminish my brand, or bring me down in any way. If anything, it’s going to help.”
The KNC School of Beauty is a culmination of Crawley’s firm belief that all fashion and beauty influencers have a responsibility to uplift one another and use their positions of power to incite change. She views now as “the perfect time” for anyone to speak up for the causes they believe in. “Before, it was difficult,” she admits. “You could speak out about something, and a company just wouldn’t work with you anymore. But now, they have to listen to you.”
With more free advice to come once school is in session, Crawley urges all entrepreneurs to take advantage of the current moment in history: “Don’t let this pass you up. Don’t be scared. Speak your mind and have open dialogue with anything you have a problem with, because now is the time.”
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createdAt:Thu, 02 Jul 2020 21:44:28 +0000