Mented Cosmetics Co-Founder KJ Miller On Career Pivots, Trusting Your Instincts & Personalizing Products

Making lipstick can’t be rocket science, KJ Miller thought, in the earliest stages of launching her cosmetics company. Wholesale lipstick manufacturers told her she would need to order thousands of units of lipstick if she wanted to create the perfect nude shade to match her skin tone, but she and her cofounder didn’t want to agree to the minimum before they knew if anyone liked the product. So, Miller found a video of a woman making her own lipstick on YouTube. “I sent the link to Amanda and said, ‘We gotta do this; we’ve got to teach ourselves to make lipstick, because we don’t want to pay all this money,’” she says.
Along with Amanda E. Johnson, Miller is the cofounder of Mented Cosmetics, a makeup line for women of color, which began as a project the two pursued on the weekends in their New York kitchens after graduating from Harvard Business School. At the time, they both had full-time jobs, so it functioned as a side-hustle. “We bought the molds, we bought the ingredients, we bought the colorants, and we made our original capsule collection of nude lipsticks,” she says. And from there, the team relied on feedback from family, friends, and influencers before officially opening for business.
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