Episode 148: David Pirrotta, Founder and CEO of David Pirrotta Brands

After a five-minute career on Broadway, David Pirrotta, founder and CEO of David Pirrotta Brands, discovered his passion for the beauty world and his talent for scoping out and launching fledgling brands. He also realized he was still fulfilling his desire to perform but on a different stage, as he stood front and center promoting and presenting young brands to the beauty marketplace. With over 80 launches in his portfolio, this “brand whisperer” offers wisdom for brands of all sizes.

Dan Hodgdon
AnnouncerWelcome to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® hosted by Jodi Katz, founder and creative director of Base Beauty creative agency.
Jodi KatzHey, there. It's Jodi Katz, your host of WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® Podcast. Thanks for tuning in. This episode was one of our last recordings before the coronoavirus sent us all home. Moving forward, our recordings will be done virtually, because we do believe that the show must go on. This week's episode features David Pirrotta. He's the founder and CEO of David Pirrotta Brands, and if you missed last week's episode, it featured Inessa and Alina Vike, who are the founders of Vike Beauty. I hope you enjoy the episode.

Hey, everybody. Welcome back to the show. I am so excited to be sitting with David Pirrotta. He is the founder and CEO of David Pirrotta Brands. Welcome to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY®.
David PirrottaThank you. Thank you for having me.
Jodi KatzI'm excited to be sitting with you. My first question for you is about hand sanitizer. When we walked into the room today, we're in the midst of coronoavirus fear, and you mentioned that you just launched a hand sanitizer brand.
David PirrottaWell, I've been working with many different hand sanitizer brands. But my favorite one right now, which has been around since the '90s, and it's probably one of the first indie brands, is Jao. Jao Brands. It's out of Brooklyn, and it's been around ... Her father was the formulator and chemist behind it, and she actually has a very clean, organic hand sanitizer, and in kind of the Hollywood world, her sister is one of my clients, which is Melanie Mayron. Gail Mayron is the owner of Jao, and she actually created the first indie, independent hand sanitizer brand on the market. Actually, Purell followed her after she had launched it, so there wasn't even Purell on the market before she came out.
Jodi KatzOh my god, that's crazy.
David PirrottaYeah! The indie space has been going since the '90s.
Jodi KatzAnd are there other brands that you represent that have hand sanitizers?
David PirrottaYeah, there's a brand I actually brought into the US as a distributor, called Grown Alchemist. I still use their hand sanitizer, even though we're not their distributors anymore. But I am also a big believer of using organic, or as clean as possible. So, everyone is using all of these chemicals for hand sanitizers right now, but my concern is, what else are you putting on your skin with that Purell? Or even hearing, in your office, I heard people using wipes, and certain wipes I wouldn't be using, but still, that was scary. But coming from the clean beauty world that I come from.
Jodi KatzSo, what kind of wipes should we be using?
David PirrottaI guess, I would just be using your own blend. You can actually, one of my brand owner now, she is one of the founders of a brand called Nature of Things, and it's a CBD brand. I actually asked her recently, because I was actually talking to a few different beauty directors and editors here in New York, and we were just talking about, so many people are doing articles on how to make your own hand sanitizer. And so, I had asked her, and she actually said to me ... Her name was Kendra Mark, and she's so fabulous. She lives in Arizona, but she has formulated for many brands as a chemist, and now she is a founder of her own, together with two other partners. And she always uses aloe vera in hers, with some alcohol in there, some organic oils in there. You want to make sure you make the cleanest blend possible.
Jodi KatzAnd then, just dip a paper towel into it and wipe it on the table surfaces?
David PirrottaYeah. You can just clean it yourself at home. I always use your own soap and water, and lemon and vinegar and all of that, verus everyone is using Clorox bleach. They're bleaching everything possible. I'm sure they're making a fortune right now. They're the only ones selling a lot of product right now.
Jodi KatzRight. So, do you spend time making your own hand sanitizers at home?
David PirrottaNo. I actually asked all of our brand owners that are chemists and formulators what they would do, and they would always make me something and send me something.
Jodi KatzThat's cool.
David PirrottaYeah, it's fun.
Jodi KatzWhat a nice perk for you during this challenging time.
