August 01, 2011
Belcorp: International Beauty
by Barbara Seale
The United States is a land of opportunity for many, including companies headquartered in other countries. Peru-based cosmetics direct seller Belcorp is one that has chosen to make something of it. The company expanded with a big goal: to become the top prestige network marketing company in the United States.
Belcorp brought its line of luxury beauty and skincare products, which it sells under the L’Bel brand, to the United States in 2005. For five years it operated under the single-level direct selling model that had given its parent company success, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, for more than four decades. Growth was modest. After all, its name wasn’t well-known in the United States, and the economy was starting to stall.
Belcorp believed that it could do better, even during a sluggish economy, so late last year the company made a big decision. For the first time in its 44-year history, one of its subsidiaries would break away from its usual business model. Belcorp USA adopted a multilevel compensation plan. The timing coincided with the retirement of Maria Montoya, the woman who had launched Belcorp in the U.S. market. Succeeding her was Mona Ameli, whose background included 18 years of experience in a variety of companies, including Herbalife and Shaklee. Though she also worked outside the industry, Ameli’s network marketing experience had shown her the life-changing power of direct selling, and she jumped at the chance to get back into what she loved.
“When I left for a couple of years and then came back to the industry, I saw that I thrive here,” she says.
Strengthening the Belcorp brand is one of Ameli’s immediate objectives, and one that is essential to achieving the corporation’s lofty goals.
Strategically, the United States is a significant region for Belcorp. As one of the world’s largest markets for both direct selling and beauty products, it holds vast growth potential. So Ameli wanted to use all of Belcorp International’s many benefits as creatively as possible to quickly penetrate the North American market. Belcorp already does business in 14 other countries in South and Central America and manufactures products in France.
Though Belcorp USA is still working to become well-known, its parent has earned industry respect through its rich reputation and longevity. The 11th-largest direct selling company in the world, Belcorp International was ranked among the Top 25 beauty brands in 2009 by Women’s Wear Daily and it boasts more than 850,000 beauty advisors in the Americas and 8,000 global Belcorp employees. It’s the third-largest beauty company in Latin America.
Belcorp’s award-winning L’Bel skincare products and fragrances are developed and produced in France, where some of the world’s most respected scientific laboratories and dermatological centers research and test innovative formulas. The process is exacting. Because of Belcorp’s rigorous requirements, a final formula may take as long as five years to create. Up to 1,000 women test products before they are made available to the public. They conduct as many as 200 clinical, dermatological, hypoallergenic and ophthalmologic tests. Up to 50 formulas may be tested before the company finally approves a new product. Each must have proven results and offer visible, verifiable results within four weeks of use. Products are never tested on animals.
Commerce + Charity
Strengthening its brand also falls under one of Belcorp’s main objectives, to empower women in the countries in which it does business. In this aspect, Ameli’s heart is as large as her business acumen is sharp. She shines as brightly in the nonprofit world as she does in the boardroom. Moreover, she believes that the two together can form a fierce force.
“Being successful isn’t just about the bottom line,” she says. “It’s about seeing lives change by being part of our business.”
So when Belcorp began to stretch its marketing model earlier this year, one of the benefits of the parent company that Ameli turned to was its charitable foundation, which runs programs designed to help women transform their lives with specific coaching and training on business development.
“More than 12,000 women have benefited from our programs in Latin America,” Ameli notes. “One is called Amazing Woman. It is designed to train women in the areas of self-confidence, business creation, entrepreneurship, how to socially network, and how to become an independent entrepreneur. A second program is called Women Enlighten Women. It is a scholarship program for young girls whose families are not able to provide them with educational opportunities. Specific scholarships help women go to school and advance. When a woman becomes involved in one of the programs, we consider her part of our Belcorp family.”
Ameli plans to bring the active empowerment of women that Belcorp has so successfully initiated in Latin America to the United States, using a similar model. While agreeing that women in the United States have more opportunities and advantages than those in many other parts of the world, Ameli is still passionate about reaching into specific communities where women do need a helping hand. She is especially passionate about steering young girls in less-advantaged areas toward becoming independent, empowered and able to control their destiny.
“It’s a very integrative approach,” she says. “We work together to make a contribution to our community. We’re not just a company worried about our financial bottom line. Our bottom line includes the personal, financial and emotional growth of our beauty advisors.”
And when it comes to L’Bel’s 250 products, the scientific savvy and French prestige behind them doesn’t bring big price tags. One of the company’s goals is to make them available to as many women as possible, whether they live in Oakland, Oklahoma or Ohio.
“Every woman wants to feel special,” Ameli notes. “One of the dreams of [Belcorp Founder and President] Eduardo Belmont when he first started this business was to be able to make beauty and prestige accessible to women in Latin America and Peru, countries which were never known for beauty or entrepreneurial spirit. You don’t have to be a wealthy person making a six-figure salary to have access to prestige products.
