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46 March 2014 | beautystorebusiness.com Beauty Store Business: Please tell us about your background and how you started in the beauty industry. PARIKH: I graduated from Wharton Business School and worked as a con- sultant, working on large-scale energy power projects. I did that for about four years. But I didn't know that power plants and electric companies were really for me. I'd always had a retail bug. I had read an article about what Amazon was doing—remember, this was 1997, so everything had just started with Internet retailing. I said, "Hey, this is what I want to do." So I moved from Washington, D.C., to New York and started working with small consulting companies that were working with big brands to help cre- ate their first generation of ecommerce. That's how I got into Internet retailing. I worked with Miramax, which decided to sell some of its paraphernalia online. Then I helped to launch Bloomingdales. com's first ecommerce iteration and worked on various other Internet retailing sites for major brands. There were a ton of small dot-coms in New York at that time. It was a crazy, unbelievable time and space to be in. I guess there was a little bit of foresight that made me say, "This is really cool. I want to be a part of this." I continued to consult with a lot of com- panies, and then I landed at Folica.com, a major hair and beauty player. In mid-2006, I was approached by a few investors to start StyleBell.com. Where did the name StyleBell come from? For an Internet company, you're looking for something that's easy to spell, easy to read and easy to remember. I always thought of our customers as the belles of style—and the URL was available, so that was great! What brands do you currently carry? We carry so many brands. Some of our top brands are BaBylissPRO, Hot Tools, FHI, Keratin Perfect, CHI and Liquid Keratin. This year we started to go a lot deeper into salon sundries and supplies categories. A lot of our newer brands focus on the professional; so we sell a lot of HairArt, The Cricket Co., Fromm/Diane. We're getting into everyday replenishable items. We have a big salon network, but we also have a lot of at-home licensed cos- metologists who may have a single chair, or travel to do makeup or hair. Some of our top brands are BaBylissPRO, Maijan [her own brand], Hot Tools, Toppik, Caruso—and anything with keratin or argan oil are some of our best sellers. In the last three to four years, we've seen incredible growth with BaBylissPRO. Even this year compared to last year, we saw 154% growth in the number of items sold by BaBylissPRO on our site. And, obviously, we love brands that grow like that. I really think it's a testament to it as a brand. It's doing something right by listening to customers, understanding what they want and then developing solid prod- ucts that work even better than expected. We are very committed to brands like that—brands that are very similar to us in the way they conduct business, which is all about the customer and making sure she is getting the quality products she wants. For example, MiraCurl was big at Cosmoprof North America last July. At StyleBell.com we're so much about analytics, so we were able to see that the market was demanding MiraCurl way before it was introduced. I remember seeing people coming to our site, searching for this type of product, and we talked to BaBylissPRO about that. With our first shipment of MiraCurl, we were sold out before it even arrived. It was that big of a launch for us. And people love it! It's a great product! Was there a reason you wanted to focus only on hair? And have you thought about adding other categories? The hair industry had and has continued to have major growth potential. If you look at the stats, the hair market in gen- eral is a $58-billion industry; that's what the projections are for 2015. I wanted our site to have differentiation and a focus. I think that's always key when you're building a business. That being said, we're in the process of expanding our product categories, and we have some exciting partnerships coming up. I'm always wanting to grow the company in whatever way the market takes us, and I think the market is taking us into new categories. What haircare product trends do you see right now? We've definitely seen the infiltration of smoothing and straightening products; they're all the rage. Everyone's looking to defrizz and generate healthy hair. I think a lot of that is due to the increase of chemi- cal treatments on the market. We're very in tune with our customers, so we know what's going on in the marketplace. One of the issues that's always prevailed is frizzy hair. Everyone wants products that will help dry, curly or frizzy hair. How do you keep your website well-respected by suppliers and customers? When we were very new, six or seven years ago, it was hard to explain to everyone that we are a reputable company and not out to make a quick dollar. We always uphold pricing according to what the manu- facturers want. We work directly with them. That's inherent in making deals with manufacturers—selling it for what they want. I say, "If you want to sell a tweezer at $300, I'll sell it, but I can't promise you anyone's going to buy it!" So I tell them to price competitively—pricing that makes them and us happy. We stay away from salon diversion. I am here building a brand and a busi- ness, so the site was never established to resell to Amazon or eBay. Going through diverters doesn't uphold our brand integrity. I've found that working with the brands directly makes it easier to achieve what I want for my company. I think a major concern for customers is that the products are genuine and come directly from the manufacturer and that all the warranties apply. When you work with diverters, who knows where that merchandise is coming from or when a liquid product expires? For us to provide over the full customer-service life cycle and make them really happy, it is very important for us to work directly with the manufacturers. The margins, obvi- ously, are much better too. It's better for me to take three months to get a manufacturer to come on board than to just get a salon diverter. Also, this provides a lot of brand information; you can really understand their products and stories. You can "Our new StyleBell.com Pro Program accounts for 30% to 40% of our sales." All images courtesy of StyleBell.com T h e O n l i n e E m p r e s s . i n d d 4 6 The Online Empress.indd 46 2 / 3 / 1 4 3 : 0 9 P M 2/3/14 3:09 PM