Pound Cake is on the rise.
The inclusive beauty brand has inked its first major distribution deal with Ulta Beauty, where its Cake Batter liquid lipstick range will enter more than 800 doors this October.
The expansion marks a full-circle moment for cofounder and chief executive officer Camille Bell, who was a member of the 2022 Ulta Beauty Muse Accelerator class and took home the $1 million grand prize for Pharrell Williams’ Black Ambition pitch competition last winter.
“The reason I started Pound Cake was because I’d go to retailers and not be able to find [makeup] shades that matched me, or they would look different than advertised,” said Bell.
After realizing her dilemma was a common one — particularly among consumers with darker skin tones — Bell and her cofounder Johnny Velasquez developed a line of six liquid lipsticks, each of which provide the same red hue on varying skin tones. Priced $24, the lipsticks dropped direct-to-consumer in 2021 and entered Credo Beauty’s 10 locations last year.
“We have this one product, right, but there are so many ways to tell our story,” said Bell, who underwent a packaging refresh ahead of the Ulta launch and is zeroing in on brand building through education.
“The next step to transforming the industry is helping people know what to ask for, to understand what their undertones are,” said Velasquez. “We’ve been familiarized with these terms of, ‘light, beige, dark’ — [brands] need to expand that vocabulary, and if they do that, they have to create products that actually account for what they’re saying.”
Muffy Clince, director of emerging brands merchandising at Ulta Beauty, said Pound Cake’s “foundation-like approach to liquid lipsticks” was what drew the retailer to the brand. “Camille and Johnny showed us they have what it takes to successfully launch their brand into the retail landscape and continue to scale and grow for years to come,” she said.
Though neither party commented on sales expectations for the retail launch, industry sources think Pound Cake could do around $4 million in first-year retail sales at Ulta.
“Three years ago, there was a lot of civil unrest and I think a lot of folks were willing to blindly support Black and brown folks. Three years post that [time], people are back outside, they are going into retailers, and that support that was once heavily there online for Black and brown folks has definitely decreased,” said Bell, adding that the exposure Pound Cake will gain by being in stores is paramount.
In 2024, the brand is looking to take on new makeup categories, too.
“We have people asking for blushes, saying blush sometimes doesn’t show up on their cheeks; some people have said they have hyperpigmentation on their eyelids, asking if we can account for that with eye shadows,” said Bell, who didn’t specify what’s coming next but that the brand is “definitely aligned with what our community wants.”
And that community is growing beyond Bell and Velasquez’s initial expectations.
“We have a surprising amount of older white folks, too, asking us about the brand, about their lip tone,” Velasquez said. “That wasn’t our target demographic, so it’s cool knowing you can create a brand with melanin-rich skin in mind and it can still work for other demographics — it just speaks to the power of formulating for inclusivity’s sake.”