By Chris Olsen
In response to the global health crisis, My Founder Story is partnering with BankCherokee to launch Fueled by Purpose micro grants. Every week through June, we will award a $500 grant to a female-founded small business in need.
As a kid, when Alyssa Space was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, the answer was always a scientist. She idolized Mae Jemison, the first black female engineer to travel to space. She conducted her own science experiments at home, mixing combinations of her mom’s perfumes, cosmetics and skin care products. Her middle school science teacher pushed her to discover and use her analytical skills to solve problems both in class and outside of school. She participated in science fairs and academic competitions and excelled at them. But everything changed when she got to high school. Her freshman year science teacher was not encouraging or supportive—in fact, he was the exact opposite. Alyssa began to question whether science was the right path for her and almost gave up on her passion.
With her mom’s encouragement, Alyssa didn’t give up. She attended Michigan State University and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry. As she considered how her science career would take shape, she began to envision an inclusive beauty brand committed to empowering women and girls of color. In 2016, Alyssa started researching the cosmetics industry and connected with makeup artists and influencers. She began developing her business plan. She got to work in her laboratory making lipsticks in vibrant reds, oranges and pinks for women with darker skin tones. With the lack of transparency in the beauty industry and toxic ingredients used by some brands, Alyssa wanted to ensure her brand was healthy. She developed formulas with all-natural ingredients like shea butter and beeswax and without harsh chemicals or dyes. She developed more products like lip glosses, eye shadows and body glitter. Once her formulas were perfected, she officially launched ForHerCosmetics in 2017, offering her vegan and cruelty-free cosmetics online and at pop-ups and special events.
Alyssa developed a nonprofit arm of the company as well, called MySpaceLaboratories. It’s a collaborative space that empowers youth—particularly girls of color—to see themselves as scientists and engineers. Through her Chemistry in Cosmetics program, kids learn about science while making their own cosmetics. They get comfortable with lab equipment, conduct experiments and solve problems in a super supportive environment. In partnership with the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), the YMCA and several Detroit public schools, this program has served more than 2,000 kids.
As she looks to the future, Alyssa envisions expanding her product line and the Chemistry in Cosmetics program. She plans to use the Fueled by Purpose micro grant to support her efforts to offer youth science programming online.
To learn more about and apply for a Fueled by Purpose micro grant, visit our grants page.
About the author: Chris Olsen is an author and broadcast media maven turned communications consultant. Through her work as a consultant, Chris realized her WHY—to support women-owned businesses in confidently communicating their purpose, setting them up for entrepreneurial success. She created My Founder Story as a platform for doing so.