After decades as a makeup artist, Tameka Jones used her downtime during the pandemic to rethink her path. The result? A line of her own, Lip Esteem, a Black woman–owned beauty start-up specializing in plant-based and gluten- and cruelty-free lip products.
Tameka Jones set out to create a line of matte lipsticks that are long wearing and moisturizing.
Jones’s line consists of lipsticks, glosses, and liners, with all 12 colors based off her own personal friend group—from her most porcelain-skinned friend to those with deeper skin tones. Plus, she’ll sell an assortment of lip care products fit for combating harsh winters—an exfoliator, vitamin E stick, and moisturizing lip balm.
“My friends represent all shades of beauty,” says Jones, whose company won the 2022 New Kid on the Block Award from the City of St. Paul. “It’s important to me that everyone can wear my hues.”
As a born-and-raised Rondo girl, it was essential for Jones to come back and open her store in the community she holds close to her heart. Look for Lip Esteem at Selby Avenue and Victoria Street (just two doors down from plant-based restaurant J. Selby’s), slated to open in April.
St. Paul native Tameka Jones is the proud owner of Lip Esteem, an online business launched in July 2020. “It’s an esteem builder. That’s why it’s called Lip Esteem,” said Jones.
The mission and focus of the Lip Esteem brand is geared toward building self-esteem. “I’m a Black business owner, but I’m able to touch people from all cultures and all ages,” said Jones. The unique rich, smooth lipsticks are meant to help customers feel confident as soon as it’s applied. Lip Esteem may serve as a mood booster, especially in the pandemic when self-care seems to be a top priority.
Lip Esteem offers an array of colorful and hydrating lipstick. All products are safe, gluten-free, cruelty-free and paraben-free. There are 11 radiant shades available—Rondo, I Promise, Cafe Latte, No Drama, Lady, Monet, Purple Reign, Living Golden, Aurora, Sunset in Jah and Peach Cobbler.
“Rondo” lipstick pays homage to the historic neighborhood Jones grew up in. “I’m a Rondo girl,” she said. The luxurious lipstick is enriched with a beautiful fusion of purple and brown hues. It’s a popular product right now. Customers can also check out five lip liners named Curry, Walnut, Eggplant, Brick Red and Pecan.
The Lip Esteem brand is built upon a foundation of self-acceptance and transformation. Jones is focused on helping individuals see beauty in themselves. “I have a passion to see people feel better from the inside out. Especially in these times, we need a little bit of joy, happiness.
There’s personal meaning behind the business name Lip Esteem. “In 2002,” Jones said, “I found myself to be severely depressed. I was grieving the loss of my daughter, who was an infant.” Her family, helping with the healing process, surprised her with a makeup kit and she was instantly inspired.
“Growing up, I used to get teased about my lips,” said Jones. The hurtful verbiage she endured had a negative impact on her self-esteem and self-confidence. As Jones became an adult, the rhetoric and narrative changed. She grew up to love and embrace herself in totality. “Going from having insecurities to having none,” said Jones, was a transformative time in her life.
The Lip Esteem business also incorporates a small butterfly logo that is symbolic. Jones said, “It represents change, coming from a place of insecurities and trauma, to a place of security. Transforming yourself, having hope for yourself, creating a life you want.”
Asked what inspired her to start a business, Jones said, “COVID-19, because work was unpredictable. As makeup artists, we couldn’t do makeovers. I got furloughed.” In an effort to counteract job insecurity and uncertainty, she launched the Lip Esteem enterprise.
Jones graduated from St. Paul College as an esthetician and worked on a B.A. from Metropolitan State University in youth development and business.
Before she launched her business she researched virtually every aspect of lipstick, acquiring invaluable knowledge, especially about the process of building a beauty brand. She learned quickly that it requires time, dedication and patience.
Although business has been challenging, she focuses on the positive. Asked about the most rewarding aspect of running a business, she said, “To see the beauty from ashes. If you’re gonna purchase lipstick, you’re gonna want the full look. People have been in a down place right now, but they want to spruce up.”
Most recently, Jones said, Lip Esteem has been generating great feedback. “They say they love it. Most moisturizing, long-wearing beautiful lipstick… People aren’t gonna come back if they don’t like the product.”
The ultimate goal for Jones is to have repeat customers. “When they purchase, it makes them bloom like a butterfly.”
Her advice for young entrepreneurs: “Trust the process. Take your time. If you rush it you may miss some key parts of your life. Don’t put yourself on a time frame. What I’m saying is, don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t happen in your time frame. Keep going toward your vision. Period. If your vision changes, it’s OK. Relax.”
It’s American Business Women’s Day, which means it’s a Good Day to support a woman-owned business. “Lip Esteem” founder Tameka Jones stopped by Good Day to chat about her line of beauty products for people of all skin tones.
In many of your favorite brands of cosmetics there’s something called toxic forever chemicals. These chemicals are placed in the cosmetics so that they are long lasting, heat resistant and for a variety of other reasons.
The problem with these forever chemicals is that they don’t break down into our system well, which causes hormonal imbalances, infertility and thyroid issues and so much more.
At Lip Esteem we pride ourselves on creating clean cosmetics. Our ingredients are plant-based, gluten and cruelty free.
In 1988 my mother and I planted rosebushes at our home. The roses bloomed for two years, but after 1990 they didn’t bloom anymore.
Fast forward to June 15, 2002 (today’s date) my newborn daughter Kamani Nevaeh (Nevaeh is one of our lipstick names) passed away in the hospital at two days old. This was the most horrific thing that ever happened to me and I’m sure that ever will happen to me.
After a few days in the hospital healing from my cesarean section,
I went back to my childhood home to continue to have help healing mentally and physically. When I walked in the gate I looked to the right and the rosebush that didn’t bloom since 1990 was in full bloom 12 years later!
Tameka Jones, a 2003 Saint Paul College graduate, will be featured on the HULU television series The Small Business Revolution, Season 6. The show will follow Tameka on her journey as a small business owner who launched her lipstick line, Lip Esteem, and reemerged her girls’ group LADY amid the COVID pandemic and civil unrest in the Twin Cities. Her story of service to others truly goes from inner beauty to outer beauty in many remarkable ways.