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Private Equity Firm Acquires Uoma Beauty’s Assets

The inclusive label had struggled to capitalise on its early success, and recently faced customer complaints about failing to ship orders. New owner MacArthur Beauty is hiring a new team to run the brand and says “no one will be left high and dry,” but founder Sharon Chuter said she intends to challenge the sale.
Uoma Beauty is launching at Nordstrom. Courtesy
MacArthur Beauty has purchased the name, trademark and intellectual property of Uoma Beauty.

MacArthur Beauty LLC has acquired Uoma Beauty’s intellectual property, The Business of Beauty has learned.

Founded in 2019 by Sharon Chuter, Uoma Beauty put inclusivity front-and-centre in its product development and messaging, quickly building a following for its Say What?! Foundation, which comes in 51 shades. Chuter became a high-profile figure in 2020 after starting the Pull Up For Change movement, urging beauty companies to share what percentage of their employees are people of colour and Black.

The brand garnered attention and sales as shoppers patronised brands touting their commitment to diversity and inclusion. But Chuter unexpectedly departed the business in May, and Uoma Beauty had gone all-but dormant in recent months. Its last Instagram post was in August, and retailers such as Walmart and Harvey Nichols have put its products on clearance. Recently customers have taken to social media to complain that their orders were going unfulfilled. Emails sent to the brand’s press account bounced back. Chuter could not be reached for comment.

In an email sent to The Business of Beauty after this story’s publication, Chuter said she intended to challenge the sale, which she claimed she learned of only after it had been completed. She described the situation as “a cautionary tale of the realities of what founders have to suffer quietly with investors and why we are seeing more and more exodus of founders and consequently a decline in innovation.”

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MacArthur Beauty is an offshoot of The MacArthur Companies, which has historically specialised in deals within the cannabis, real estate and pharmaceuticals sector. Uoma Beauty is the new fund’s first beauty acquisition. BrainTrust, co-founded by Kendra Bracken-Ferguson, who sits on Uoma Beauty’s board, will stay on as an investor, while other partners, including Unilever Ventures, will no longer be involved.

“We saw an opportunity to save this company and turn it completely around,” said Todd Boren, managing partner at The MacArthur Companies in a joint interview with Bracken-Ferguson on Nov. 30. He said Uoma Beauty’s sales reached $15 million in 2022.

Boren and Bracken-Ferguson declined to comment on Chuter’s remarks on Monday.

The first order of business is to “stabilise inventory and make sure that we could re-fulfill these orders for these large customers and regain ... retailer trust,” said Tony Bash, MacArthur’s general partner.

Regaining customers’ trust is a priority, too. Boren said customers who never received their orders will be made whole. So will warehouses that are owed money by Uoma Beauty.

“No one will be left high and dry,” he said. Staffing will be another priority, as Boren said the previous team had largely already departed; a new chief executive and chief operating officer will be appointed shortly.

Boren said Uoma by Sharon C., the brand’s lower-priced diffusion line, which was exclusive to Walmart, is unlikely to continue, as the products were too similar to Uoma’s core offering.

“This isn’t a short-term play for us,” Boren said, adding that he anticipates the business will grow to add new categories such as haircare.

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Bracken-Ferguson said she didn’t want to see such an important, Black-founded business fall by the wayside.

“[MacArthur’s team] ... see that vision, see that opportunity and [can] truly take the brand to the next level,” she said.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated on Dec. 18, 2023 to include a response from Sharon Chuter.

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