Portland native Kalauna Carter is making waves in cosmetics by helming an environmentally, cruelty free, nail polish business called Kolors by K that has already garnered some high profile customers.
As an African American woman, Carter was motivated by the lack of representation of women in the beauty industry.
“We see the products, we see the models, but how many of them are truly wearing products made by women of color? Not many,” she said.
Now Based in Tallahassee, Fla., Carter attained a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science, concentrating in plant and soil science from Tuskegee University. In May, she graduated with a Master’s degree in Environmental Management from the same historically black college.
Carter took her love of nail polish and knowledge of chemical components to entrepreneurial ends when she discovered how dangerous the chemicals in many mainstream commercial beauty products were.
“If I can figure this out without all these chemicals, I could be on to something,” she recalled saying to herself at the time.
With the advice of a cousin, Teresa Scott, she went to work and that’s when Kolors by K was born, launching in summer of 2016.
Now, she sells her nail polish online at kolorsbyk.com, as well as to retail stores in growing numbers.
Carter’s products boast numerous certifications, including being “10-free,” which means it is free of a plethora of non-environmentally friendly chemical compounds that have often been linked to cancers in women ranging from ovarian to breast: camphor, toluene, formaldehyde, fluoride resins, xylene, ethyl tosylamide, parabens, phthalates and fragrances are among them.
The polishes are also FDA approved, vegan, and internationally certified as not tested on animals. Carter is the first woman of color to sell a cosmetic product with such certifications, she said.
Carter aspires to be a role model for young African American women everywhere and encourage all women to follow their passion as she did.
In 2014, she was named an academic all-star by a White House Initiative highlighting students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities across the nation. But that wasn’t the only time she was noticed by the White House.
When then-First Lady Michelle Obama spoke at her college in 2015, Carter developed a personal relationship with Obama’s publicist. After Kolors by K launched in 2016, the publicist got in touch with Carter to let her know Obama was interested in her polish.
“I remember praying that a woman whom I looked up to dearly would wear my polish. From Oprah to Serena and even Mrs. Obama. NEVER would I have thought The FLOTUS would want to wear my polish? But she did. She even got two Kolors for her daughters,” Carter shared on a Facebook post on June 4.
A graduate of Portland’s De La Salle North Catholic School, she credits divine assistance with helping her make the dramatic switch from scientist to entrepreneur, with little to no experience in the latter.
“God placed entrepreneurship on my heart, but when I started my business I had no idea what entrepreneurship was,“ Carter said. “When God creates us, the desires he puts on our hearts were put there by Him to fulfill our purposes for him,” she added.
Carter plans to expand to other cosmetic products as her brand grows. More information can be found at kolorsbyk.com.