David PirrottaI do have tons of wipes in my bag, too, that are more organic. But it's funny because I travel all the time for work, and I've always been kind of OCD about cleaning my area, my little table, and even if I get upgraded to Delta One or first, I'm always wiping everything down. I never put anything into one of those little pockets in front of me. I carry a little fanny pack that I put on the side for all my accoutrements that I need on my travel trip, which is a hand sanitizer, lip balm, a little facial mist. All the essentials you need when you're traveling on a plane.
Jodi KatzWhat is your area wipe down protocol on a plane?
David PirrottaFirst the tray, and then all the arms all around it, and I even clean the TV screen, because people are touching that all the time. I clean it right away. I even, the whole seat area. And then, I have a little spray that I spray in the pockets, just because I touched them. And then I never wash my hands on the plane because that water is recycled, so all that water -
Jodi KatzIt's dirty water?
David PirrottaAll of that water is just recycled, so there's bacteria probably in there. If the water is sitting there, there's bacteria in the water. I don't care if there's soap there from a high-end brand that they're partnering with. I literally bring hand wipes, and I wipe my hands and hand sanitize my hands. I never really even drink tea or hot water or coffee on a plane.
Jodi KatzWell, these are all really helpful tips. I've always been someone who wipes down the armrests and the tray table and the window cover, because I never think that anyone's cleaning the plane.
David PirrottaThey aren't.
Jodi KatzOther than just putting the garbage in the garbage can.
David PirrottaYeah, they aren't.
Jodi KatzYeah.
David PirrottaThey never are.
Jodi KatzBut they should.
David PirrottaThey should! I think now they should. It's funny, because before all this happened, a friend of mine, we both were flying from New York to LA, and we hadn't seen each other in a while, and he's a famous hairstylist. He did a whole video on me, because I was wiping down my area, and he was like, funny to run into David Pirrotta on Delta One. And I'm cleaning everything, and I'm sweating as I'm really cleaning my area before I sit down. I do have to say, I was on a flight once with one of the Kardashians, with Kim Kardashian, on a flight back to LA on Delta, and she had like a seat condom. She covered her seat. I was so amazed by the way she traveled on a regular plane versus a jet. She had her own seat cover. I was mesmerized. I was like, where do I find a condom for my seat?
Jodi KatzDo you think that's for comfort or for cleanliness?
David PirrottaCleanliness. She's not sitting on a chair that someone else has been sitting on. Yeah. I wish she could tell us where she gets that seat condom from.
Jodi KatzHow interesting. Well, I guess, when you travel as much as she does, you're trying to preserve your sanity and your health as much as you can.
David PirrottaI always thought she was traveling private, but she flies alone, she sometimes jumps on the Delta flight.
Jodi KatzWell, let's move on to other topics. Let's talk about how you'll spend your day today.
David PirrottaHow I'll spend my ... today? Well, I flew, I was just in Miami, so I flew on the last flight out of Miami last night. I flew in around midnight, and I'm just here. I flew back for you.
Jodi KatzOh my goodness!
David PirrottaAnd then I'm going to go drop off, one of my buyers from C.O. Bigelow stopped by my showroom in the West Village and she left her scarf, so I'm going to drop it off, and then I'm going to go pick up something, and then I'm going to head to the airport, back to Los Angeles, because I've been gone for 10 days.
Jodi KatzWell, thank you for making time for me.
David PirrottaYou're welcome! I wanted to make sure I didn't miss this, because I had so much fun talking to you about your son and shaving and all that kind of stuff. I was like, I've got to meet this person.
Jodi KatzI'm sure my son's so excited to hear this. Okay, here, this is my question that I think is the most fun. What did you want to be when you grew up?
David PirrottaWell, I wanted to be a Broadway actor. And so, I actually went to school for musical theater, and I also minored in Spanish and accounting, so I also have some accounting background. When I got to New York and I was auditioning, I went from university to London, then to New York City, and I was auditioning all the time, and then I ended up in the beauty space, but I didn't realize I had been always in the beauty space, because my aunt used to take me into all the department stores. She was my Auntie May. My mom was very much into products, and she's a 70-year-old woman that looks like she's probably 50. And then, my grandmother had always made all her own natural products, because she was a tomboy growing up on a farm her whole life in Cuba, so she always made all of her rouges with beets, and she made all of her soaps herself. She would use castile soap for hand soaps. She was always making her own product.

