Camille Bell founded Pound Cake Cosmetics to create makeup for darker skin tones.

Camille Bell founded Pound Cake Cosmetics to create makeup for darker skin tones.

Angela Gervasi / Billy Penn

Meet the 23-year-old Philly entrepreneur building an inclusive cosmetics company

First up: red lipsticks for the lightest to the darkest skin tones.

Camille Bell founded Pound Cake Cosmetics to create makeup for darker skin tones.

Camille Bell founded Pound Cake Cosmetics to create makeup for darker skin tones.

Angela Gervasi / Billy Penn
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You can’t avoid the long lines at Sephora, but it’s better to know you’re satisfied with your choice before waiting in line for 15 minutes. That’s why Camille Bell, CEO and founder of Pound Cake, tested out the “gorgeous orange blush” she found at Sephora before getting in line. But when the 23-year-old Fairmount resident applied a generous amount of the blush on her skin it just disappeared.

“I was like, ‘Wow, that’s so crazy if that doesn’t show up on me because I know there’s a lot of people who are a lot darker than me,’” Bell, said.

That experience was the breaking point for Bell, so she and cofounder/Creative Director Jonathan Velazquez decided to start Pound Cake, an online cosmetics company offering makeup for every skin tone.

Many people of color aren’t able to easily find makeup that was made for their skin tone. The blush at Sephora disappeared on Bell because the beauty industry doesn’t regularly put out makeup for a wide variety of skin tones. Except for some brands like Rihanna’s new Fenty Beauty and a few others, inclusive makeup is hard to come by. The people at Pound Cake have been working to change that.

Since graduating from Temple University in 2015, Bell has been working to bring Pound Cake to fruition. Bell and her team are currently working at The Yard: Midtown Village, a co-working space in Center City. Bell has also been working full-time as a marketing coordinator, while improving her knowledge of marketing, social media, and some branding.

“I’ve always had a kind of entrepreneurial spirit,” she said, “but I can definitely give credit to the Blackstone LaunchPad at Temple University.” The campus-based entrepreneur program helps students bring their ideas to life.

Pound Cake launched an Indiegogo campaign this morning to try to raise $20,000 for production costs like formulation of lipsticks, rights to lipstick packaging and shipping.

Billy Penn spoke to Bell about the beauty industry’s struggle with inclusivity and Pound Cake’s upcoming retro red matte lipstick line, the Hot Cakes Collection.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

How did you get the idea for Pound Cake?

There’s a lot of reasons. In general, I’ve dealt with racism and colorism. Colorism is a form of racism, essentially. The more your features adhere to European standards of beauty, the more beautiful you are. So just dealing with that as a black woman, it’s very draining. Or a person of color in general, because whiteness is a standard of beauty. Anyone who is not [white] I’m sure deals with those issues, and it’s very prevalent, especially in the black community. And even in the beauty industry you’ll go in Rite Aid and you’ll look around and you’ll see lipsticks, mascara, and it’s always shown on a white woman. And my features don’t look like that. I have a wider-set nose. I have fuller lips. My face is wider. I don’t have those features, so by never seeing myself I feel excluded.

And then going to colorism, I personally am on the lighter spectrum within the black community. For instance — foundation, I can find my color. I’m like the last one in terms of foundation color, like I make the cut. But my friends, family members, or peers who are darker than me aren’t advertised or provided these products. And if they’re not advertised it’s almost like saying, ‘This space is not for you. This space does not think you’re beautiful because we’re not choosing to show you.’ While I can get away with wearing certain eyeshadows and finding a foundation that matches my skin tone, for the most part, what about the people who are a lot darker than me that may share the same interest in makeup?

I have trouble finding my shade sometimes because I don’t know which one will actually match. But I didn’t realize that some people won’t even find their shade.

