Seeking to provide value even before they started their business, beauty company BELLAME is building a loyal following thanks to great technology, transparency and great products.
Headquarters: Dublin, California
Top Executives: Founders Melissa and Scott Thompson
For Melissa and Scott Thompson, founding BELLAME (pronounced Bella-Me) was a labor of love. A love that began blooming more than 20 years prior, by accident, or as she now calls it, by design, she left her accounting position at a garbage company in 1995 after having her daughter, Mandi. She started her own advertising company for small businesses, in hopes that she could have better control of her time with her new baby. Her sister-in-law had just moved into town and was looking for an Avon lady. “I had just put an ad in the local paper, my business was growing, and I needed to bring on help. God knew exactly what he was doing, when right next to my ad there was one for Avon. So I signed up as a Representative. I figured, my sister-in-law could get her products, and I could test my advertising.” From that point on, her love affair with social selling began.
“I fell deeply in love with the industry,” says Melissa Thompson, BELLAME Founder. “Here I was selling by accident, and I didn’t have to be away from my girl. I did so well that Avon offered me a corporate role to train their representatives in the local area.”
All told, Melissa has 24 years of experience in the direct selling industry, both as a distributor and on the corporate side. She has worked for some of the top names in the industry: Avon, Shaklee, Belcorp, Stella and Dot, and others.
“I’m grateful for every single role,” Melissa says. “I’ve worked alongside some of the most brilliant minds in the industry as well as with the biggest hearts. Avon really was my first love. The people there taught me the foundation of this business.”
Meanwhile, BELLAME Founder Scott Thompson has his own career specialties, including digital marketing, technology and entrepreneurship. “I had started a tech company ten years prior,” Scott says, “so I got into entrepreneurship and working for myself.”
“I said to Melissa, ‘let’s start a business together so we can be together every day,’” Scott says. “I knew how hard she worked. She’s not a 9-to-5 person. She’s a 24/7 person. The catalyst to get BELLAME going was just so that we could build something together that we believe in.”
ONE NIGHT IN NAPA
In 2016, Scott and Melissa traveled to Napa Valley, California. They had dinner with Melissa’s mom and her stepdad. “I was talking about all things social selling—although this time there was an extra emphasis on all the things I would love to do, if I had my own company,” Melissa says.
“We attracted 100,000 followers before anybody ever knew we were launching a product, just from blogging.”—Melissa Thompson, BELLAME Founder
Scott said, “Honey, let’s just start our own company.” The foursome sat around the table, sipping wine and brainstorming about what the name of the company should be. “We decided it had to be simple, memorable, and it’s got to speak to what the brand is,” Scott says. Melissa expressed her love for European luxury beauty, so Melissa’s mother Rose suggested Bella. Melissa said, “That is nice, but this is more than just the idea of being beautiful, this is about feeling beautiful from the inside out.” Rose then blurted out BELLAME. The whole table went silent. Scott proceeded to find the owner of BELLAME.com, who lives in Amsterdam, and negotiated to acquire the domain name later that day.
After that night in Napa, Scott recommended to Melissa that she start blogging about everything she loves about beauty, business and entrepreneurship. She started blogging and sending out surveys to readers. At the time, BELLAME.com was just a WordPress blog.
“We attracted 100,000 followers before anybody ever knew we were launching a product, just from blogging,” Melissa says. “I started sending surveys to them, about what people wanted from their beauty routines, from entrepreneurship, from social selling, compensation plans and training. We gathered answers, and we used them as a blueprint to build on.”
Today, BELLAME’s headquarters are in Dublin, California. They officially launched on July 1, 2018. However, the growth came sooner than they thought.
BELLAME started with four beauty products—the Aqua Lumiere line—which includes a hydrating cleanser, serum, eye cream and moisturizer.
“We create high-end luxury products that are clinical grade and that don’t have any harsh chemicals,” Scott says. “We have two patents that we exclusively have the right to use. We even have high end, eye-candy packaging. From the moment you receive the products, there’s the wow factor. We’re working with laboratories, and we’re creating original products— something you can’t get anywhere else.”
By the end of the year, Scott and Melissa say they will have some 20-plus products—a number way beyond the original four products. “I personally won’t be happy until every single personal care item I reach for each day has the name BELLAME on the label,” Melissa says. “That is where we’re headed.”
In-House Tech Team
Originally, Scott and Melissa planned to use off-the-shelf software for their technology needs. However, they quickly discovered they weren’t happy with this kind of out-of-the-box software due to its limitations. They ended up building their own system and hired an in-house tech team. They built a proprietary system from the ground up.
“We have a highly integrated cloud-based tech system that’s integrated from the logistics, supply chain, support ticketing system, accounting system, back office reporting to ourfront- and back-end website development,” Scott says. “Our proprietary technology is a core strength that we have that allows us to innovate and scale.”
“I personally won’t be happy until every single personal care item I reach for each day has the name BELLAME on the label.” —Melissa Thompson, BELLAME Founder
The couple hired a consultant recommended by the Direct Selling Association (DSA) who told them if they launched on July 1, 2018, and by December had 500 partners that they would be doing well. “By December of 2018, we had 7,500 partners,” Scott says. “And we ran out of inventory two times, and we continued to grow. And here I thought we could take our time.”
In addition to their products, the couple believes their sweet spots are in their technology, transparency and the tribe of partners. “We are unique because we are a brand that has a tech company as its foundation with founders who are building alongside our tribe,” Melissa says. “That means full transparency in everything we do.”
One of the things that differentiates BELLAME from other companies is their determination to involve their tribe in building the brand and its products at all stages of the process. “We wanted people to be a part of truly being behind the brand,” Melissa says.
When the company has a new product that needs a name, they ask all their partners to vote on one. They start with a Google doc that lists the concept of the product, and that gets sent to all partners, who submit their own ideas for a name.
“That Google doc goes out to everybody, then we pick the top picks and put them into a smaller voting pool,” Melissa says. “We just keep channeling it until we have a name.”
“For example, one of our new products is Dream Luxe, a sleeping mask. A member of the tribe, Lacey Gittinger, was the one who picked the name. Winners of the name-picking game are rewarded with prizes and products.”
“The people who are at BELLAME are here because they want to be here.” —Scott Thompson, BELLAME Founder
“BELLAME is about being inclusive,” Melissa says. “It’s about making every partner feel like they count. Our number one goal is that somebody who signed up yesterday to join us feels just as valued and important as our very top leader.”
Melissa and Scott are focused exclusively on the U.S. market right now, with no plans to expand into new markets, at least not anytime soon. “We have our heads down, and we’re focused on the domestic market at hand,” Scott says. “We’re still a young company, and we have a lot of growth to do here at home.”
BELLAME’s plan is to align itself with strategic partners that can help scale the company and create proprietary products it can bring to market. “We will continue to find those partners that can help us grow,” Scott says. “We’re with a big logistics center in Dallas that we’re integrated with in every way. We continue to have more partnerships with laboratories across the U.S.”
As BELLAME continues to grow, create new products and attract more partners, Scott and Melissa are excited about the company’s future. “We feel privileged.”