Periodically we hear stories of surviving a shark bite, but what if you battle five sharks at the same time? Can you survive? That’s exactly the challenge entrepreneur Melissa Butler faced after her lipstick business was brutally attacked during a 2015 appearance on ABC’s Shark Tank.
Kevin O’Leary implied that her products amounted to clown makeup, and that if those colorful shades would work, another established company would make them. Daymond John bowed out claiming there wasn’t anything new to be created in the lipstick world. Robert Herjavec and Mark Cuban backed away because they didn’t like her branding choices. Lori Greiner, who was the only one offering any kind of support, decided that the level of competition in the marketplace was too big of a barrier. Thus, Melissa had to walk away without a deal, and with their negative reactions echoing in her head.
Bruised, but undeterred, she moved on. This was a dream she had been fighting for since 2012. Back then she was working as an analyst at Barclays in New York. Frustrated by the chemical-laden and bland lip products she found on store shelves, Melissa decided to try her hand at creating alternatives of her own. She launched The Lip Bar on the side, but eventually realized that her best chance was to put in full-time effort.
She moved from New York City to the more affordable and entrepreneur-friendly city of Detroit, where seven years later, she opened up her first retail store this week. The Lip Bar is a chic shop on the Parker’s Alley side of the Shinola Hotel. Specifically, it’s located at 1435 Farmer St., alongside juice-maker Drought, florist Posie Atelier and clothing retailer Madewell.
Not surprisingly, there was a line of fans waiting to get in on opening day. As the old adage goes, “any press is good press.” The Shark Tank appearance may not have led to a deal, but it did create some attention. From there, it’s been nonstop hustle.
Melissa relentlessly pursued buyers at Target, and proved the “sharks” wrong about the possibility of stealing shelf space away from existing companies. Target launched sales of her products online in 2016, and by February of 2018, they were on store shelves. You can now find The Lip Bar shades in five hundred Target locations nationwide.
The media has continued to pay attention, featuring The Lip Bar in Essence, Cosmopolitan, TeenVogue, Elle, Allure, and on popular websites like Refinery 29 and Buzzfeed, among others. That exposure, along with a strong social media presence likely led to the crowd waiting for the flagship store to open.
While it was not originally Melissa’s intention to open her own retail store, the success of a pop-up shop in Detroit’s Indian Village exposed the untapped market. With no major department stores currently downtown, and not a Mac or Sephora in sight, The Lip Bar is poised to fill a gap in the Motor City’s re-energized retail scene.
Products found at The Lip Bar include lipstick, lip gloss, and liquid mattes. All are cruelty-free, vegan, and designed to serve any and all complexions. The shop is chic with great lighting and swing chairs suspended from the ceiling. The hours are Monday-Saturday 11AM-7PM and 12PM-5PM on Sunday.