Right. The options are there for you, but which one is going to be the perfect fit? People who are a lot darker, that want to be in that space as well, aren’t given the same opportunities. So with all that combined, I was like, ‘I really love makeup. I graduated from [Temple University’s Klein College of Communication] public relations, but also general business. And I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur.’ So I kind of put all this together, and I was like, ‘well I can solve this.’ And it’s something that hits home to me. So that is why I started Pound Cake. I wanted to make a change. I wanted to make a difference. We also want Pound Cake to be a safe space for all people. For people of color, but in terms of an educational component. So people who are afraid to talk about these issues or who may not be in the space where they’re around people who are even aware of these issues. We wanted to make Pound Cake also like an informational site. So kind of like what we’re doing with our Twitter where we post videos or we talk about issues such as colorism. We try to point out how there shouldn’t be one standard of beauty. We try to make it educational for people as well as providing people products.

Sheila Thomas models one of the red lipsticks from Pound Cake's first line during a photo shoot

Sheila Thomas models one of the red lipsticks from Pound Cake's first line during a photo shoot

Angela Gervasi / Billy Penn

How has the process been for creating the five different shades of red for the Hot Cakes Collection?

We’re working with a cosmetic chemist in California. We give them the type of coverage we want. We give them the consistency that we want in the product. Then even for the past year and a half I’ve been looking at different reds. So like, that red bag over there, I would look at and see if it would look good. Anywhere I am I’m always taking pictures or looking at fabrics.  I’ve put together five different reds that I would love to see. I’ve paired them with specific skin tones. So we go light, medium, warm, deep, and rich — rich being the darkest and light being the lightest. So all of our five shade names are named after cakes. So Raspberry, Maraschino, Red Velvet, Red Bean, which is an Asian-inspired cake, and Apple. So five different red colors, but they’re also kind of cake-flavored.

So that’s the kind of process we’re going for. When you go to the website you’ll pick out a skin tone that best represents you. And we’ve created a formula for your specific skin tone. But we’re now also adding a liptone, because no one’s done that before. So a lot of times what’s happening is, for instance, Revlon will put out a color and they’ll show it on predominantly a white woman. White women tend to have lighter, pinker lips, whereas darker-skinned women tend to have darker lips. My one friend is Nigerian and her bottom lip is pink and her top lip is very dark. So when you put on this product, that’s really only shown on a white woman who has lighter lips, and it looks completely different as if it were to be on my Nigerian friend. So now we’re working with a chemist to adhere to that, too. And to make sure that it’s a really full coverage matte. So it shows up the same exact way as it’s presented.

You still have to raise some money. How will your Indiegogo campaign work?

Yeah, we actually just found out we won $10,000 two weeks ago [in early August]. And we were psyched. We did a pitch at Temple University. They had a pool of money and I pitched for the highest amount, which was $10,000 and we won that. [Former Rodan + Fields CEO] Lori Bush donated a lump sum to Temple’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute in October 2016. And she’s making annual donations. We were presented the opportunity to pitch to the director of the IEI Department along with fellow investors. Kind of “Shark Tank”-style. A private, invite-only pitch. Entrepreneurs who have really shown what they’ve been doing the past few years were selected by the department head [Ellen Weber] to pitch in front of her. When we get that $10,000 it’ll actually go towards our website, just because we have so many intricate parts of our website. And then our photography for everything.

But we’re also trying to raise an additional $20,000 just because, as you know when it comes to the beauty industry — just even a brand in general — we want to make sure that aesthetically we’re as polished as possible. While also giving us the ability to perfect our formulation as well.

We’re trying to get the word out as much as possible. People who just want to donate in general, that’ll be great. But we also have different perks where you can order a lipstick of your choice out of one of the five colors that we’re starting. Or you can get the full entire collection, which is called the Hot Cakes Collection.

And that’s five different reds?

Yeah five different retro red matte lipsticks. We have as small as a $10 donation where it’s a personalized thank you note from us. But even going up to $5,000, where a lot comes in that. A travel case, we’ll fly you out to meet us at our office space, and you’ll start helping us with the next collection, the Tea Cakes Collection.

And how did you come up with the name Pound Cake?

We had cake represent the current cosmetic industry, so non-inclusive to all people of color from the darkest shade of beauty to the lightest. Only showing, when they do show people of color, only showing one type. So a lighter-skinned black woman with loose, curly hair and a thin nose. And we wanted to kind of pound that. So we wanted to disrupt that. We’re offering everyone a new type of cake, which is Pound Cake.

The Indiegogo campaign will continue until next month, and Bell said she is hoping the Hot Cakes Collection will launch in late spring of 2018.