Michael Marcus Celebrates 10 Years
This cosmetics company is thriving as women opt for bold strokes of color to cheer themselves up in a down economy.
By Joanna Cosgrove
Michael Marcus, founder and CEO of michaelmarcus Cosmetics, began his career in cosmetics as an Estée Lauder makeup artist, participating in department store cosmetics events across the country. The experience allowed him to meet women from all backgrounds, many of who shared similar requests for brighter, more vivid makeup colors. Not long after, he opened a makeup studio where he sold his newly-created namesake brand that featured brilliant shades to suit his philosophy that women of all ages can wear any color desired and shouldn’t be afraid to experiment.
Michael Marcus was a makeup artist for Estée Lauder before launching his line.
A Texas native, Mr. Marcus engaged his passion for art when he attended Texas Tech University and studied art history and interior design. During that time he worked as a resident makeup artist at the Prescriptives counter at Neiman Marcus in Dallas. Within two months, he became the store’s top sales person, and a year later he was promoted to national makeup artist for Estée Lauder. Participating in department store cosmetics events across the country, Mr. Marcus met women from various backgrounds, but who all shared similar requests for brighter, more vivid makeup colors.
Following his stint with Estée Lauder, Mr. Marcus worked as a personal shopper and makeup artist in Dallas, consulting with clients he’d secured over the years. To better service his growing clientele, Mr. Marcus opened a makeup studio where he sold his newly created namesake brand that featured his brilliant shades.
His mantra today is the same it’s been from the very beginning: “Makeup should be fun, not a chore.” His advice to consumers is to have fun with makeup, to explore and find their own look. “There’s really not a right or wrong, it’s what you feel comfortable with,” he said.
In 2002 his line was picked up by Fifth Avenue’s upscale East-meets-West shopping mecca, Takashimaya in NYC, which enabled Mr. Marcus to close his studio and concentrate solely on developing his brand.
“The first five years were brutal,” he recalled. “We finally hit our stride in years seven/eight and now at the ripe old age of 10 we are starting to explode.”
Those lean years, he said, taught him a lesson that he reveres to this day. “You can never please everyone. If you stick to your vision as an innovator and stay true to your message, you will find your market.”
Color: A Recession Buster
The current recession has left many companies wobbly, but Mr. Marcus said his company has weathered the storm well.
“Owning your own small business is not for the faint of heart! It is essential to stay positive and always look for the next opportunity. You can never rest on your laurels. And you can never lose sight of your customer, or stop listening to what she has to say,” he advised. “This approach has built a solid foundation for us and while many brands are cutting in-store support, we are increasing it.”
Mr. Marcus’ motivation to develop a product collection emerged through many conversations he had with women he met across the country, many of whom were requesting more color on their faces.
“I want color! I want corals, pinks and reds, not browns. I don’t want to look washed out,” they told him.
His collection is characterized by a brilliant palate of colors, hues and shades that are customized to complete every woman’s individual style.
Mr. Marcus maintains his bold use of color will see michaelmarcus Cosmetics through the recession.
“Color makes people happy, especially bright bold colors,” he said. “Have you ever been attracted to a “neutral” color sports car? Was there ever a song about the “lady in beige”? No! For me, color is about confidence. Women who wear color are confident and comfortable with who they are.”
That viewpoint that color cosmetics are a retail buoy in tough economic times is supported by a so-called “Lipstick Index” that essentially dictates that an upswing in the purchase of cosmetics, lipstick in particular, tends to be inversely correlated to economic health. During bad economic times, cosmetic purchases are an affordable luxury that can instantly boost one’s self confidence.
Despite the bad economy, Mr. Marcus continues to be inspired by the daily challenges of working in color cosmetics and the relationships he’s forged in the past decade.
“It is a business that is constantly changing, evolving and at the same time, it allows you to be completely creative,” he said. “What I really love is the connection we have been able to maintain with our customers, who are so loyal. The relationships that we have built at our counter guide our every impulse.”
Mr. Marcus’ relationships with his clients are so strong that his collection boasts 45 “never forget a name” lipsticks named after the cherished clients he created them for, such as “Diane” and “Sharon.” The shades were hand mixed then sent to a lab for production.
What Lies Ahead
Despite its humble beginnings, michaelmarcus Cosmetics has fared well during the past decade, building a sizable brand cache that spans foundations; eye, cheek and lip colors; and nail colors.
In 2008 the company expanded into 48 additional Dillard’s doors bringing the total to 60, where it has become one of the top 10 brands.
The brand also made some noise with the launch of a new fragrance collection inspired by nostalgic memories in Michael Marcus’ life. The collection features four EDPs that contain 30% oil, four candles with soy-based wicks and four body butters.
This Spring, the company will roll out additional skin care products including Soothing Botanical Cleaners, Firm Throat Gel, Blemish Control formula and Vitamin E Lip Balm, as well as a new color collection featuring five eyeshadows, one cake eyeliner, one blush, one lipgloss and two lipsticks. Michaelmarcus also intends to launch a fall color collection. The company is currently in the process of reformulating select skin care items to remove parabens. The first product to be parabens-free will be Erase, Improve and Restore. Moving forward, new skin care products will also be paraben-free.
New formulations aside, the company’s primary goal, according to Mr. Marcus is to widen distribution. For starters, the company’s Dillard’s distribution is set to expand into 60 additional doors in Q1, 30 in Q2 and 30 in Q3.
“We are currently looking at plans for global distribution, which will be important over the next 10 years,” said Mr. Marcus. “And eventually, the goal is to become a household name.”