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Fixing the funding gap

The city is investing millions in female entrepreneurs, who have been largely overlooked by private investors. KJ Miller and Amanda Johnson were having drinks one evening when they got on the topic of makeup, specifically why it is so hard to find a nude-tone lipstick that works for women of color. Most cosmetics, they noted, were formulated for women with a lighter complexion.

The pair, who met at Harvard Business School, bought industrial molds and dyes and began experimenting with lipsticks in their New York kitchens. "Lipstick is not rocket science," Miller said. In early 2017 they launched Mented (short for pigmented), a direct-to-consumer cosmetics brand for women of color, who they estimate spend $30 billion a year on cosmetics.

Raising capital proved more challenging. As African-American women pitching to mostly white male investors, "we had a harder time getting in the room and, when we did, convincing people that there is a problem that needs to be solved," Miller said.

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