Giving women the tools to create an inspired future.
BEAUTY BRANDS HAVE long laid claim to empowering women through their products because great skin and flawless makeup can make us feel confident and powerful. But it takes much more than a bright lip and a bold brow to truly empower a woman.
The Alcone Company of today has roots in the professional beauty industry that were planted in the early 1950s in the heart of New York City’s growing theater scene. Originally founded to sell theatrical makeup and showgirl lashes to Broadway starlets, Alcone would eventually be purchased by the Mallardi family in 1982 to complement their own theater-serving business—Mutual Hardware, a provider of professional hardware used in both stage and screen productions.
Today, both Alcone Company and Mutual Hardware are still serving the entertainment industry led by members of the Mallardi family. When Michele Mallardi Gay made the dramatic career shift from science teacher to leading the family beauty business as CEO of the Alcone Company, she saw an opportunity to try something new.
“When I realized that I was staying long-term in this family business leadership role, I started thinking about ways that we could build more community for professional makeup artists,” she says. “We thought, what if we just took our best products that we sell to professional makeup artists that they use all the time and put them in one line? So rather than sending their customers to Alcone with a shopping list, the makeup artists could actually sell them the product right there and earn a sales commission.”
Michele and her team understood professional makeup artists—Alcone’s professional line of makeup has a cult following in the industry and can be seen on famous faces all over the world, from Jennifer Lopez to Kim Kardashian. Makeup artists are like family to Alcone, and Michele was determined to find a way to generate an income stream that was independent of an industry that can often be feast or famine.
“When we started running the reports of what that would look like, it really wasn’t going to give them a significant enough revenue stream,” she explains. “Basically, what we did is we built a direct sales model backward. We asked the question, ‘How can we help makeup artists receive a real significant revenue stream as a supplement to their career?’ And where we ended up was direct sales.”
With no direct sales experience, Michele started doing “Alcone at Home” parties with a few close friends and family, introducing the products to women and learning as she went.
“We started to get all these other people who didn’t know what they were doing, but they had strengths in all walks of life,” she shares. “And because none of us knew what we were doing, we had no direct sales background. We actually were able to build a culture that felt authentic to us.”
Alcone at Home would soon become LimeLife by Alcone, and Michele would be joined by her niece and LimeLife co-founder, Madison Mallardi.
“When we started, we only had about 50 Beauty Guides, and every time we got a new starter kit order, we would ring a bell because we celebrated every single Beauty Guide that joined,” shares Madison. “And then over time it just started picking up, and we were ringing the bell and ringing the bell. And that’s what we’ve been doing ever since. We still ring a hypothetical bell every single time someone joins, because it’s just so exciting when someone puts their trust into the company and in us as leaders.”
MORE THAN MAKEUP
Michele and Madison launched LimeLife with eleven of Alcone’s most popular makeup products but quickly expanded to skincare as well. Today, LimeLife offers a comprehensive selection of skincare, makeup, men’s products, beauty tools and accessories. A field team of over 30,000 Beauty Guides in nine countries share both LimeLife products and the business opportunity around the world.
“We create products that we would want to use and that professional artists need,” says Madison. “The way we develop our products and the way we define what to develop solely comes from our sales field. It’s really about finding products that are going to be staples in people’s lives and that people are going to hopefully become loyal to, to the point where they can’t turn back, and creating classics.”
While LimeLife offers an exceptional line of products, both Michele and Madison see LimeLife’s business opportunity as the best thing the company offers.
“My ‘why’ is for women to understand their worth and be paid for it,” adds Michele. “The basis of our mission is in empowering women, and we do that in three ways: from a personal angle, from a business angle, and from a financial angle. At the end of the day, making sure that our compensation plan is paying out the absolute amount that it can possibly payout and getting as much money into the hands of women as we can.”
But Michele wanted more than a generous compensation plan. She wanted to empower women to think beyond the money they could make with LimeLife today and tomorrow to investing and managing wealth that could affect their families for years to come. Her own experience with seeking out funding for LimeLife would inspire her next move.
THE FEMPIRE FUND
Creating the direct sales arm of Alcone required funding, and a lot of it.
“I had mortgaged everyone’s house, and I had mortgaged our businesses,” shares Michele. “But the risk for my family was way too high—I’m talking about my siblings, my four siblings and my father. We got some outside funding from friends and family, which was great, but we were still growing way too fast.”
A chance email from the beauty giant L’Occitane would change everything. Chairman Reinold Geiger requested a meeting with Michele and Madison, believed in what they’d created at LimeLife and invested in the business.
“He invested in LimeLife immediately,” says Michele. “And he says, ‘I want you to have complete control, complete decision making. I’m just giving you money. I want to see what happens. I believe direct sales is the future.’ This was a blessing from nowhere, and when I started looking into how many female entrepreneurs get that blessing, it’s so few.”
She developed an idea that could realize two dreams at once—The Fempire Fund— an investment vehicle that could simultaneously provide funding for up-and-coming female entrepreneurs and reward high performing LimeLife Beauty Guides. Once a Beauty Guide hits a specific rank, LimeLife rewards them with a share in a bonus pool that is used to fund a portfolio of entrepreneurs. As the fund grows, their gifted investment grows.
Additionally, qualifying Beauty Guides are given their first $5,000 in investment returns as a predistribution, with encouragement to diversify.
“I encourage them to put it in the stock market or in something that has long term growth,” she explains. “Basically, what I’m trying to show them is direct sales is a compounding business, and you can take your earnings from that and further compound it in the financial institutions that we’re so blessed and lucky to have access to.”
The partnership with L’Occitane allowed LimeLife to expand internationally at breakneck speed. In two years, LimeLife expanded into eight countries outside the United States— Canada, U.K, France, Italy, Ireland, Germany, Spain and Australia. Jacob Hyzer, CEO of Emerging Markets, has been with LimeLife from the beginning, building teams focused on compliance, training and support for Beauty Guides.
“A challenge was finding, in a short time of such vast expansion, how do we maintain our vision for the culture of the company,” he shares. “For Michele, Madison, and myself that was such a huge, important priority—maintaining the culture of the company.”
Jacob and his teams created similar protocols across the countries in which new Beauty Guides chose from one of two starter kits and then begin an onboarding process that involves online learning, live trainings and interacting with other Beauty Guides through Facebook groups.
“Our Beauty Guides are so incredible because they work in such a collaborative way,” he explains. “There are Guides who aren’t even on the same team, who don’t make any money off of each other at all, who are so willing to jump over into someone else’s team to do trainings, to offer coaching, to offer feedback, to offer insight and how to do it.”
The company’s explosive growth shows no signs of slowing, with upcoming product launches, a new leadership training program, and its first virtual annual convention, which will allow even more Beauty Guides from around the world to participate. As LimeLife looks to empower more women in more countries, Michele holds fast to her “why.”
“Real female empowerment is helping women define an inspired future themselves,” she says. “And to give them the tools to actually create that inspired future.”