The Lip Bar’s innovative inclusivity

Melissa Butler, founder and CEO of The Lip Bar, shares the journey of her brand’s expansion into major retailers.
Julianne Mobilian
Managing Editor
melissa butler

Detroit-based beauty entrepreneur Melissa Butler, founder and CEO of The Lip Bar, has come a long way since her vegan lipstick was first pitched on the TV show “Shark Tank.” Every judge rejected her idea, but now, her brand is dotting major retailers’ shelves—with more growth on the horizon.

Drug Store News caught up with Butler to discuss her plans for the future, and why offering pigmented shades for all complexions is at the heart of her brand.

Drug Store News: Can you share the journey that led to expansion into CVS?
Melissa Butler:
My team and I first pitched to CVS in 2019, we started the conversations and decided it wasn’t the right time. And then, four years later, we’ve worked hard to see the partnership come into fruition. This has been a dream come true to launch with an endcap in 3,000 stores.

the lip bar x cvs

DSN: Inclusivity is at the core of your brand. How does this expansion into a larger retailer align with your commitment to serving customers of all skin tones?
One of our reasons for working with Target on our big expansion earlier this year and being in Walmart stores, has been about accessibility. However, I live in the heart of Detroit, where there aren’t a lot of big box stores. I launched The Lip Bar because I was passionate about creating vegan, cruelty-free, nontoxic, highlight quality products that were easy to use and complimentary for women of all complexions.

In the same breath, we don’t want our customers to have to drive 30 minutes to find these products. For our customers that live in urban environments, it’s more often than not that you’re going into drug stores to get your everyday essentials. So, for us, working with CVS to make our products accessible to more customers was a no brainer. Especially as they’ve been investing in their beauty programs in the last several years.

DSN: Could you highlight some of the key products that customers can now find in the big retailer’s stores?
All our best-selling lip products are available for $14.99, including; Bawse Lady, Rich Auntie, It Girl, Minimalist, Trophy Wife, Hot Mama, Prima Donna, Savage and Unimpressed.

DSN: What sets your inclusive beauty products apart from others in the market, and how will this be emphasized in your presence within the larger retailer?
MB: So I’m not actually a makeup girl, I’m really a self-esteem girl. I started The Lip Bar in my kitchen because I wanted women to see themselves and know that they were beautiful. I’ve always understood the power of makeup, as it relates to making women look good and feel good about themselves. When they feel confident, they can go out into the world as the best version of themselves. At TLB, every product we make and every marketing campaign is created to celebrate and empower women.

the lip bar nude mattes

DSN: Expanding into a big retailer often comes with challenges. What were some of the biggest hurdles you faced during this expansion process, and how did you overcome them?
Our biggest challenge was preparing for this on an inventory level. We implemented new inventory management systems and worked hard to streamline our operations processes to ensure we could service our new retailer, while also ensuring the launch wouldn’t impact our other retailers. It’s kept all of my teams very busy over the past year, and I’m extremely proud of all of our hard work.

DSN: For customers who may be new to your brand, what should they expect when they explore your products within CVS?
Our products are vegan, cruelty-free, highly pigmented, easy to use and for women of all complexions. I would love for CVS customers being introduced to us the first time to explore our broad range of best selling lip shades. We have thousands of reviews from our customers that have found their love of finding their perfect nude, or their perfect red, so I encourage everyone to try it! I know we have something for you!

DSN: In what ways will your brand continue to prioritize sustainability and ethical practices as it reaches a larger customer base through this retailer?
We will continue to be honest and transparent about our safe, high quality formulas at an affordable price! We believe high quality shouldn’t come at a high cost. We aim to provide accessibility at every level for every customer.

DSN: What are your plans for engaging with the community and maintaining the brand’s connection with your existing loyal customers after this expansion?
I think the most powerful thing that we can do to engage with consumers is let them in on the journey. Our customers have always been really proud of us. They remember watching me make lipsticks in my kitchen, they’ve seen us face public rejection and they’ve seen us grow in retail. We’ve always let them in on the journey and that’s not going to change. I shared the first time I walked into a CVS store and saw our endcap, and we’ll continue showing some sneak peeks of how we prepared for it because we know we couldn’t do it without them.

DSN: With this expansion, what are your goals for the future of your brand, both in terms of product development and outreach?
With this expansion, we are hoping to increase our retail sales significantly this year. We are all about segmentation and making sure we are where our customer is. This launch is a semi-permanent endcap from September until the end of December, and after that four-month test with our best sellers, we’ll determine which CVS stores we should launch in. I always think it’s better to start small and grow, so we can continue to drive the accessibility of nontoxic, inclusive makeup.

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