So then, I ended up, being in theater, you know how to makeup on stage, so I ended up at a counter at Bergdorf Goodman. They told me I had great skin, and I started working in beauty, and then I was like, wait a second, I really love this job. You're making people happy every day, and you're working with fun product, and you're meeting all of these wonderful creative directors. At that time, I got to meet Bobbi Brown when she just had six lipsticks, and I got to meet, I started working with Christy Turlington, which what gay boy doesn't want to work with a supermodel? It was like, I was living my best life in my early 20s in New York City.
Jodi KatzDid you ever make it to the Broadway stage?
David PirrottaI did. I made it as a swing. I don't know if anyone knows what that is.
Jodi KatzTell us.
David PirrottaI made it as a swing on a musical, which a swing is someone that is casted to be there as a kind of understudy for every male character. So, you have to learn every character, but you're part of the ensemble, so you're doing all the back moves and everything. Mind you, the show I was on only lasted like 14 days on Broadway.
Jodi KatzOh, man.
David PirrottaNo one got sick. But I did get to touch the stage, and I realized that was all I wanted to do, was get close to it, but it never really happened.
Jodi KatzWhat was the show called?
David PirrottaI'm not going to talk about it.
Jodi KatzReally?
David PirrottaYeah!
Jodi KatzCan I google search this now?
David PirrottaNo! I had many Broadway lovers that I don't want this to come back up. It's too much in the past. Let's talk about the present.
Jodi KatzOkay, wait. I just want to hear about being a swing. So, when you're a sing, are you -
David PirrottaNot a swinger, but a swing.
Jodi KatzAre you on stage every day, just being the background dancer?
David PirrottaYeah, you are.
Jodi KatzOkay.
David PirrottaYou're kind of running around. You always do the ensemble, dancing and doing everything. And so, when someone calls out sick that day, they throw you in.
Jodi KatzOkay, but you definitely performed on Broadway for 14 days?
David PirrottaFor less than that, because you have days off. Not very long. And then I watched all my other friends make it on stage, and I was like ... This was before I even started really working in makeup. I was only like 23. It was before I even got into going out to the gay bars, and having a fun life. I was so disciplined, and then I was over it. Then I was loving doing makeup on people's faces, working with the most fabulous clients on the Upper East Side. My customers at Bergdorf's were the most beautiful women in the world. I just loved beauty so much, and I realized that that was really my calling from childhood.
Jodi KatzSo, you had your less than 14 days on Broadway, and then was your soul really like, okay, I'm done with this, I'm not auditioning anymore?
David PirrottaYeah. And it's funny, because my father actually ... I was one of the youngest sales directors, so after working in cosmetics, I got hired by a guy named Jeffrey Scott, which was like my #MeToo situation. But he hired me because he would see me out on the floor at Barney's. I had left Bergdorf's, went to Barney's, and he saw that I was a great salesperson, and he was looking for a sales manager/sales director. So, I interned Mondays, my days off, in his office to learn wholesale, and then he hired me as a sales director at 25 years old.

I remember, my first business trip was to Michigan, to Detroit, and I thought it was so amazing. I called my dad, I was so excited, I was like, Dad, I'm a sales director, I have a company credit card, I'm driving around. I just drove by some Motown legend. I was like, I'm in heaven here. Detroit is a beautiful city, I think. I saw the beauty in it. And he was like, you're giving up on your dreams.
Jodi KatzOh, no.
David PirrottaI guess my dream was the same dreams I wanted my son to have, to just follow what you want to do in life, but always be kind. So, I think to be successful, you have to be a kind person. If you're not kind, you're not successful, in my book. You have to have a good, kind soul. If not, you're never going to be successful to me. There's a lot of people with lots of monitorial things and big homes, but they're not kind, and so I find that to not be success.
Jodi KatzBut your family, I guess, was used to decades of you performing, right?
David PirrottaOh, yeah. I was always in all the shows in high school and in college. But I'm performing every day. In the beauty world, you have to be on stage, and on. That's what I loved about working in the department stores in New York. It wasn't easy to get a job at Bergdorf and Barney's. It wasn't like you were going to your local Macy's to get a job. It was really hard to get a job in those stores, because you had to look the part, dress the part, have the styles. And those days, they just didn't hire anybody. You had to give them your headshot when you wanted to work in the store.
Jodi KatzReally?
David PirrottaYeah. I even wore ... There was a catering agency I worked for called Match, and they would file you as what you looked like, and I had a head shot, and I remember, it was a huge fashion event, and I had a famous designer pick me as their waiter because of my headshot. I was like, oh, I must have been kind of cute.
