This is an installment in a special series, Startup Year One, interviewing startup founders about the major lessons they learned in the immediate aftermath of their businesses’ first year of operation.
At 23-years-old, Olamide Olowe is purported to be the youngest Black woman to raise over $2 million in venture capital funding ($2.6 million to be exact). This year, she and cofounder Claudia Teng founded Topicals, a skincare brand with high-end beauty products intended to treat sensitive skin conditions at lesser price points.
As two young women of color, Olowe and Teng said they grew up settling for products that didn’t really serve them or represent their skin. With Topicals, they want to create an inclusive community around positive and authentic discussions about their skin. And as chronic skin conditions often lead to serious mental health issues as a result of associated stigmas, shame, and embarrassment often felt by those with them, Topicals is donating 1% of profits to various mental health organizations.
Topicals is touted to incorporate high-quality ingredients with clinically-tested formulas that tackle skin conditions like eczema, hyper-pigmentation, psoriasis, and more. The brand launched with two products: “Like Butter” (a whipped, hydrating mask moisturizing and soothing dry, sensitive, and eczema-prone skin; $32) and “Faded” (a gel serum combatting dark spots and discoloration from sun damage, scarring, and inflammation; $36).
Among the supporters and investors in Topicals are several high-profile Black women, including Netflix CMO Bozoma Saint John, entrepreneur and DJ Hannah Bronfman, and the Emmy-nominated stars of Insecure, Issa Rae and Yvonne Orji. Led by early-stage venture capital firm Lerer Hippeau, the recent fundraising round included participation from Mucker Capital as well as the CEOs of Warby Parker, Allbirds, Casper, Harry’s, Bombas, and Red Antler.
Fortune recently spoke with Olowe to learn more about her business, the lessons learned, the hurdles overcome, and plans for the next year.
The following interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
Olamide Olowe, cofounder of Topicals.Courtesy of Topicals
Fortune: What inspired you and your cofounder, Claudia Teng, to launch Topicals? How does it stand apart in the skincare industry?
Both of us grew up with skin conditions: Claudia has severe eczema, and I have post barbae folliculitis [a skin inflammation]. We knew what it felt like to live with these skin conditions and the effect it had on our mental health, which is why we wanted to create Topicals.
Topicals is taking the focus off of having “perfect” skin and putting the onus on making the treatment experience more enjoyable or as we like to say “Funner Flare-Ups.” Chronic skin conditions aren’t curable so chasing the unattainable goal of “perfect” skin set by the beauty industry did not fit with the new era of beauty that Topicals is pioneering.
Courtesy of Topicals
Skincare is increasingly outselling cosmetics in the beauty business. Why do you think that is? How much of a role does social media play in your branding and marketing?
We’ve entered into an era of wellness where people no longer want to cover up their …read more