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‘Don’t Run Out of Money’: Bluemercury’s Barry Beck on How to Build a Billion-Dollar Empire

The entrepreneur shares his secrets to success and talks cars, sneakers and tuxedos.

Entrepreneur and cofounder of bluemercury Barry Beck plays the guitar inside the music room of his home on January 17, 2019 in Bethesda, Maryland. Jason Andrew

Serial entrepreneur Barry Beck, along with his wife, Marla, built Bluemercury—the luxury beauty retailer founded in 1999—into a multi-million-dollar operation. They sold the company to Macy’s in 2015 in a $210 million all-cash deal, but the Becks continue to be the driving force behind the business. Analysts say it is now valued at $1 billion and accounts for one-seventh of Macy’s market value. Clearly dedicated to his work, Beck is equally passionate outside the office, whether he’s collecting Ferraris, watches or tuxedos.

What have you done recently for the first time?

Last year I attended the Monaco Grand Prix as special guest of Ferrari and aces Kimi Räikkönen and Sebastian Vettel. We spent time in the pit with a front-row view of these world-class pilots taking their incredible machines to the technical limit.

Name your favorite designer.

Sergio Pininfarina, who conceived the bodywork of almost every Ferrari. He understood the elements of great design—good harmony, classic style, proportion and grace. This sense of graceful proportion—exceptional power clothed in a sensual body—has led many experts to regard the Ferrari as one of the most beautiful objects ever produced.

First thing you do in the morning?

I love to take a four-mile precision run and then slipknot into my favorite nuclear-strength mocha cappuccino from Quartermaine Coffee Roasters in Bethesda, Md.

What advice do you wish you’d followed?

DROOM: Don’t Run Out of Money. If your business runs out of money, it’s game over. Identify exactly how much money you need in reserve. Raise money when you can get it. Be scrappy. Focus on keeping your costs low and driving revenue.

What do you do that’s still analog?

Measure time. I’m fascinated by watch companies such as Patek Philippe that have taken micro-engineering to its technical conclusion.

What in your wardrobe do you wear most often?

I love Berluti sneakers and their take on casual elegance. On a recent trip to Paris, I dragged my wife on a Berluti-store tour, picking up the Palermo sneaker in every color.

Berluti's Playtime Palermo Sneakers

Berluti’s Playtime Palermo Sneakers  Courtesy of Berluti

Do you have a uniform for certain occasions?

I love black tie and like to mix it up. I have a collection of tuxedos. I’ll find any excuse to wear my white jacket and recently purchased my first shawl collar.

What do you most crave at the end of the day?

Time with my family. I travel 15 to 20 days each month, so we have mandatory family dinners every Friday night with my three kids.

The most recent thing you regret not buying?

Dorothy Lichtenstein gave my family unfettered access to Roy Lichtenstein’s studio—a tough get. We pulled our kids out of school—a big deal for us—and spent the day in the studio playing with Lichtenstein’s Ben-Day dot stencils. Dorothy gave me the opportunity to purchase one of the works, but I declined. Mistake…big mistake.

Which are your regular tables in New York, LA and London?

All my business lunches are at the St. Regis New York’s Astor Court. I have the same table every time—the back left banquette. In LA, I stay at the Beverly Hills Hotel. It’s the McCarthy salad at the Polo Lounge for me. And high tea at the Dorchester in London, of course.

Beverly Hills Hotel Polo Lounge Patio

Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel  Courtesy Beverly Hills Hotel

If you could stick at one age, what would it be, and why?

Forty. Life begins at 40.

If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?

With all five members of my family, plus my mom and dad, trapped on my boat somewhere in the Mediterranean.

What’s always in your hand luggage?

M-61 PowerGlow Peels.

What is the car you are most attached to?

My Ferrari GTO.

Do you still write letters?

Yes. I think it’s a lost art. I handwrite all my notes on personalized Smythson stationery.

Dylan or Bowie?

Bowie. “Ashes to Ashes” is currently stuck in my head.

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