Glosshood Founder Sienna Brown on Why We Need to Believe in Black Women Now More Than Ever

Sienna Brown
(Image credit: @thesiennabrown)

With a firm handshake, say hello to Business of Beauty—an exclusive, inside look at the incomparable journeys of entrepreneurs of color in the beauty industry. This series is anything but business as usual. It's a raw, honest look at the unique and often overlooked challenges that people of color face when starting their own beauty brands. Each founder will reveal the biggest hurdles they've overcome, their internal struggles, and their deepest thoughts about what needs to change in the beauty industry (and the world, really) to make it a more inclusive space for everyone. This time around, we're getting to know Glosshood founder Sienna Brown. Read all about her journey below.

Sienna Brown

(Image credit: @thesiennabrown)

I've honestly lost track of how many times I've felt inspired by Sienna Brown. Armed with a daring, creative spirit and a willingness to learn, Brown started Glosshood in her kitchen at the age of 25 by reconnecting with her inner child. She finally realized that her happiness lied in feeling joyful, free, and full of excitement for life. After that, building her own brand felt like the next logical step in life.

The energy that Brown brings to the table is rare. She speaks with the wisdom of someone twice her age but laughs and shares her personal struggles in a way that's so humorous and playful. You can't help but smile. She feels like your best friend, mom, and personal life coach, all wrapped into one. She brings a sense of fun to everything that she does, and every single gloss from the brand proves it. (My favorite is Main Squeeze in Strawberry Lemonade.) I was lucky enough to sit down with Brown to talk about the origin story behind Glosshood and what it took to get to where she is now. I sat with our conversation afterward and felt excited and ready to tackle ideas, dreams, and goals I've been thinking about for months. I felt like I found a kindred spirit in Brown, and hopefully, you will, too, after reading about her journey. Keep scrolling and dive in!

I'd first love to start by talking about what inspired you to create Glosshood.

What inspired me to create Glosshood was a job that I hated.

We've all been there!

The more founders and people I talked to, they always said, "Yeah, I hated my job too! That's why I'm an entrepreneur. That's why I quit." I'm like, "Oh, everyone's a bad bitch, and I love that." [Laughs.] I was working at a job in New York—I was an event planner—and I was just so overworked and so tired. I'd never felt that level of pain in my body [before]. I would get home at 6 or 7 p.m., then I would just start crying. I would wake up, wash, rinse, and repeat the next day and go back on the train crying. One thing that always sticks with me is the "why" for Glosshood, and this was truly the why moment for me. It was the day that I decided I was going to resign. I'd never quit a job before in a formal manner, and I thought, "Oh shit, I should look this up on Google, right? [I need to find] a resignation letter template." I did that, and I came up with something. I said to myself, "You know what, Sienna? You need to stay true to yourself, be who you are, and just be honest. I don't know how life is going to go after this, but what I do know is that I'm making an active decision to choose myself." From that moment, it was like something clicked in my brain and in my body, and everything shifted. I said, "This is the plan. I'm just going to go and do whatever I want to do." So that's my why and why I started it.

Before that, something interesting happened a few months prior. I was riding around in a car with two of my really good friends. They were co-workers at the time. We were heading to a meeting, and we were all extremely high, and they asked if I had any lip gloss. … When you smoke, you need like a little re-up on some gloss, right? I'd just switched my bag, so I didn't have any at the time. We pulled over, and I went in [to the store], got a bunch of glosses, and I came out and said, "You know, the beauty supply always has the best glosses." We were in the car listening to Rick Ross, and it was like a Pineapple Express moment. We were in a haze, and the Uber driver was just letting us live, and at one point, my co-worker in the front seat looked back and said, "You have to start a lip gloss line, and you have to call it Hood Gloss." I was like, "Girl, that's so lame!" [Laughs.] She's like, "Yeah, you said the best gloss is coming from beauty supply stores in the hood." We were all laughing about it, and then she stared out the window for a really long time, looked back, and said, "No, you need to call it Glosshood!"

Light bulb moment! 

Yeah! I just had the name there [and] got the domain name and all the stuff while we were in the car super high. I didn't know what I was going to do with it, but I knew it could be something. Even to this day, whenever I think of great domain names, I literally buy them.

That's such a cool origin story. As you were creating the brand, what was the main ethos, and what do you want people to take away from it?

For me, it was all about play. I became my own business manager, my own scientist, my own marketer, my own everything, and I still am. Now, I have other people to help me. I have a manufacturer and all of these things. Needless to say, that's really my driving force. I really wanted to get in touch with my inner child. The moment that I quit my job, it was so serendipitous. I was walking down Madison Avenue, and I was heading to the train station. Birds started chirping. The sky was so blue—outside was so delicious! I couldn't help but cry because I wanted to bottle up that feeling of freedom, hope, and faith. So that's what I did. Randomly that day, I pressed play on my Spotify, and "My Way" by Frank Sinatra came on—I swear!

