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Former NYX Head Hopes to Work the Same Magic at Bellami

Scott Friedman helped build NYX into a booming brand. He sees many parallels between the color cosmetics and his new company, Bellami hair extensions.

ARCADIA, CA - OCTOBER 01: CEO, NYX Cosmetics Scott Friedman attends the World's 1st NYX store grand opening VIP preview party held at the Westfield Santa Anita on October 1, 2015 in Arcadia, California. (Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for NYX Cosmetics)
Scott Friedman Getty Images for NYX Cosmetics

Scott Friedman is ready for his next act.

In his six-plus years as chief executive officer of NYX Professional Makeup, Friedman helped fatten up the company’s sales to exceed an estimated $100 million a year. L’Oréal scooped up the makeup artistry brand, founded by Toni Ko in 1999, three years ago.

After spearheading expansion of NYX into retailers such as Walgreens Boots Alliance and Macy’s, Friedman left his post in August. But the lure of building another company (after a month of global travel) encouraged Friedman to accept the ceo role at Bellami, a hair extension brand. “It doesn’t feel like work,” said Friedman of his new role. “I decided I wanted to do something that is fun and exciting.”

He has a blueprint for growth for Bellami. The brand had estimated sales of $30 million last year, and Friedman sees the potential to build that to more than $1 billion within four or five years. Among the plans are a new headquarters set to open in El Segundo, Calif., next spring and the goal to expand the staff to gear up for growth.

Here, Friedman discusses his vision.

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WWD: Were you familiar with Bellami?

Scott Friedman: I had been introduced to the owners [Julius Salerno and Nikki Eslami, who founded the company when they found a lack of quality extensions in the market] a couple of years ago. They are both so talented and we communicate well together, our skill sets are complementary.

WWD: What are your growth plans?

S.F.: I see a tremendous opportunity because Bellami has a good position in a growing market. The company is already the most well-known, direct-to-consumer clip-in extension brand. And we recently launched our professional hair extension products. We will help salons grow a new category, become more well-known online and give them a brand that consumers are looking for with plans to be number one in salons.

My focus is on the brand and what we can do to position the brand with our consumers. We’re going to use digital in all aspects of our business — we’ll use our insights to leverage online conversations and use digital to educate our partners. We are already the most talked-about hair extension brand online.

The category of human hair is an expensive category. By going direct to consumers and stylists, all of our costs go into the products — so having conversations about the qualities of our products is important. We’ve also had great success on QVC, we are the first human hair extension brand to have that level of success on the channel.

We see opportunities to add other products that complement hair extensions, such as tools suited to styling hair extensions like blow dryers or curling irons.

WWD: Who is the audience for hair extensions and why is it expanding at a double-digit clip?

S.F.: It is growing because so many women are happy to let people know they have extensions — they don’t hide it. They like to have long hair one day and short the next. It is probably close to a $1 billion business. The interesting thing with human hair is you can wash it and you can color it. It isn’t just young people, women of all ages — especially those with thinning hair — use extensions. It makes people feel good about themselves.

WWD: Tell me about the growth of your physical Beauty Bars?

S.F.: We just opened our second Beauty Bar in a site in Houston [the first is in Los Angeles]. The Beauty Bars provide extensions and allow women to have them blended in — either clip-in or professionally installed. The 1,500-square-foot locations also serve as distribution points for stylists. Hair extensions are expensive and they can go to the bar to get the colors needed for clients [rather than keeping them in stock].

We will open six including one in the Meatpacking District in New York, one in Miami, one in Las Vegas and another in the Los Angeles area. We don’t have a goal of opening many stores. We want to get it right. We’ll hit pause and make sure we’ve locked in the expertise. One is easy. The one in Hollywood is constantly busy. But I know the difference between running one and a larger number.

Scott Friedman Hopes to Build Bellami
Bellami collaboration with Dove Cameron.

WWD: Will Bellami do more collaborations, such as the recent launch with Dove Cameron?

S.F.: We will. The line with Dove is going great. We think this gives a voice to some of the influencers and this is a category that is supplemental with what influencers are already doing — there aren’t 10 other high-end hair extensions we are competing against. We couldn’t believe how much Dove knew about our business. She knew the numbers of the colors and she knew just how many rows she wanted and lengths with her extensions.

WWD: Do you see parallels from your career at NYX? Any learnings to apply at Bellami?

S.F.: The most important thing is knowing we are going to create a really good team. It is important that you have really bright people and that you empower them. Another thing I’ve learned is that brand strength is everything. Sell-in means nothing. The entire focus is on satisfying the customers. If we give people great products and create value, they will carry the brand message.

As we staff up, the kind of people we want to attract in product development are those who can observe cultural trends not only in beauty, but fashion and music as well, to develop innovative products. We can’t be fake.