Nyakio Grieco’s Vision for an Inclusive Beauty Industry

FOUNDER STORIESBy 2023-09-30T16:24:28-04:00September 28th, 2023|
  • Grieco at the Thirteen Lune flagship store. Courtesy of Thirteen Lune.

Nyakio Grieco is no stranger to starting over. In the past twenty-three years, she has launched three successful beauty brands: Nyakio Beauty, Thirteen Lune, and Relevant Skin, all of which are thriving to this day. Grieco has raised over twelve million dollars for her inclusive beauty retailer Thirteen Lune, and she’s among the first hundred Black women to ever raise more than one million. Today, Thirteen Lune claims to carry more Latino and Hispanic brands than any other beauty retailer globally, stocking products from Joanna Vargas, Bomba Curls, Rizos Curls, Prados Beauty, and more.

“For us, beauty is about discovering community and seeing yourself better reflected on the shelves,” Grieco tells LATINA. “We seek the opportunity to tell cultural stories and create a space for everyone to discover them.”

Grieco was twenty-seven when she decided to set out on her entrepreneurial journey. At the time, she was working in the entertainment industry, reading movie scripts and finding jobs for actors. Inspired by indie brands such as Stila Cosmetics and Hard Candy – which were brought to the mass market through acquisitions by beauty conglomerates such as LVMH and Estée Lauder Companies – Greico discovered a love for the beauty industry. She quit her job to launch Nyakio Beauty, and formulated her first product, an African coffee body scrub, in homage to her grandmother who was a coffee farmer in Kenya.

“At that time there weren’t many other brands using African ingredients and honoring Africa for its natural resources,” Grieco says. “I had family recipes that I wanted to bring to the market to help people understand that Africa is a beautiful, sophisticated, and resourceful place. [And to show] that our ingredients are timeless, and have been helping people to look and feel their best for centuries.”

When planning to start her brand, Grieco says she had naivete on her side, initially her only concern was access to capital. She turned to her family and friends after several unanswered cold pitches to potential investors.

Lune’s flagship store in Los Angeles opened in Spring 2023.

“The first bit of capital I ever raised was from people who had known me my whole life and that really gave me the confidence to step out on my own,” Grieco says.

Nyakio Beauty had many stops and starts due to a lack of access to capital, Grieco says, until it was acquired by Unilever in 2017, and later launched at Target. In 2020, Grieco’s business hit an unprecedented level of success. Amid a global pandemic and racial reckoning, Nyakio Beauty made it into almost every major listicle centered around Black-owned beauty brands to support in 2020.

“It was an interesting time to be receiving such attention for my brand, at a time when we all had much larger concerns, including COVID, and all of the heartbreaking tragedies happening during the racial reckoning. I found it so odd that this was when the brand was getting more attention than it had ever received in my twenty year journey,” Grieco says. “But what I found even more fascinating is that when I would look at these lists of beautiful, incredible brands, I couldn’t believe – as a Black female founder who has created products for everyone for the entirety of my career – that there were so many other brands that I’ve never heard of before.”

By December 2020, Grieco and her business partner, Patrick Herning, teamed up to launch Thirteen Lune, a one-of-a-kind beauty retailer dedicated to a 90/10 rule: ninety percent of its stock consists of brands created by Black and brown business owners, and the remaining ten percent went to ally brands. Only sixty days after launching their online platform, JCPenny tapped Thirteen Lune as part of the retailer’s new JCPenny Beauty rollout.

“It was a gift that came so early on, and that has really helped me learn to scale and bring so many deserving founders into national retail,” Grieco says.

Thirteen Lune stocks ninety-percent Black and Brown-owned beauty brands.

Thirteen Lune has gone from distributing just thirteen brands to nearly two hundred brands across its online shop, six hundred JCPenny stores’ beauty sections, and its new brick-and-mortar store in Los Angeles. Grieco has raised funds from Fearless Fund, Capstar Ventures, Gwyneth Paltrow, Hannah Bronfman, and other notable investors. As Thirteen Lune continues to grow, Grieco’s goal is to also ensure that Black and brown beauty brand founders can realize their own paths to generational wealth.

“Black and brown women spend so much in the multi-billion dollar global beauty industry, and we buy products by people who don’t look like us,” Grieco says. “We deserve to also earn the dollars that the beauty industry rakes in.”

This, she says, is one way to tackle systemic racism. “Many of the products that we buy – Black or brown founded or otherwise – use ingredients from Africa, South America, East Asia, and South Asia because these are timeless ingredients that work on all skin tones and on all hair types,” Grieco says. “Representing our cultures in a way that can serve all consumers is the way that we are going to make the beauty industry more inclusive.”

Zameena Mejia is a New York City-based writer whose work has appeared in Forbes, CNBC, Remezcla, Refinery29 Somos and more.