September 19, 2021

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After being furloughed, makeup artist launches beauty brand, is on reality series

At the onset of the novel coronavirus outbreak a year ago, Tameka Jones’ near 20-year career as a makeup artist was thrown into disarray.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions on businesses as part of the state’s stay-at-home order, Jones, was furloughed by her employer. As restrictions continued, she became increasingly nervous.

“They were saying we couldn’t touch people and people had to wear masks,” said Jones, a St. Paul resident. “We can’t do makeovers if everybody has on a mask. What does the future hold?”

Rather than return to that job, Jones used her savings to start Lip Esteem, a plant-based, gluten free and animal cruelty free lipstick brand of more than 25 lipstick shades. Jones chose the word “Esteem” to reflect being proud of one’s features. Jones was teased about her lips as a child.

Her lipstick, she said, helps people feel good, “one tube at a time.”

Jones has partnered with a U.S.-based manufacturer to make the lipstick, which she purposefully designed to be worn by women of all skin tones. Lip Esteem products are also paraben free, Jones said, meaning they lack chemicals typically found in cosmetic and body care products that can potentially cause hormonal imbalances and infertility problems.

Less than a year after launching, Lip Esteem is self-sustaining, said Jones, who did not provide specific revenue figures.

The majority of sales are through the company’s website, but Lip Esteem also has a brick and mortar partner and placement at two local farmer’s markets. Other salons, boutiques and beauty supply stores have shown interest, she said.

In April, Jones was one of six Twin Cities Black business owners picked for the sixth season of Small Business Revolution, a reality series powered by Shoreview-based Deluxe that is streamed on Hulu and Amazon Prime Video. The new season is currently in production, and all businesses selected will receive business advice, financial guidance and marketing assistance from Deluxe small business consultants.

Deluxe received nearly 100 nominations for the upcoming season.

‘It’s going to afford me the opportunities to be seen in places where I could have never done it by myself,” said Jones of being cast for the show. “It’s going to give me an opportunity to share my story with people who are thinking about entrepreneurship, or jumping [to another job] or quitting.”

In the early stages of starting her business, as a favor, Jones replaced a friend as a vendor at a Caribbean Zumba event. There, Jones was spotted by a director from the Midtown Farmers Market, who asked if she would sell her products at the popular market in south Minneapolis.

Jones has since added a booth at the Farmers Market Annex in Minneapolis, and her products are available at Medical Tattoo Centers of America in Blaine, a center dedicated to helping people with hair loss, scar camouflage, skin care and other beautification services.

Jones has received two business growth grants, including a grant from Minneapolis-based Black Women Wealth Alliance, to help with operation costs, and she was also recently accepted into the Lunar Startups Accelerator, a six-month, Twin Cities program focused on providing entrepreneurs who identify as Black, Indigenous, a person of color, LGBTQ+, a woman or non-binary, with a range of benefits, including pro bono legal services.

On occasion, Jones will pick up a makeup brush. She has provided her services to women involved in the the Cordale Q. Handy In Remembrance of Me Foundation, an organization that provides headstones and financial grants for families across the country who have lost loved ones to police and community violence. Kimberly Handy-Jones created the foundation to honor the memory of her son Cordale, who was killed in 2017 in a confrontation with St. Paul police.

Jones also is working on publishing a children’s book. The book is about a Black girl who loses her self esteem, only to embark on a journey to find it again.

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