Sephora has chosen 13 female entrepreneurs from seven countries for its third annual beauty startup accelerator, "Sephora Accelerate," according to a company press release. This year marks the largest cohort ever for the program.
Each woman will receive grants, in-depth instruction and feedback during a one-week bootcamp, as well as one-on-one mentoring from Sephora leaders and beauty industry experts. The latter group includes Christian Dior Couture former CEO and president Pamela Baxter and Briogeo Hair Care CEO Nancy Twine.
The accelerator focuses on ideas and businesses related to merchandising, technology and sustainability. The program culminates in Sephora Accelerate Demo Day, a platform where the businesspeople present their companies to industry experts, venture partners and senior Sephora leaders, the company said.
Despite now having a place in one of Europe's largest and most venerable luxury conglomerates, LVMH, Sephora has maintained its entrepreneurial edge.
As in Europe, the retailer's concept swept away the controlled, compartmentalized department-store experience with a more democratic display of high-end cosmetics, self-service trials and expert, brand-agnostic staff.
Its 2015 Beauty TIP Workshop (launched three years ago) and Sephora Studio (opened last year), are tech-heavy concepts that keep the customer at the forefront. Meanwhile, the company's Innovation Lab and push into in-store tech like beacons shows the retailer is determined to keep customers' attention.
While its customers are predominantly female, women in the beauty business are still underrepresented, which is part of the impetus behind Sephora's accelerator, according to the release. The size of the class has grown each year, and the program overall is now on track to support more than 50 women-led beauty businesses by 2020, the company said.
The businesses tapped by the accelerator are involved in machine learning and AI, appliances to make handmade cosmetics, and sustainable products, among others. While the women all said they anticipate being better able to grow and scale their efforts as a result of their participation, Sephora will also get a peek at the cutting edge of the beauty business.
"One of the biggest challenges as a woman entrepreneur is accessing the networks that help male founders succeed," KJ Miller, a participant from the U.S. and Co-CEO of upscale beauty brand Mented Cosmetics, said in a statement.