“Through L’Bel, you’re able to be pampered, feel special, and be unique just the way you are. When I talk about becoming the No. 1 prestige company, it’s prestige at an affordable price—with the opportunity of creating a business around it. We offer a quality brand that women can afford.”
Beauty on a Budget
To pamper themselves affordably, L’Bel’s devotees often turn to the brand’s flagship product, Concentré Total, a concentrated treatment cream designed to act on all the signs of age at once. Ameli describes it as “the crème de la crème of anti-aging.” She says it reflects the company’s dedication to technology and science while also capturing its dedication to prestige and beauty in every product.
One of L’Bel’s latest product sensations is NeuviveSi, formulated to renew and protect skin cells and produce radiant-looking skin by stimulating the skin’s cellular renewal cycle.
“Many of us get a dull complexion, dark circles and spots because our skin or body is exposed to pollution or stress simply because of the way we live and work in this world,” Ameli explains. “NeuviveSi is aimed at bringing back radiance to the skin.”
L’Bel products deliver such predictable results and feel so luxurious to use that they almost sell themselves, Ameli says. And once a woman experiences the L’Bel difference, she often wants to take the next step and build a business around it. She can build the businesses through individual contacts, parties or both.
“I have consistently heard from our leaders that they love Belcorp and L’Bel products for two reasons: the products themselves and the human side of our business,” she says. “They have an amazing relationship with those of us in the corporate office.”
The Personal Touch
Ameli notes that the company’s relatively small size is still an asset to beauty advisors, who enjoy the support of a predominantly female staff who know their families and even the names of their children.
Now that Belcorp has expanded into a field team-building model, its support is expanding as well. The company has a methodical 90-day step-by-step training plan designed to help new beauty advisors become successful quickly and earn the income their upline described to them. Joining Belcorp USA is inexpensive—under $100. That translates into a fast return on investment.
And Belcorp’s tools provide every new advisor with everything she needs to show L’Bel products and the Belcorp USA opportunity to friends and family members. The Starter Kit includes full-size skincare products that, when sold for their combined recommended retail price, produces more than 100 percent ROI. It also includes product samples, travel-size cleansers and toners, a fragrance kit and skincare diagnostic tools, as well as training manuals, a L’Bel tote bag and the current catalog. Training comes from both the new consultant’s upline sponsor as well as from Belcorp. And a free replicated website lets her become an immediate e-commerce entrepreneur, as well as take advantage of a free back-office business management suite of online tools.
Over the next three years, Ameli and her Belcorp family of employees and beauty advisors plan to continue to grow the company and to turn it into the No. 1 prestige cosmetics direct seller in the United States. It’s a huge goal, but Ameli thinks that it’s possible.
“First, we have to reveal to the United States this best-kept secret of Latin America, which is Belcorp,” she summarizes. “We want to link Belcorp USA back to its mother company and to leverage the strengths, reputation, stability, growth and contributions that Belcorp International has made in the last 44 years. My goal is to bring those same things to the United States.”
Entrepreneurs Without Borders
Belcorp USA’s new General Manager Mona Ameli acknowledges cultural differences between Latin Americans and U.S. Americans, but she believes that entrepreneurs are alike everywhere.
Ameli has lived and worked in several countries around the world, so she can claim some expertise. She was born in Iran but considers Paris her hometown. She earned degrees in France and is fluent in English, French and Spanish. In her professional life she has held responsibilities for markets that include North America, Western and Eastern Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America. So her reflections on culture carry weight.
“In the United States there have been earlier possibilities for women to have access to jobs and to be able to become financially independent faster,” she says. “Latin women experienced it later. At the time when Belcorp was founded 44 years ago in Peru, it was not well viewed for women from good families to work.”
But she notes that in both Latin and North America, certain women share some key similarities.
“Among women in the United States and in Latin America who want to start a business, there is a common thread of self-confidence, of really being able to believe in themselves,” she observes. “That exists in any culture. Belcorp was founded and continues to exist to say to women, ‘I believe in you and we’re here to help you.’ That’s something that exists across both continents.”
One of the key Belcorp voices expressing support for women is the Belcorp Foundation, which Ameli is bringing to the United States.
“When we’re able to fully expand the Belcorp Foundation, it will be an amazing asset to bring to women in the United States,” she says. “We will be able to partner with women to help them take their dreams to the next level and truly achieve them.”
She notes that while the United States offers some of the best educational opportunities in the world, many cities have districts where children face significant educational challenges.
“There are still school districts where children are not getting a good education and don’t have adequate access to food and clothes,” she says. “But also in those areas, there are moms whose biggest dreams are to help their children have a better life than they have. As we look across the United States—especially with the economic downturn—we see many circumstances where we can help, and we know that those women are already searching for opportunities for growth.”