Jodi KatzSo, you're just so used to being, everything is a casting, right? Everything's an audition.
David PirrottaWell, the way I looked for my job is, I've been working in the beauty world for 22 years now, and so my whole life now has been beauty, so I don't even remember auditioning. That's so far away in the past. But I do audition brands every day as a casting director, and I do look at brands, and I do use a lot of my theater backgrounds. I call brands, they have to be a triple threat for me. Just like a Broadway performer, they have to be a triple threat. If you're going to make it on that Broadway stage, you better know how to dance, sing and act. If you don't know how to do those three, you're in trouble, and if you're a beauty brand, if you don't have great packaging, and a great face behind the brand, and a story, which face is the same thing as story for me, and then integrity to those ingredients, you're going to fail miserably, unless you have a lot of money and some celebrity behind you. But that's another story for another time. That's called private label.
Jodi KatzSo, let's talk about what is David Pirrotta Brands?
David PirrottaDavid Pirrotta Brands. I've owned my own agency for 10 years, and that's after working many years for other companies in-house. I made it all the way up to a VP of sales, which who would have thought a little theater actor would have been a VP of a company? But then I ended up moving to Los Angeles with my ex-partner. We were together for 10 years, and he had gotten a job producing Ru Paul's Drag Race, which was season two. He had this sparkle in his eye. And I never was going to leave New York. I'm a true New York, East-coaster, die-hard. If you would have asked me 10 years ago if I would ever live ... I mean, 11 years ago, if I was going to move to LA, I would have said no. But when I saw him with that spark in his eye, I couldn't say no to his dreams. Because I knew I could figure it out anywhere I go. I can always make every city home, and make something happen.

So, when I got there, I met a client at the DMV. It was Melanie Mayron, which is my first client. I still am working with her 10 years ... 11 years later. And I met her. I realized there were brands out there that were looking for help.
Jodi KatzWait, you just met her casually at the DMV?
David PirrottaWell, no, I met her ... She had a tenant living in her guest house at the time, and I caused a scene because I had moved in ... I had a car parked in Brooklyn on the street that was all scraped up. It was like a Honda Civic, okay, and it was just my everyday car to take my dogs to the vet and to go to Trader Joe's, because I hated carrying bags. And then, I would drive to see my parents. It was just that car you keep on the street. And so, I drove it to LA. That's like a faux pas. You don't really drive that kind of car in Los Angeles, unless you want to get killed. But I loved it. I went to the DMV to get it registered, and they wanted like $490 to register my 10-year-old Honda that was like my Brooklyn beater. And I caused a scene. Security came over to the DMV.
Jodi KatzStop! Okay, what did the scene look like?
David PirrottaI probably said some really inappropriate things, because I can have that side of me come out often. And so, I sat back down. After I calmed down, the girl next to me goes, "Are you from New York?" I was like, "Where do you think?" I was like, "This is high-definition sun. I'm miserable. I'm screaming at people because they're charging me registration for a Honda that's the same price as a Mercedes or a Range Rover." And she was like, "Oh my god." And our last five minutes of talking, we talked for like 45 minutes, she asked me what I did, and I told her I worked for a company called Red Flower. I worked for a company called the Art of Shaving. She knew all the brands I had worked with in-house, and she said, "Oh my god, my landlady/friend has this baby line, and I have no idea how to do anything with this." She's like, "I worked in marketing for Donna Karan in New York, but I've never done beauty or lifestyle or wellness." And I was like, "Well, introduce me." I was like, this is such an LA moment. I'm never going to hear from this girl again.

Well, she called the next day, and I met Melanie Mayron, and I had no idea who she was because I don't know celebrities. And I told my partner at the time, I got home and I was like, "I was just at Melanie Mayron's house. Do you know who she is?" And he goes like, "She was on thirtysomething, David! How do you not know who she is? She won an Emmy." I was like, "I don't know this stuff. Leave me alone." I was like, ask me who Tonya Harper is, and I can tell you what she looks like. Ask me a beauty person or a fashion person, and I can answer those questions.

