Halle Berry Business Partner Kendra Bracken-Ferguson Launches Platform for Black Beauty, Wellness Founders

The ‘Founders Studio’, the latest launch for Bracken-Ferguson’s BrainTrust company, promises to help improve long-term business viability and revenue growth for Black entrepreneurs by giving them free access to resources like funding and mentorship from major companies including Shopify, JPMorgan Chase, Salesforce, AfterPay and BeautyUnited.

The Studio has valued the mentorship opportunities and access to capital offered by its corporate partners at around $100 million. So far, 25 Black business owners, including Kim Lewis of CurlMix, Lauren Napier of Lauren Napier Beauty, and Lucien Aymerick Eloundou of Charbon Plus, have signed up for the Studio. The platform has three membership tiers — start, grow and accelerate — based on the size, revenue and business needs of each founder.

“I saw this need as a Black female founder myself [for] access to education, mentorship, and capital and I wanted to have verifiable, tangible results that [show] the Black beauty and wellness founders we are working with have evolved their businesses, have more access to capital and are in a better financial situation,” said Bracken-Ferguson, who hopes the platform will eventually enlist close to 1,000 Black founders.

Bracken-Ferguson is a former director of digital media for Ralph Lauren and a years-long business partner of Halle Berry with whom she launched rē•spin, a platform that curates beauty and wellness products and content. The agency Bracken-Ferguson co-founded in 2009, Digital Brand Architects, is considered among the first to manage “bloggers” as talent.

Since the social justice protests of summer 2020, several fashion-focused initiatives endeavouring to help level the playing field for minorities have emerged. Nearly 400 Black-owned brands have signed on with major retailers like Nordstrom and Macy’s since Brother Veilles founder Aurora James’ 15 Percent Pledge launched in June 2020, the organisation said. Meanwhile, The Black in Fashion Council, founded by magazine editor Linsday Peoples Wagner and marketing consultant Sandrine Charles, says it’s been working with brands like The Gap, H&M and L’Oréal.

Still, some minority designers have bemoaned a lack of long-term resources to help them navigate big partnerships and sustain business growth for the long haul. Others have worried that enthusiasm for supporting Black business owners has started to wane in recent months.

“It’s one thing to have a brand and to go on a shelf, it’s another thing to have long term sustainability to understand your business to understand how to grow your business,” said Bracken-Ferguson. “The whole model for the studio is, ‘How do we help provide those resources so that we can truly ensure that the next generation of beauty and wellness founders have sustainability?’”

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