Glosshood lip glosses

(Image credit: Courtesy of Glosshood)

So many synchronicities! That's how you know you made the right decision. I feel like that ethos is so relevant to everyone, though. It's not always easy to choose yourself and even less easy to start your own business. 

I'd never run a business before. I've never done any of this shit before! I've never built a brand before. Who thinks of doing that?! It just came about, and I thought, "You know what? I'm just going to become obsessed. I'm just going to become obsessed with learning. I'm going to become obsessed with talking to people and figuring things out." So much of my life has become solution-oriented because shit is bound to happen. That's the truth of life. In every single thing you do, things will go wrong. [That] applies to everything in life. But the truth is [that] it's not about the fact that it will go wrong—don't focus on that. It's about how you react to it. It's so interesting talking about the origin of Glosshood because I realized the other day that I'm about to turn 30, and I was 25 when I first started the brand. There were [so many things] I was doing when I was 25 that I'm not doing now in my life but also in business. [Glosshood] is the evolution of a person but also someone who's leaning into that inner child as I continue to age.

You have the best possible attitude for starting a brand. I'm sure there are so many people out there who dream of starting their own business but are too afraid to go for it, so this is great advice! You've also spoken about things like product development on a small business budget before on Instagram. Can you tell me a little bit more about that and how you like to be resourceful as an entrepreneur? 

I could write a book on this. I didn't know I was so damn cheap. I love expensive things, but I am a cheap girl when it comes to figuring things out, and I love it! It's really about doing your research. I remember when I was first looking for a manufacturer. I was thinking to myself, "Okay, I can't continue to hand-pump all these damn tubes by myself. My mom can't help me anymore. This is getting bigger than I can imagine right now." I needed help. That was actually something that Shani Darden screamed at me. She was like, "You're doing what?! No, no, you need to fix this now." And I was like, "Yes, ma'am. I'll do it now!" That was one thing that I always remember about one of the first times we talked.

Something that I noticed when I was looking [for a manufacturer], there are all these MOQs (minimum order quantities) for labs and manufacturers that are just out of this world. They start at 20,000 units. [Some start at] $20,000—just the craziest things that, obviously, a small business cannot afford or support. It became [more about] talking to people. I would get them on the phone, and that 10,000 MOQ turned into 2000 and then turned into 1000. I think that my resourcefulness is based on relationships and the relationships that I'm able to cultivate. Honestly, who doesn't want to help a young Black girl who doesn't know what she's doing in the beauty industry? Who doesn't want to do that?! I just go in thinking the world is good in that way and that God [and] the universe are sending people on my journey to help me and assist me with what I want to do.

I'm such a big believer in that too. I always believe we'll have exactly what we need when we need it, so I love that you were able to do that. As a Black woman, do you ever feel like there are specific challenges that you face that white entrepreneurs might not? 

One-thousand percent! Working with certain vendors, some of them try to tell you, "I've been in this business for so long. That's not going to work," but then later [hearing], "This is the coolest box we've ever built!" Of course, I'd say, "I tried to tell you!"

Sometimes, it feels like, as Black women, we're just historically not believed—people don't believe in us. I don't know what that is, but it's the sickest thing in the world. How can you not believe in a person or a set of people who have literally overcome so much? I just got chills saying that, but seriously, how can you not believe in people who literally have fought for every single thing that they've ever had?!

I used to think to myself, "Wow, I'm so lucky for all the synchronicities that are happening." The truth is [that] I worked so long and hard that there's no way for it to not align. I think that's definitely something that is lacking, in general, in every sector. Believe Black women—believe in us. [Most of all, though], we need capital. I think that's also an answer that everyone will give. I also don't just mean capital. When people just leave it at that, it comes with hoops to jump through. It's hoops that [our white] counterparts have never had to jump through. I hear stories all the time from other entrepreneurs with different backgrounds who would tell me, "I just had this idea one time, and they wrote me a $14 million check." That goes back to the belief in Black women, right? I have a product here, and it's on the market. I have retailers who are interested, and I have a product that was just one SKU in 600 stores for three years. You don't want to write me a check just because of that alone? Something's not right, and it's not me!

That's so true and one of the reasons I wanted to start this series. There isn't enough of a conversation around this. 

You don't hear about it, and you don't see it because everyone is so focused on wanting to be in the industry and being in that inner circle. It's great to have all of those things, but at the same time, people need to keep it real. That's something that I always prided myself on. When I don't understand something, I speak up. I ask. When I think something's incorrect, I'll ask because I want to know why. I really want to understand, but I also want you to understand what the hell you're asking a Black woman to stand for and do.

Totally! If we don't ask those questions and bring it into people's conscious awareness, nothing will ever change. I also love that you're such an advocate for other Black business owners and small business owners in general. How do you think we can support young Black entrepreneurs beyond buying their products? 

In addition to buying our products, I think you can literally ask us this question and show up for us as allies. Say, "I want to help you actualize your dream, and I don't want anything in return." I think people have this thing about getting on the boat early [and thinking they] can be a part of something. Yeah, we're here to make money, but actually give a shit about people. I think that's one way you can support Black business owners, women, business owners, and small business owners. I think simply writing checks [is great too]! That's the type of energy that I think people need to be in. People believe in ideas and in dreams. [They should] invest in that. Do it for Black women.

