The inclusive female-founded makeup startup with a grass-roots strategy

August 22, 2021, 11:00 AM UTC

Although the company didn’t launch until 2021, Ego and Natasha Iwegbu actually began developing the Good Mineral in 2005. The sisters were searching for flawless coverage makeup that wouldn’t further irritate sensitive, acne-prone skin.

Taking a grass-roots approach and stopping women on the street to ask them to serve as skin tone models over the years, the sisters used what they had learned to produce a lineup of mineral foundations, blushes, contours, highlighters, and bronzers with ingredients free of fillers, parabens, preservatives, fragrances, essential oils, and synthetic dyes.

Fortune recently spoke with cofounders Ego and Natasha about their first year in business and plans for the future.

From left: Ego and Natasha Iwegbu, cofounders of the Good Mineral.
Courtesy of the Good Mineral

The following interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

Fortune: Can you share a bit about your professional backgrounds prior to launching the Good Mineral?

Natasha: I’m a mechanical engineer who started my career designing at Land Rover. I earned a degree in mechanical engineering at University College London, but my love of design led me to pursue a master’s degree in product design at London South Bank [University]. Shortly after, I met my American husband and moved to the United States, where I have worked for a federal agency on the latest automotive technologies. My true passion is product development and inventing, which paved the way to my founding of INNO Product Lab, where I consistently experiment with ways to make everyday products better, especially for women.

Ego: I am a mathematics graduate of King’s College London, but from a very young age always dreamt of starting my own business. Following graduation, I was hired by Ford Motor in their graduate recruitment program where I spent a few years before “escaping” to start my first beauty business on London’s busy Oxford Street. I developed the then new concept of easy, open-plan beauty bars located right where you shop, and pitched the idea to big high-street brands such as Selfridges and Topshop, securing premium ground-floor space for my idea. I went on to own nine beauty bars across the U.K. and South Africa, and authored books on the salon business. 

“Coming from our Nigerian and Russian super-academic backgrounds, being creatives or beauty entrepreneurs was not encouraged; education and solid professions were the way to go, so working through the mental and emotional barriers to make a real go of business was a big hurdle to overcome,” says Ego.
Courtesy of the Good Mineral

What inspired you to launch the Good Mineral?

Ego: I started using Natasha’s formulations on my own acne-prone skin and decided they were just too good not to share with a wider audience. My face-to-face experience with tens of thousands of real women in my salons confirmed the truth behind everyday makeup needs: 90% of the women we meet are not into makeup, and the repeated line was always, “I’m not a makeup person, but I want to look fresh and groomed.” 

Makeup tutorials on social media seem to define what a “makeup person” is: lots of skill, a wide variety of products that do different things, too many layers, lots of time, and what seems to be never-ending blending. Putting on makeup became way too complicated; even the so-called quick-makeup or daytime-look tutorials still had at least 10 steps.

The Good Mineral is the solution to not wanting to wear a lot of chemical-heavy makeup but needing to look your best—even if you have sensitive or acne-prone skin. 

“I tried all the steps and all of the products and would end up looking completely over–made-up, with a mismatched tone on my face versus neck; it would make me so self-conscious when I went out,” Ego says. “My acne was severe, and with all the layers—concealers, foundations, and powders—I’d end up looking like a bad paint job all day and then suffer with itchy skin for days after.”
Courtesy of the Good Mineral

You started developing the Good Mineral as far back as 2005, but the company wasn’t officially founded until 2020, and the brand launched its products just recently. Can you walk us through a brief history of what your research and development process was like? What were the objectives? 

Natasha: I wanted to develop a skin-first foundation for myself, and I wasn’t the type of girl that could put on any old makeup and get away without breakouts. I was uncomfortable around makeup, and this was heightened when I tried to choose makeup for my wedding; I was so disappointed by what was available on the market. 

Before attempting, I went to two large makeup manufacturers to talk about formulation and was surprised to be faced with the same white male demographic of my automotive colleagues. I realized that they could not help me solve my problem, especially after one of them said, “Black women like heavy coverage!”

