GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A makeup brand with West Michigan roots aims to bring representation and inclusivity to the beauty industry.
Melissa Polanco founded her business a couple of years ago and rebranded it as Ring of Color last year. The brand offers five lip products, including lip lacquers and lip oils.
“They are all shades that are beautiful on different skin tones,” she said.
Polanco said the products are hydrating, paraben free and cruelty free, and some of them have vegan formulas.
“They are just very, very good. And I’m not just saying that because it’s my brand, I’m just saying that cause they are,” she said with a laugh.
Ring of Color products are available at ringofcolor.com and some online marketplaces. Polanco said her goal is to get the products on shelves, though she knows that will take time and patience.
Her team is working to add to the collection and will soon be relaunching its popular holiday set.
The brand founder grew up in the Dominican Republic before she moved to West Michigan at 18 to go to college in Grand Rapids. She’s proud of her heritage and gives some of her products Spanish names to help share her culture.
“I’m very proud of where I grew up. It’s a beautiful island. I love our people. They’re very warm and very welcoming, very funny and loving,” she said. “It’s always important for me to have that in mind.”
She credits her mom for her entrepreneurial spirit, explaining her mom sold makeup and clothing.
“I never in a million years thought that I would be an entrepreneur because of my introverted personality. But I learned that I really like this and I really like connecting with other women and other people and just sharing my passion and elevating other women and supporting other women,” Polanco said.
She said she has struggled with her self-confidence. She got into makeup first in high school and then more so in her 20s. It was through makeup and color that she fell in love with her features, including a birth mark. She said she learned she didn’t need to cover up what makes her unique.
“The main goal for Ring of Color is to celebrate everybody’s uniqueness through the power of color, with providing high quality products,” she said.
As she learned more about the makeup industry, she said she saw a lack of diversity in beauty brand founders and advertising. That inspired her to start her own brand.
“I didn’t see myself as often and I wanted to change that,” she said.
She said she’s proud to have a Latina-owned brand and to bring representation into the makeup industry. Her team is intentional about the colors they use for the products, she said, and they worked to create products that will look beautiful on multiple skin tones.
Polanco hasn’t always had her eyes on the makeup industry. When she first started going to school at Grand Rapids Community College, she wanted to go into communications. She eventually switched majors and transferred to Michigan State University, where she got a degree in zoology, with an intention to go to veterinarian school. She later started working at GRCC, counseling and advising students, and went back to school at Western Michigan University to get her master’s degree in counseling.
Along with running her brand, she now has a full-time job and works as a counselor on the side.
“I do have the support of my family and friends, so that helps me out to balance everything out,” she said. “I just love everything that I do and I just don’t see myself doing anything else other than all these three.”
Throughout her career, Polanco has worked to face her fears, and has encouraged others to do the same.
“Do something that you are scared of,” she said.
For her, that was public speaking. She explained she got the opportunity to teach a GRCC class, but was nervous and thought people may not take her seriously.
“I ended up loving it, like I loved it,” she said. “And I ended up teaching for three semesters. … It helped me grow, it helped me learn that this is something that I love doing.”
As a business owner, she also pushed herself to put herself out there at things like networking events and pitching competitions.
“Being a beauty brand founder has helped me grow in that aspect and made me realize that I have the power to do whatever is in my mind to,” Polanco said. “I just need to put myself out there.”
She said she loves helping and elevating people, and reminding them “they are worth a lot.”
“These days mental health is very … important,” she said. “I strive for my brand to be inclusive, I strive for my brand to remind people of their worth and self-love. … That drives me, it drives me to empower others.”
News 8 is featuring Hispanic-owned West Michigan businesses this week in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. Come back Tuesday to read about how a restaurateur brings people together with food, and catch our Hispanic Heritage Month special Thursday at 7 p.m. on WOOD TV8.