CoCoa Swatches was created to help women with darker skin tones find beauty products

This is something almost all my girls with darker skin tones can relate to – the struggle of finding your shade in various beauty brands.

It wasn’t until brands like NARS and Fenty came through with the 20+ shades for other brands to realize that 1. there more shades than just light, medium and dark and 2. there’s hella money to be made by catering to women of color.

That’s when Ofunne Amaka decided to create CoCoa Swatches, which not only helps women find the shades they need, but also includes swatches to show how the products will look on medium to dark skin tones.

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What’s your background, and how would you describe what you do? Tell us your story.

I am the founder of Cocoa Swatches – a platform that aims to empower beauty lovers with underrepresented complexions through makeup swatches, beauty inspo, and much more. As the founder of this platform I wear many hats including photographer, swatching expert, makeup artist, content curator, writer, digital strategist, storyteller, video editor, head of business development, agent, and much, much more.

What were you doing before?  

About 5 years ago, I was working in Corporate Communications in the tech space. I decided to follow my passion and moved to NYC to complete a Masters program in Strategic Communication at Columbia University and try to break into the fashion/beauty space. While interning and attending school, the idea for Cocoa Swatches was born.

I was a broke graduate student in NYC who wanted to make informed beauty purchases, but I had a hard time finding resources to help me do so. I created the Cocoa Swatches Instagram page to help people like me who wanted quick content they could reference when buying makeup for darker skin tones.

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How did you get to where you are now?

After I graduated from Columbia, I began job searching again but had a hard time finding a role. During this time, I began working on the first iteration of the Cocoa Swatches mobile app. Still jobless, and very unsure about what would happen next, I launched the Cocoa Swatches app on February 29, 2016.

Things really took off from there. The app essentially went viral and was so well received. I eventually decided to make Cocoa Swatches my full time job and have been at it ever since.

How does Cocoa Swatches work? 

I look at Cocoa Swatches as an “omni-channel” platform. There is the mobile app, which gives users more in-depth reviews on makeup products. But, in addition to quick overviews of new collections.

I also write for the magazine portion of the app, “SKINDEEP.” I try to create thought provoking content on some of the issues and trends I see in the beauty industry, as well as creating inspirational makeup content like #CocoaColorStories.

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Is it just you, or do you have a team and what is everyone’s role?

Cocoa Swatches is a one woman show. I do everything from the photography to the digital strategy. Then there is the social media portion of Cocoa Swatches. As a beauty influencer on Instagram, I get to work with some of the top beauty brands in the world and share their latest launches with my followers. I use Twitter as a place to chat and connect with people one and one. I use YouTube as a way to demo products or review products that need more than just a photo, like foundations.

What changes are you pushing for within the beauty industry and how are you helping these changes become a reality?

I really want people to realize that diversity in the beauty industry should be holistic. In other words, it needs to happen in every department at every beauty company. It’s great to have people of color in ad campaigns but if everyone at a decision making level is one color, there is still a huge disconnect. There needs to be opportunities for those who have been marginalized to speak their truth (and not get fired or ostracized for it).

Another part of my job is doing speaking engagement with CEO’s, marketing directors, VP’s in the beauty industry to highlight these issues and start these conversations. I try to make sure that I use my platform to enlighten people about issues and struggles they may have never even known about or thought of.

What are some brown-girl friendly makeup brands, high end and drug store?

High End: Fenty Beauty (of course), Cover FX, Lancome, NARS, Beauty Bakerie, Bobbi Brown, Danessa Myricks, and Dose of Colors. As for drug store brands my go to’s include: Maybelline, Black Radiance, and Iman Cosmetics.

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What void do you feel you’re fulfilling in the beauty industry?

Many of the women in my life who wear makeup buy items through others’ recommendations, not through their own discovery (like playing around in Sephora). Cocoa Swatches is a merge of the two – it’s a trusted resource that recommends makeup products specifically for the audience it seeks to serve (makeup lovers with underrepresented complexions).

There aren’t many resources out there speaking to this audience specifically about makeup products. As the curator, I also like to use the platform to create a safe space to start conversations about issues that my audience might experience but don’t feel comfortable speaking up about, like colorism, or accessibility of makeup products (for ex: why don’t makeup retailers carry the deeper foundation shades?).

What changes are you hoping to see within the beauty industry in the near future?

I am really hoping that the idea of “diversity” doesn’t fade into oblivion after the trendiness of it all dies down. It’s a common misconception that many big brands are just now stepping their toe into the diversity/inclusivity pool.

However, many brands in the beauty space have created initiatives for makeup lovers of color (in many instances, black women specifically), in the past that have failed and were ultimately abandoned. With that being said, I hope all of the conversations around diversity and inclusion we are having actually transition into action.

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