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Q&A with Marla Beck, Co-founder of Bluemercury

Mable Yiu

How has the opening of the East Hampton store impacted the business? 

East Hampton is a great addition for us. Many of our loyal customers from New York are thrilled that they can now find us when they’re vacationing in the Hamptons. Weekends are when they have time to browse, ask our beauty experts questions and find solutions. New clients are loving our complimentary make-up touch ups and learning about new products. The store has been packed all season.

What are some of your best selling products?

  • M-61 Power Glow Peel – A quick, 1-minute glycolic and salicylic acid exfoliating peel with vitamin K, bilberry and chamomile. Simply wipe over your face and follow with your favorite skincare, no need to rinse off…making it great for on the go. I even throw some in my wallet.  It exfoliates and brightens your skin in just 1 minute!
  • M-61 Hydraboost Eye Cream – This cream hydrates and firms.  It’s packed with peptides, Vitamin B-5, soy, and tamarind and helps reduce the appearance of fine lines, circles, and puffiness.
  • Skinceuticals CE Ferulic – This wonder serum transforms your skin.  It delivers antioxidants and helps to build collagen, making your skin look smoother and younger.
  • La Mer Crème de la Mer – The original ultra-rich cream that delivers maximum hydration and soothes the skin.  Formulated from La Mer’s amazing miracle broth, an all time favorite.
  • Trish McEvoy Instant Eye Lift – This is a breakthrough under eye treatment that brightens the area under the eyes.  It reduces the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, puffines, and sagging to give your eyes an instant lift.
  • Lune+Aster Stratosphere Volumizing Mascara – This adds great volume and length to your lashes.  It’s paraben free and packed with Vitamin C, Vitamin B-5, and peptides! 
  • ByTerry Rouge Expert ClickStick – This is a great new lip product that’s already becoming a bestseller.  It’s a 3-in-1 hybrid lipstick that’s rich like a balm, precise like a pencil with a uniquely angled tip, and intense like a premium pigment.  It feels very luxurious going on and really stays on all day!
  • Oribe Dry Texturing Spray – This cult favorite, invisible dry hair spray gives you great texture and volume.  Perfect for any occasion!
  • Chantecaille Pure Rosewater – This pure rosewater spray is so refreshing and uplifting!  It contains 100% rare rose de mai petal extracts and essential oils, and helps to give your skin a more youthful appearance.  Spritz it on morning and night, or in the middle of the day for a pick-me-up!
  • This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray – This pillow spray is infused with essential oils of lavender, veltivert, and wild chamomile.  Perfect to prepare you for a restful sleep!
  • Eyeko Eye Do Liquid Eyeliner – This great liner gives you the precision to create the most dramatic cat eye!

What are your thoughts on women in the workplace? As a "woman on top," did you ever face prejudice? Is the empowerment of women important to you and to your brand? 

As a woman in the workplace, confidence crosses all barriers. You have to own the room. Female empowerment is very important, 90% of our employees are women and we strive to offer them a career trajectory and not just a job. When I came into the cosmetics industry in 1999, the majority of employees in the industry were part-time workers and were only given 15 to 25 hours a week and no work during the low season, January, June, July and August. I thought, what would happen if we gave our staff full-time work, benefits and a career path? Veterans in the cosmetics and retail industry said my idea would never work, but I pursued it anyway. This human resource model has turned into our secret weapon. By retaining full-time staff, we also retain their knowledge, customer relationships, loyalty and expertise.

Today, we have staff at Bluemercury who have gone from being sales associates (beauty experts) on our store floor making $16 per hour to being District Managers making $100,000 per year. Most of our staff do not have college educations, but we have taught them how to lead and manage and achieve a level of success that they never imagined they would achieve.

As a married couple, what is it like working together and how have you adjusted to your roles within the company's structure? 

We have worked together for 17 years now. We don’t know any other way! We hold primary responsibility for different areas, both at work and at home. At work, I handle everything that touches the customer—product merchandising, branding, store service delivery, field hiring, product development. Barry does all the real estate development and construction development and deals. At home I am responsible for our meals, the kids homework, their school activities and he is responsible for the social/fun and maintenance/landscaping, etc.

One thing that Barry and I do is to take walks every night together. Winter, spring, summer or fall, we leave the house at 10pm and walk anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. It gives us a chance to catch up on the day and we sleep so well afterwards! We have walked and walked since we met. I think at one point we calculated that we have walked the equivalent of halfway around the globe together.

How do you manage a healthy balance between your work and family lives? 

I believe in integration and not compartmentalization. Life happens while you are building your company. I built my family while I was building Bluemercury. Barry and I have been together for 17 years and married for 14. We have 3 children, ages 13, 11, and 9. Our 13 year-old, Ariel, was born when we were opening store #5, our 11 year-old, Sophie, was born when we opened store #8 and our son was born when we were opening stores 12–20. Some people would say that now is not a good time for me to start a company; others say, I just started my company so I cannot start a family. I think that anyone can make the case that it is never a good time to do either. Live your life, build your company. You will figure it out.

Bluemercury seems rooted in innovation. What are your tips on growing a business and keeping up to date with or being ahead of trends? 

My skillset has always been seeing white space and growth potential and what’s next. You cannot rest on your laurels. The pace of business and competition is faster than it’s ever been. We are continually seeking out and creating new opportunities by listening, watching and observing our customers. Without laser focus and detailed observation of our customers, we would have never been able to grow our business. To build an enduring, scaleable company, you must keep finding growth.

By Sidney Bitter-Larkin

Photos courtesy of Bluemercury