I took matters into my own hands, and my extensive lab experience gave me the confidence to know that I could develop formulations myself. I began with my own shade, and then used the product design method of prototyping and iterations to create 12 adaptable foundation shades from scratch. I would go out to interact with women and fill in the missing shades, using their skin tones. 

I approached formulation in the same manner that you would approach an elimination diet: wiping the slate clean and adding in only one or two ingredients at a time, to identify the irritants and introduce the most effective color pigments and minerals for each shade.

I did not like the way makeup feels on my skin; I wanted to create a powder where every gram of it had the power to get the job done. I was looking to develop something that was lightweight enough that it would feel like wearing nothing, and the only way to do that was to source high-quality ingredients that were really necessary for providing natural coverage and keep all of the other stuff out. 

My grass-roots process took over five years, out of which I developed 33 perfect shades of pure mineral pigments on real-life models. 

EgoI took on Natasha’s formulations and introduced them to thousands of women through my salons over a six-year period. Despite all of the beauty brands—and tutorials—out there, the thirst for simple and clean makeup was greater than ever. The hugely successful response to these powders was the catalyst to Natasha and I raising venture capital funding in October 2020 and launching as the Good Mineral, a direct-to-consumer, e-commerce brand in 2021.

Our current range of 33 powders includes our hero product—the Loves You Back 3-in-1 Powder Foundation—and blushes, contours, highlighters, bronzers, and setting powders. 

“The Good Mineral is a total detox of your makeup routine. Minimum skill, super-clean minimal ingredients, maximum effect,” says Ego. “Besides, even if you have great skin, why would you want to cake it up with layers?”
Courtesy of the Good Mineral

As was the case for many companies, large and small, COVID caused a number of delays and headaches for businesses last year. What kinds of roadblocks did the pandemic present for your business launching in 2021, especially during a time when people went out less, and therefore fewer consumers would be wearing, let alone buying, makeup products? 

Ego: There were countless roadblocks we faced due to the pandemic, specifically with manufacturing and logistics, as we had planned to launch in February 2021 and ultimately didn’t until July 2021. 

But lockdown also offered key benefits bolstered by technology that we were able to leverage. As was the case for millions, COVID meant that all of the meetings we took in the lead-up to launch were done virtually, which helped us build a diverse, international team and engage talent across the globe. This likely would not have happened prior to lockdown and its restrictions.

But COVID also forced the world to embrace a more simple lifestyle which aligns with the core values of our brand: easy, clean beauty. Our brand celebrates a less complicated approach to life’s everyday routines. 

There’s a place for makeup artistry, but it’s not in your bathroom or at your dresser every morning. The more complicated it gets, the less likely you are to attempt it, which only leads to a no-makeup life. 

As cofounders, how do you share duties and responsibilities? What’s an average day like for each of you?

Ego: As the CEO, I connect directly with and manage our virtual team through the week. This is my first ever e-commerce business, and I am getting used to the idea of only connecting with the customer virtually. My days consist of connecting with our team online, planning our social media calendar, analyzing sales data, and business development. 

Natasha: I participate in weekly team meetings around marketing and strategy, and am always thinking about product development and how we can expand our offerings against our brand promise in the future.

Looking ahead, how do you want to see the Good Mineral evolve in the next five years?

Ego: Our mission is skin acceptance. As we enter this new era of authenticity, we’ll continue to complement the lifestyle choices of our customers, with the goal to provide a full range of easy-to-use, multitasking, clean makeup and skin care products that come with good vibes.

We have work to do around educating the customer on how to use these concentrated, undiluted formulations, and will focus on developing an awareness among our audience as we move forward. 

It’s important to us that we continue to develop even more products that help women live their best life. Fillers, parabens, fragrance, and cruelty will never be a part of our cosmetics or products, which means they will always be good for your skin. 

This is an installment of Startup Year One, a special series of interviews with founders about the major lessons they have learned in the immediate aftermath of their businesses’ first year of operation.