Glosshood lip glosses

(Image credit: Courtesy of Glosshood)

Now, let's talk about the glosses! Tell us about your OG gloss and the latest launches. 

Holyyy Gloss Balm Hybrid ($22) was my very first gloss that I formulated myself in my kitchen, but I think there's something that happens when you're first building a company. You're doing what you can with the money that you have and the things that you have. [At first], I was finding these cool little tubes that had this terrible doe foot years ago from a website that I could order from, and they would ship it to me in a few days, but now, it feels like there has been an evolution of the brand. I have access to more, so I would love to do more with it. That's where I am with that right this second, but it's still such a great gloss.

My favorite thing to do with it is prep my lips for makeup. When I get out of the shower, I just put it on, and then I'm good until the last moment I'm putting my lip on. I love that feeling of my lips actually being cared for. That's something that I wanted to create very early on. People also love to talk about being a clean brand, but I don't think that's a flex. I don't think it's a flex to give a shit about what people are putting on and in their bodies. [Laughs.] We should do that naturally! I will tell you right now that there is nothing bad in these products. They're all-natural, and there are only about eight ingredients.

I just wanted to create something that was multigenerational—something I could use, my mom could use, but also my goddaughter. With our new glosses, I wanted to create something that was a little more complex and a little more luxe but also super fun and flavorful. I think I started working on it in 2021 or 2022. My idea behind it was to really do things that were centered around how you felt in your childhood when you were putting on that first watermelon cherry gloss. You know what I mean? Kind of like the Lip Smackers. 

Yes, the Dr. Pepper flavor was the best!

Yeah! The things that I wanted to blend together were what we just spoke about—this fun, youthful vibe with the clean aspect. This gloss is truly a hybrid product, in that it's heavily oil based. That's why there's no stickiness. I'm personally not a fan of sticky glosses. I think they're insane to own, but I understand why people love them. I'm sure I'll create many sticky glosses [in the future], but I'm also just so into honoring the things that remind me of my childhood because I know it resonates. These flavors are actually an ode to my childhood. Mango Mousse was actually [inspired by] a cake from a bakery in L.A.—Porto's Bakery. I used to beg my parents for that cake. That used to be my birthday cake every year.

When I was thinking about gloss flavors, I wanted to do a bake sale collection. I want there to be all kinds of different collections under the Main Squeeze category. Strawberry Lemonade is [also] so special. This is the first time I'm telling this story. When I was event-planning, we planned a birthday party for a rap superstar, and it was a surprise party. [They told us] he wanted a strawberry lemonade cake, and we were so confused. [Laughs.] We were like, "What is that?" When I tell you I was so uncertain… But I tasted it, and it was a phenomenal cake. When I was making [this gloss], I wanted to put glitter in it as an ode to [the rap star].

That's so creative. Strawberry Lemonade is my favorite because it has a little shimmer to it! Do you see the brand expanding into more makeup categories in the near future?

A billion percent! It's definitely going to come. I don't know when, but it'll happen. I'm at the point now where I'm getting good at makeup. It's exciting for me because it's play time! If I go to Sephora and buy a bunch of stuff, I cannot go to sleep until I play with it. I really do want to play on that and have other people go through this journey of experimentation and play with me. … For many of us, we were never that girl in high school, but now, we're coming into our own, experiencing life, traveling. We can do all these things. It's exciting. There are definitely plans for us to expand. I'm excited to be innovative in the space and play with different textures and different ways to apply things. [I can't wait] to get crazy and crafty. At the base of it, that's what I love to do.

I feel like that energy really comes through in the brand, and I love that you aim to innovate and do something different. What does a truly inclusive and diverse beauty space look like to you?

To me, a truly diverse and inclusive beauty space [is about] founders really being themselves. Give me all of you. Empty the clip! I think it's inserting yourself so that you can truly make it a diverse space—a space for everyone so no one feels left out. That's what I think it is. I realized that, in so many ways, the things that I have access to have given me great privilege, but also, I would never count out someone who is selling glosses on Facebook. That's so freaking cool to me. I think it's really about leaving the elitism at the door. Sometimes, I feel like this space can be very elitist. It's almost an "if you know, you know" type of thing, but why can't everybody know?

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Shawna Hudson
Associate Beauty Editor

Shawna Hudson has worked in editorial for over six years, with experience covering entertainment, fashion, culture, celebrities, and her favorite topic of all, beauty. She graduated from California State University, Fullerton, with a degree in journalism and has written for other publications such as Bustle, The Zoe Report, Byrdie, Elite Daily, Mane Addicts, and more. She is currently an associate beauty editor at Who What Wear and hopes to continue feeding her (completely out-of-control) beauty obsession as long as she can. Stay up to date on her latest finds on Instagram @shawnasimonee.