March 29, 2022 News & Features » Cover Story

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Briana Williams, 32 

Founder and CEO, LipLoveLine

click to enlarge brianawilliams.jpg

Scott Elmquist

Briana Williams can still recall the first time her mother gave her a set of lip gloss.

At the time she was 12 and suffering from health issues that included childhood obesity, skin sensitivity and low self-esteem. Yet putting on lip gloss immediately made her feel better about herself.

“It smelled good and it made my lips look shiny, but it was also age-appropriate and that gave me confidence,” Williams recalls. “I was inspired by that and I carried it with me as I got older.”

As a VCU alum and employee, Williams was eligible for the VCU Ventures program which supports faculty and staff entrepreneurs, helping with business basics like finding an attorney to file for a trademark and developing a business outline. Marketing help for Williams arrived thanks to second-year students at the VCU Brandcenter who created her logo, brand guidelines and contributed to packaging design. They also helped her strategize her Kickstarter campaign to fund her product launch in November 2020. With 140 backers, Williams exceeded her $15,000 goal.

LipLoveLine launched in August 2021 with fifteen products that include lip gloss, lip balm and lipstick, contain no animal by-products and are not tested on animals. Williams hired a cosmetic chemist to help her develop her product line, a process hindered by pandemic-related issues such as ingredient shortages and shipping delays. “I wanted to be involved in creating each product to make sure they were products I could stand on,” she says. She officially took the leap of faith into full-time entrepreneurship in January 2022.

Looking back, Williams can tick off as many pros as cons to launching a business during a pandemic. The time allowed her to build out her e-commerce website and establish her social media accounts, all essential to doing business in 2022. “I also got so much support from organizations, from individuals, from the Brandcenter,” she says. “The Richmond community really hugged me.”

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