Long line of VCU connections turns entrepreneur's dream into reality
Sept. 9, 2021 - Susan T. Burtch
“I feel like I dreamt it all many years ago,” says Briana Williams. “I wanted to start a beauty line back when I was a teenager. Then, about five years ago, I even created an Instagram page for it I never used.
Fast forward in time. Whereas the name LipLoveLine is meant to identify Williams’ new line of lip products, it could just as easily denote the long line of VCU connections that helped her bring that dream to reality.
It started with her VCU Master’s degree in Strategic PR in 2013. That eventually translated into employment at the VCU Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs. Next came her $400 award from VCU Ventures, an organization designed to guide faculty and staff through the start-up process. Williams was energized.
Business Assistance. “But when I won that Ventures award in November of 2019, the pandemic was not here yet,” she remembers. So, Williams went ahead with LipLoveLine, forming her company in April of 2020. Soon everyone was wearing masks – hardly the ideal time to introduce a line of lip products. Nevertheless, she persevered. “I could either put it on hold or do it now. I was not going to put it on the back burner like I did years ago.”
Enter Lighthouse Labs RVA, which chose LipLoveLine as one of the 60 startups to participate in its week-long program of business support and insight. “I learned I needed help. I’m not new to marketing, but I am new to the beauty industry, and it’s very different,” Williams explains.
Design Signature. One of her most satisfying experiences came through The Carriage House, a student-run, creative marketing co-op launched by VCU Brandcenter students. They helped with the website and packaging, building the visual components that would create an instantly recognizable brand. Williams aimed high: “I wanted a look that would include today’s increasingly diverse population of women.”
Reflecting on her youth as a black girl with health issues and low self-esteem, Williams says she wanted not only a product, but a look that would “showcase a health-conscious lip care line that inspires, empowers and uplifts girls and women of all ages.” So far, her product line includes five lip glosses, five liquid lipsticks and one all-natural lip balm. It’s all vegan and cruelty-free, all made in the USA. To further advance her mission, she plans to collaborate with local organizations that support girls and women in need of health counseling, guidance and therapy.
Personal Endorsement. “The VCU connection is always nice,” she says. Whether or not Williams is wearing a mask, you can practically hear her lips curve into a big smile. “I always wear my products, even when I don’t go out,” she confides. “They are just comforting to your lips. They have healing properties.”
Her VCU Brandcenter team members apparently agreed. “My account manager staged a small photo shoot, showing me how I could take some pictures that showcased my brand. They tried my products themselves. I was super-nervous about that, but they made me feel like I was going in the right direction.”
Dinma Onyekwere, who worked with Williams through Carriage House, thinks she is not only going in the right direction, but headed for success. “Briana was really inspiring, because she wholeheartedly believed in her product and her brand. It was so easy to create good work from that because all we had to do was channel that passion she had. Every single time I see a positive update from LipLoveLine, I get so excited! I am grateful to have been a part of the process, and I can’t wait to see where the brand goes next.