This month, credit card company American Express featured Melissa Butler, vegan entrepreneur and founder of The Lip Bar, on its new video podcast series, “Built to Last.” The podcast series shares the stories, history, and legacy of Black-owned small businesses and is available on all major podcast platforms including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Soundcloud, and Stitcher, and on American Express’ YouTube channel.

On Episode 2, host Elaine Welteroth spoke with Butler about how she started her beauty brand and how she’s scaling her business. “The Lip Bar was started because of my personal frustrations. I wanted to wear purple lipstick, or blue lipstick, or just something out of the box because I was young and I was really just learning my body type,” Butler said. “I was in this place of self-expression but also feeling very boxed in as a Black woman.”

Butler shared her leap from working on Wall Street to entrepreneurship, including her unsuccessful pitch to investors on investment reality show Shark Tank, and her recent partnership with Michelle Obama to help Americans register to vote. She also spoke about why her brand is vegan and cruelty-free. “We’re vegan because I am a dog lover,” Butler said. “I was literally watching a documentary—this was probably like 15 years ago—and I learned about animal cruelty within the beauty and personal care space … That’s why out the gate we were vegan and cruelty-free, and I know it’s so trendy right now. Even being diverse and inclusive is trendy right now. We’ve had to take a step back and say, ‘It’s okay if everybody and their mom is talking about Black women’s beauty because we know who we are and we know that we were early pioneers in the space.”

“Built to Last” also featured Pinky Cole of vegan restaurant Slutty Vegan, and an upcoming episode will feature Issa Rae of vegan hair-care line Sienna Naturals

Last month, credit card company Discover supported several Black-owned vegan restaurants—including Seasoned Vegan, Sol Sips, and UnSoul Food—by awarding them $25,000 each to help them recover from the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

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