Meet the founder of the first Black-owned clean cosmetics brand sold at Sephora
LYS Beauty launched just a year ago in February 2021 with the mission to make the clean beauty category more inclusive by offering universal shades with high-performance results—both uncommon within the current cosmetics landscape. The brand’s hero product, the Triple Fix Serum Foundation, comes in 35 shades for customizable medium coverage.
The brand touts itself as the first and only Black-owned clean cosmetics brand sold at Sephora right now, and has since sold out of its products at least twice on Sephora.com.
Last fall, the Atlanta-based company started selling at Sephora stores—beyond just e-commerce—and it started to broaden its marketing tactics with social partnerships that included livestream shopping.
LYS Beauty founder and CEO Tisha Thompson recently shared more with Fortune about the brand’s first year in business and plans for 2022.
The following interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
Fortune: Could you share a bit about your professional background prior to launching LYS Beauty?
Thompson: I began as a makeup artist, but it was extremely important to both me and my parents that I would go to college, ultimately making me a first-generation college graduate. I ended up getting accepted to school where I studied accounting and worked as a makeup artist to put myself through school.
After graduating I took on an accountant role at PÜR cosmetics, where I would be for over 15 years. Although I began in finance, my love for product innovation and marketing landed me a role on the brand side, where I resided as vice president of marketing and innovation until 2020. During my tenure there I wore a lot of hats, similar to what I do now as a startup founder. I helped to innovate clean beauty product development, supported brand management and marketing, and also oversaw finance and operations. My most notable campaign when working at PÜR was the viral 4-in-1 Love Your Selfie Longwear Foundation and Concealer, which launched the industry’s first 100-shade foundation range.
What inspired you to launch LYS?
I grew frustrated with the gap in the beauty industry and the lack of diverse shade ranges that were also formulated with clean ingredients. I wanted to offer affordable makeup and skin care solutions that are uniquely catered to wide shade ranges as they target common skin concerns, like hyperpigmentation, visible signs of aging, blemishes, and enlarged pores. There’s this myth that clean beauty, deep shade ranges, and high-performance products cannot coexist, and I’m here to change that.
Part of what makes LYS so special is how inclusive it is. What has the research and development process been like for producing new cosmetics? What has feedback been like from people who tested the brand?
LYS has been in the works for quite some time, and I’m lucky to have a strong cohort of individuals to bounce ideas around with and test the products with honest feedback. My personal life is just as diverse as the consumer base I’m targeting, so I’ll ping my team, family and friends, influencers, industry professionals, etc., to capture real-time feedback on how the formulas are working against their most pressing skin care concerns. There’s no secret solution to formulating for various skin types, textures, and tones, so I heavily rely on that core group to help shape some of my product decisions. I like to see how the product wears on different skin tones, how the undertones work on the complexion, and ultimately the wearability of the formulas, and will tweak with the lab until we reach the desired outcome.
LYS products have been a smash hit on Sephora, with the serum foundation selling out twice. Why do you think that product, in particular, resonated so much with customers?
I think that our Triple Fix Serum Foundation did well because of the research and thoughtfulness that went into creating this product. We were extremely diligent to make sure that each skin type and tone was represented in our line, paying close attention to each different skin tone within one particular shade. We tested this foundation on 150 different skin tones to make sure that we were including every single one. Not only are our products inclusive shade-wise, our formulas are clean to Sephora’s standards, so they work for anyone who has sensitive skin no matter their skin tone. There really is something for everyone.
Do you have plans to expand to any other retail channels besides Sephora and LysBeauty.com? Are bricks and mortar in the future?
My vision when launching LYS Beauty has always been to be a globally recognized brand, and that is both my short- and long-term goal. We launched in Sephora with an online only assortment in February 2021, but quickly expanded to Sephora stores in the U.S. and Canada by September 2021. We hope to expand internationally with Sephora. In addition to our U.S. and Canada business, we are now available in Europe with Cult Beauty. Cult Beauty has been an amazing partnership in making clean beauty accessible for all.
Looking forward, where do you want to see LYS Beauty in five years?
I always say my mission with LYS Beauty is to diversify the clean beauty space, and I’m only building on that mission in the coming years. I would love to see the brand expanding into different product categories and building general brand awareness, so beauty lovers can finally have solutions that are made with their skin tone, concerns, and budget in consideration. Accessibility is key here, and I want to get LYS products into the hands of as many people as possible and positively impact the way they view themselves—with or without makeup on!
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.