Ulta Beauty’s premier MUSE Accelerator is nothing short of life changing, said Emma Willis.
The national beauty retailer has partnered with Venture Noire to launch a 10-week, hybrid accelerator that supports Black, Indeginous and underrepresented founders of color as they prepare to break into and thrive in the beauty retail space, explained Willis, who serves as chief operating officer at Venture Noire.
“We cannot downplay the fact that a founder can go from selling on their ecommerce platform to then being able to potentially obtain a retail space — that’s a huge change in one’s overall trajectory and ability to expand their business,” Willis said. “This accelerator is a way to uplift minority founders.”
Venture Noire is a national-facing nonprofit with a mission of improving the quality of life for Black entrepreneurs. The nonprofit established a presence in Kansas City in 2021 and has worked with the City of Kansas City, Missouri, to launch City of Entrepreneurs.
Click here to read more about City of Entrepreneurs.
The Ulta Beauty MUSE — which stands for magnify, uplift, support and empower — Accelerator will accept eight founders with applications closing Thursday, June 30. Each founder is expected to receive $50,000 and curriculum from Venture Noire that will provide the tools and expertise to build their brand and scale.
“Ulta is fortunately giving everyone $50,000 to afford them some focus and time to be able to improve their brands and products, which is key. I can’t ask you to still run a business and give me 10 weeks of undivided attention,” Willis noted.
“And our curriculum is really about these founders being able to go back home and create a payroll that employs people in the places around them,” she continued. “It also improves the economic development that happens with our small businesses. We are here to bring vitality back to the communities and cities that we happen to live in.”
Curriculum will cover brand strategy, retail, supply chain, logistics and more, Willis added. Participants of the MUSE Accelerator will also have access to mentors with expertise all the way from the chemistry lab to the boardroom.
Click here to apply for Ulta Beauty’s MUSE Accelerator Program.
The MUSE Accelerator is set to kick off in September and will culminate in November with a Demo Day event. Founders will have the opportunity to pitch their brand to Ulta Beauty and other major distributors but securing shelf space is not guaranteed.
“We’re bringing them all the resources and opportunities, so there’s no actual argument about whether this is just Ulta trying to get the best and brightest,” Willis said. “They understand that retail space is power, so being able to expose these founders to more opportunities is part of our objectives.”
For all those interested in applying to Ulta Beauty’s MUSE Accelerator, Willis encouraged them to go for it.
“If you feel like you are a brand that is willing to get out there, put your best face forward and work on increasing your knowledge based on how to grow your company — then this is for you,” Willis said.
“We’ve got some surprises in store,” she teased. “We’re really excited to share them and wow our founder. This is going to be pretty brilliant.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.