Melissa Butler started making vegan lipstick out of her New York apartment in 2012, dissatisfied with her corporate job and fed up with the narrow beauty standards perpetuated by the cosmetics industry. A native Detroiter, she moved back home as her business took off, and opened in Ponyride in 2016. 

She outsourced production to keep up with growing demand, but plans to open a manufacturing facility in the next few years. Driven to connect with her customers, she started the Lip Bar truck, which she takes on the road for city and college tours so people can get to know the brand and try on lipstick in person.

The value that unites Ponyride tenants:
I think that everyone has that social responsibility -- even things as simple as the recycling bins are always full, because everyone actually recycles here -- where they care about the environment, they care about their community, they care, especially, about Detroit and its wellbeing.

On how Ponyride measured up to expectations: 
I’m actually getting what I expected to get, which is that awesome startup community. Just having the different brains of all these like-minded people who understand the struggle -- because we’re all in the thick of it right now, and being able to have these conversations is exactly what I expected, and it basically happened immediately. Everyone was super welcoming and they wanted to know what I was working on, and we talked about what they were working on. 

How moving to Ponyride let her get her life back:
I was literally doing everything in-house. I was shipping orders, I was making lipstick, I was dealing with our retail partners, doing a little bit of our customers service. Like if we had a big sale, my whole living room would just be full of orders. 

Moving into Ponyride has allowed me to hire a staff person. So that’s one of the reasons Ponyride has been awesome for me, I’m able to afford a space where I can actually conduct business in the way that I would like to, and then also create that work-life balance for my own sanity. 

On not getting distracted by her own success:

I’m constantly wowed about something. We were on the Lip Bar truck on the New Jersey turnpike, headed to New York, and the lady in the tollbooth literally pulled the lipstick out of her purse. It can be something as big as going on the “Bethenny” TV show, but as small as a customer saying I bought something from your website, and all those things are equally exciting. 

I don’t really get caught up in the victories, it’s like, “Oh, yay ... get back to work,” because that’s the fastest way to get comfortable.