Indie beauty brand Sahi Cosmetics secures six-figure funding

By Deanna Utroske

- Last updated on GMT

Shelly Sahi, founder of SAHI Cosmetics (photo courtesy of the brand)
Shelly Sahi, founder of SAHI Cosmetics (photo courtesy of the brand)

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The startup color cosmetics brand catering to the needs of women with medium complexions and yellow or olive undertones announced today the receipt of seed funding from the Zell Lurie Founders Fund.

At a time when color cosmetics brands—multinational and indie alike—are just now seriously expanding foundation shades and other color products to include colors that work on a spectrum of light and dark skin colors, Sahi is making sure that women of Arabic, Hispanic, Mediterranean, Indian, and Asian decent aren’t left out.

“Sahi Cosmetics is working to solve a major pain point for millions of women in the United States and around the world,” ​Ashka Dave, head of the Zell Founders Fund due diligence team, affirms in a press release.

Going on to explain why the Zell Lurie Founders Fund selected Shelly Sahi (the entrepreneur behind the brand) to receive $100,000 in funding, Dave say, “we were very impressed by Shelly’s understanding of the market and strategies to effectively monetize and scale her products within it. We believe that she has all the ingredients necessary for a successful venture, and we’re glad that we could help her along the way.”

White space

Creating product to cover unmet needs can be risky. While the market should theoretically be there, it’s a real challenge to develop a winning formula, find an audience, and convert them into consumers swiftly enough to launch a viable business—especially in the fast-moving beauty industry.  

Shai is, apparently, undaunted by risk, and wisely inspired by her own experience: “Growing up, I loved reading fashion magazines, but none of the women looked like me,” ​she says in the release about the new funding. “I never want another girl to be left out in that way,” ​adds Sahi.

“At best, most cosmetics companies offer two or three shades for medium-skinned women, but our research shows that that number needs to be at least 14. We want to help women feel comfortable in their own skin, to own their color and be proud of who they are,” ​she says.

Professional proficiency

Regular readers of Cosmetics Design are already acquainted with Sahi Cosmetics, either from the brand’s participation in the Desai Accelerator​ at the University of Michigan (which this publication reported on in January) or from when the brand won two cash prizes in this year’s Michigan Business Challenge​.

Shelly Sahi is an entrepreneur and a graduate student. It’s fair to say that she’s putting as much (or more) effort into the future successes of Sahi Cosmetics as she is putting into her school work. “Shelly is the prime example of a student who has taken advantage of every resource the Zell Lurie Institute offers in order to take her startup from an idea to a reality,” ​Stewart Thornhill, executive director of the institute and the faculty lead at the Zell Founders Fund, tells the press. “Her progress has been wonderful to watch, and the Fund is glad to support her as she continues to revolutionize cosmetic offerings for a largely underserved part of the population.”

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