A Chat With Marla Malcolm Beck

Marla Malcolm Beck, the Bluemercury founder and mom of 3, on her sanity- and marriage-saving ritual, selling her company for $210M, and beauty must-haves.

Bluemercury founder Marla Malcolm Beck is a beauty junkie and a badass businesswoman, but it wasn’t until it dawned on her to marry the two that she nailed, well, life.

She told us, “I’ve been obsessed with beauty products since high school. Back then, the only shopping options were drugstores and department stores, which kept everything behind glass counters. It was so awkward, not to mention hard to get help because I didn’t have a fancy handbag! I wanted to make it easier to buy high-quality, innovative beauty products. ”

But let’s back up a bit. Before the aha! business idea smacked her over the head, Marla was working in private equity. She met husband Barry Beck while trying to buy his company, and while the sale didn’t happen, a romance was on.

Together they launched Bluemercury.com and opened the first retail store in Georgetown in 1999. To say they make a wildly successful pair would be a giant understatement. Let us break it down:

3 The number of kids they have – Ariel (12), Sophie (10), and Luc (9).
12,450 The number of miles they have walked together since they started dating (!!).
210,000,000 The amount Macy’s paid for Bluemercury in 2015.
120 The number of Bluemercury retail stores that will exist by the end of 2016.
45 The minutes Marla would drive in grad school just to buy MAC lipstick.

We chatted with Marla about all things beauty and parenting. Read on for the thing she swears saves her sanity and marriage (so good!), her current beauty obsessions, and the brilliant lifehacks she swears by. Meet the whip smart, stunning Marla Malcolm Beck.

The Inpsiration

Jeff Bezos gave a speech at business school about starting Amazon that really stuck with me. I was working in private equity post grad school but knew it wasn’t right for me. It finally came to me… I should open my dream beauty store!

You Never Know

I met my husband while I was working in finance – I tried to buy his company, but he wouldn’t sell it to me! We started Bluemercury together, and by the end of the 2016, we will have over 100 stores.

If You Want Something Done Right…

Lune + Aster is my solution to beauty products that didn’t exist but should. There wasn’t a paraben-free, vegan mascara that worked, so I created one. Ditto on a CC cream with SPF50 – most tinted moisturizers were only SPF20. A lot of my friends still don’t know how to do their makeup, but they want to look polished and professional in 10 minutes or less. I made foolproof products for them – you literally can’t get too much bronzer on the brush with the first stroke.

The Couple That Works (And Parents) Together

At work, we divide and conquer: I handle marketing, merchandising, client communication, and training; he deals with operations, finance, real estate, and building stores. Though, of course we work on some things together, and the best is when we travel together. Our date nights are usually when we are in a city together for work. When it comes to parenting, we overlap more and are pretty much interchangeable. I deal with homework, he focuses on fun, but we are both disciplinarians, which is key.

Secret To Success

My husband and I go for a 20-45-minute walk together at 10pm every night. We’ve done it since we were dating. It’s so good for your mind and health. The first 5 minutes are about the day, the rest is us dreaming together. On Saturday and Sunday mornings, we walk 4 miles. We calculated it one time – we’ve walked the equivalent of halfway around the world together!!!

Current Beauty Obsessions

Obviously I’m always trying new things, but here’s what I’m currently loving.
Power Glow Peel is a skin miracle. I’m addicted to it. That with a moisturizer and you’re good to go.
• I’m sort of obsessed with La Mer’s new Perfecting Treatment, which is really hydrating and dewey.
• I’m a sunscreen addict. Anthelios SPF60 is so light, sheer, and beautiful; Skinceuticals is my other go-to.
• I love Nars dual intensity eye shadows, so creamy and super easy to apply. Tan Lines and Topless are perfect summer colors.
Nars body bronzer is great and actually smells nice.
ByTerry palettes that look like Missoni stripes – I’m a sucker for pretty packaging!

Kid Beauty Hack

Moroccanoil works miracles on the kids dry hair from swimming.

Best Beauty Advice

1. No matter what you use, you must exfoliate when you get older. The more you age, the less your cells turn over, so your skin will look dull.
2. Don’t touch your face! There are so many germs and bacteria on your hands.
3. SPF every day no matter what! Or else you’ll get sun spots, and there is no cure for sun spots. Trust me, I know, as I have them on my lips!

Life Hacks To Live By

• Find a uniform. I have 6 pairs of black Helmut Lang jeans that pass as pants and 6 silk blouses.
• Keep jewelry in your purse to take you from day to night. For me, it’s dangly clip-on earrings.
• Keep tea and packets of miso soup in my bag. All you need is hot water for instant nourishment.

Career Highlight

When I see someone walking with a Bluemercury shopping bag, it makes my day. It’s all about the simple things. And it’s 94% women who work at Bluemercury – I’m so proud of creating career opportunities for women.

Career Lowpoint

The first couple of years were stressful trying to build a business without running out of money. There were many sleepless nights.

On Raising Kids In Bethesda, MD

We live so close to downtown that we can do fun things spur of the moment: Grab a yogurt, go to the bookstore, the movies… everything is steps from the house. You can also walk down the street and hear 4 or 5 different languages spoken. It’s unique in that it feels both urban and suburban.

How She Unwinds

I like to cook and play piano. I am relaxed if I do those things, but it’s hard to find the time. And I get a lot of angst out on the tennis court.

Guilty Pleasure

Binge-watching a new series until 3am eating popcorn. Right now, it’s The Honorable Woman. And the kids are into Tina Fey, so we’re all watching 30 Rock together.

Photo courtesy of Cade Martin/Washingtonian Magazine.