Ingredient supplier BASF launched an accelerator program with StitchCrew in March for early-stage beauty and personal care entrepreneurs which will give selected brands a $10,000 grant, coaching from industry professionals and the opportunity to showcase their products to investors.
Whitney Millegan, digital strategy leader for the Diverse Leaders Program at BASF said while the brands will be receiving a grant, the program’s focus is on exposing indies to the company’s network of personal care professionals and investors who can help launch and scale businesses.
“Our goal is really to develop a community of people who are inclusive and conscious, who represent diverse backgrounds, and who are really hungry to accelerate greater inclusion in the personal care industry,” Millegan said.
Opening door for inclusive beauty ingredient demand
While BASF was developing ingredients for more inclusive beauty products, Senior Vice President of care chemicals Marcelo Lu said the company didn’t see a huge demand from the industry.
Lu said while they didn’t see a pick up in demand for adapted ingredients or innovation in inclusive personal care ingredients broadly, indie brands were cropping up with ambitions for more inclusive lines.
“That is why we said maybe what is needed here is a launchpad or a support platform, where brands not only get access to some degree of funding but also access to our labs, access to our innovation, access to our concepts that really allowed them to scale up,” Lu said.
While the $10,000 is largely symbolic, Lu and Millegan said the impact of the program will be in bringing early-stage entrepreneurs into the ingredient stage of development.
Lu said the ingredient level of development is often where innovations or concepts die, so bringing brands into an accelerator that isn’t looking to have a retail-ready product could help participating brands develop inclusive products successfully.
In the inclusive beauty space, effectiveness is very important in products and by giving early-stage brands access to BASF’s testing capacities, Millegan said they hope to help companies develop efficacious products for a wide variety of consumers.
Attempting to capture a broad definition of inclusivity, the personalization wave
When it comes to inclusivity, Lu and Millegan said BASF hopes to capture brands looking to serve a broad range of differing personal care consumers, covering different genders, ages, abilities, as well as skin and hair tones and types.
Millegan said the goal is to make products that would have been historically considered to be serving a niche market both efficacious and widely available.
One of the areas the accelerator is hoping to focus on is the personalization trend, Lu said. As personalized personal care products become more popular, he said there is a need at the R&D level to develop ingredients that can address broader parts of the consumer base.
“If we are able to make (personalization) more inclusive then people have more stories to tell around the product,” Lu said. “We see more and more the storytelling of a brand is very important. You cannot do this without being inclusive and addressing all aspects of the consumer, who they are and how they are wanting to interact with the brand and the product.”
Lu also said BASF is looking to run this program beyond this first year and, if it is successful, develop cohorts within the accelerator. Beyond the grant, he said the in-kind contribution BASF is looking to provide to participating brands is “infinite.”