Some ladies are frustrated that lipsticks only come in shades of red, pink, and nude. Plus, they have unnecessary chemicals. The Lip Bar offers a wider range of cocktail-inspired colors, minus the irrelevant elements. Founders Melissa Butler and Rosco Spears pitched on Shark Tank but didn’t get a deal. As of 2024, The Lip Bar is worth an estimated $15 million.
About the Founders
Melissa Butler and Rosco Spears are Brooklyn natives. The former currently resides in Detroit, Michigan, while the latter is in Rutherfordton, North Carolina. Melissa graduated from Florida A&M University and Rosco studied at Ferris State University.
Before becoming an entrepreneur, Butler worked on Wall Street for years. She was a licensed stock broker who operated as a financial analyst at Barclays bank.
Though she has a master’s degree in criminal justice, Rosco was more bent on being an artist. She worked as a stylist for companies such as Alice + Olivia, Brooks Brothers, and Macy’s.
Founding the Company
As an empowered lady, Melissa didn’t like that lipstick came only in limited colors. She believed that women could be whoever they wanted to be, so she started a lipstick line that is self-expressive and responsibly made.
Melissa started making lipstick in her kitchen. Furthermore, because she didn’t appreciate the harmful chemicals found in typical makeup products, she used vegan-friendly ingredients. Butler hired Rosco to serve as the creative director of The Lip Bar when it launched in 2011.
They started selling through their website and created an app where interested buyers could customize the color of their lipstick. After two years in business, the company made $107,000 in sales.
Shark Tank Appearance
Melissa and Rosco had trouble getting distribution with major retailers. In 2015, the duo appeared on season six of Shark Tank, seeking $125,000 for 20%.
Lori Greiner was the only female Shark present and was the one who could properly understand the potential of the product. Cuban and Herjavec didn’t think they were marketing the product correctly and didn’t like the branding.
The ladies revealed they were making around $8,000 per month and were still creating the products by hand. Kevin made various rude discouraging comments to get a laugh which the viewers didn’t like.
Sharks also didn’t like their idea to build a mobile lipstick mobile. Melissa and Rosco went home without a deal but later, the Sharks would regret not investing!
After Shark Tank
Despite Kevin’s nasty comments, Melissa and Rosco didn’t give up hope and used it as motivation. As the business expanded, Butler moved to Detroit to focus on pitching to beauty influencers and retailers.
She tracked down people to contact on LinkedIn and cold-emailed them. Butler consistently followed up and got a breakthrough with a buyer from Target. In 2016, they launched on Target’s website, and in 2018 made it into 44 stores.
After self-funding the business for six years, they raised outside money for the first time. In 2018, the New Voices Fund (owned by Sundial/Unilever) invested $2 million into the cosmetic brand. The investment was used to expand into retail and is now in over 1000 stores nationwide including Target and Walmart.
In September 2022, The Lip Bar closed a $6.7 million funding round with Pendulum as the lead investor. This capital will be used to improve distribution for The Lip Bar and Thread Beauty, as well as starting a third beauty brand. The company has sold over 2 million units and is making an estimated $1.6 million in annual revenue.