Amanda EJ Morrison has a deep-rooted passion for taking up space in industries that often leave people that look like her out of the conversation. After graduating from Howard for undergrad and Harvard University's Business School, Morrison teamed up with her classmate KJ Miller to create the beauty brand Mented Cosmetics. It was their way of including Black women in the color cosmetics space, while doing so in a way that made sense for our skin tones and needs. Now, Morrison is shifting to a new industry—healthcare and women's emergency contraception pills.
"We made headway and a lot of noise in bringing real presence and space to women of color in color cosmetics. The beauty industry had to stop and take a look at this customer that they historically overlooked. That, in many ways, was a real influence for me in starting Julie," shares Morrison. "In women's health, there are a lot of areas where women need to have agency and products that are tailored for them and that doesn't exist. I feel really passionate about giving people who feel voiceless and overlooked, space and opportunity."
With the idea for the product in motion prior to Roe vs. Wade being overturned, Morrison and her co-founders were eager to bring something to the market that could really transform women's health. But once the case was officially reversed and states began implementing abortion laws, it was further fuel for the Julie emergency contraceptive team to create the brand for women to feel empowered.
"People just have not been properly equipped to make decisions about women's health. There are only 17 states legally required to make their sex education classes medically accurate. So we can't even guarantee that people are starting off on the right foot of understanding how their bodies work. But, at some point when a woman—or girl—gets her period, she is then told that she is solely responsible for not getting pregnant," says Morrison. "Not to mention the ever-changing rules around pap smears. So the time is always going to be right to see things like this and say, 'okay, it's time to do something about this.'"
According to Morrison, even if Roe wasn't overturned, there would still be a need for a product like this. Her co-founders are also well-known in the beauty space, and the trio came together to further rewrite the narratives in not only beauty, but now in healthcare. As for the name, it was a way for them to personalize women's health. Through consumer studies, they found that people often described the healthcare field as cold, clinical and distant.
"Julie as a name just feels friendly, and that's the vibe we're going for," she explains. "Our innovation isn't in the medication, all emergency contraception pills are essentially the same. This is really about pregnancy prevention. We like to think of it as one more tool in the 'I don't want to get pregnant' toolkit."
What Julie is not, is an abortion pill. Although Morrison and her co-founders have received pushback for introducing the pill to the market, she understands that most of that is due to a lack of education and information.
"We feel like it's our chance to set the record straight. Emergency contraception is not an abortion pill, and we have science to back that up. The pushback is not going to influence what we're doing at this company," says the Julie co-founder.
As a Black woman raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, Morrison also understands the importance of creating this space for little Black girls who may not have access to medications like Julie. For her, being behind this groundbreaking company means the world, and she hopes to bring them a voice in this often cruel world.
"I am happy and proud to stand and say I am a Black woman at the head of a pharmaceutical company. When we created this company, we wanted to think about the impact beyond just selling this pill. How do we not only reduce shame, fear and lack of education for those who can afford our contraceptive but also how can we do that for those who may not have access to it," explains Morrison. "The answer to that is our Julie For All program. For every Julie purchased, we also donate one Julie. We're activating in communities and working closely with our 70+ partners across the U.S. that we donate to. We really hope to reach people where they are and provide what they need. To all the Black girls [and women] out there, I hope Julie is a new, positive influence on your life and your perception of healthcare."