But it was interesting, because it kind of opened up a whole segue for me. I never thought I was going to own my own company. It just happened organically, and I started signing brands, and right after that, I signed Rodin. I worked as kind of their marketing agent, sales agent, helped them with packaging and design, so a one-stop shop. I'm very up front, I don't care if it's your baby, I'll tell you that it needs glasses. I'll tell you that it needs a new outfit. I'll tell you if it needs a facelift. And people either take it or leave it, but a lot of people come to me for the honesty, because I'm not going to just tell you what you want to hear. I'm going to tell you what will work if you want it to sell on market.
Jodi KatzSo, this is a company where, as the founder of the brand, I come to you and I say, "Will you represent my company?" And then you're going to try to sell it to the right retailers for me? Is that the goal?
David PirrottaYeah, exactly. And then, after that company, I started a distribution company a few years after that, which is why I have my own warehouse. I also have a 3PL company, so I ship and do direct consumer shipping for young indie brands that don't want to work with big 3PLs. So, I have a new 3PL company as well that I started about a year ago.
Jodi KatzSo, that means, as a brand founder, I don't have to find my own warehouse. I call you, you warehouse my products, and you tie in to my dotcom, so you're shipping based on my sales?
David PirrottaExactly.
Jodi KatzAnd what about with Amazon?
David PirrottaFor Amazon, now Amazon is pretty much drop ship, or I think it's consignment right now, so you ship from your own warehouse.
Jodi KatzSo, you would ship for the Amazon?
David PirrottaYeah. I actually my own, also I have my own beauty website called Materiae by David Pirrotta, which we've had for a year now as well, and it's doing amazing. We actually ship out of there as well, and there's some brands we do drop ship with, and there's some brands we hold inventory for.
Jodi KatzOh, wait, you are a retailer?
David PirrottaYeah, I am, too.
Jodi KatzOkay, so I'm going to talk about this.
David PirrottaI have a lot of businesses. I have a lot of things percolating.
Jodi KatzLet's pretend there's a WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® lip balm, and it's fantastic. It has amazing packaging, and the ingredients are incredible, and I'm awesome, right? I'm the triple threat.
David PirrottaOkay, I love that already. So confident.
Jodi KatzSo, you're going to love my lip balm, because it meets your criteria, and you're going to see why it's based in the lip balm market.
David PirrottaYep.
Jodi KatzThen you're going to sell me into where? Where would you place me?
David PirrottaI'd probably place you into about 100 independent stores first, so we can have some cashflow first before we go into net term accounts. I know everybody wants to be at big department stores and big retailers, but when you're a young company, you need prepaid credit card, and all the independent stores prepay credit card. So, that means we get cashflow.
Jodi KatzSo, you have relationships with all these cute little shops in different cute towns all around the country. Or is it the world?
David PirrottaWe actually do all of Europe as well.
Jodi KatzOkay. So, now my lip balm is in 150 really cute boutiques next to nice handbags, or fragrance, or whatever their lifestyle boutique is.
David PirrottaWe work with the best fashion stores, the best home stores. We actually have the number one most well-known, besides ... we have Cire Trudon candles that we put in all the best home stores. We have some of the best brands under my umbrella. And so, we work with the best home, best fashion, best independent apothecaries, the Zitomers and the C.O. Bigelow's, I've been working with them for 22 ... We have brands there. We work with salons, spas, hotels. I was just in Miami, and when I went around to see all our accounts, I only saw like five of them, I didn't have enough time, because there was traffic going crazy. And I was just like, wow, we have such a great repertoire of different types of retailers.
Jodi KatzOkay, so you have relationships with all these really interesting, fascinating retailers, and these are all really one-offs, right? So, you've built relationships directly with the founders and the owners of those shops.
David PirrottaOr my team has. Because I have one of the best ... I was just telling my mom in Milwaukee, I was like, "My team works so hard, just as hard as me." My mom is like, "You work so hard." I'm like, "My team, we all work so hard, Mom." We're always on the go. I have the best sales directors. I have two sales directors. I have Chilito and Ashley, and I couldn't be ... Chilito's been with me eight years. He's like my work husband. He's like my longest relationship. Well, I made it to nine and a half with the last longest one. But Chilito is like literally, when we turn 10 years together, we're going to Tokyo.
Jodi KatzAww, that's so fun. Okay, so you and your team have built these relationships all over Europe and the US with these really cool, interesting places.
David PirrottaWe're also close with every global distributor. We're close with all the team at Mecca, all the team at all the Hong Kong stores, all the Japan stores. We're close with everybody, so we actually know how to do global positioning for a US brand.
Jodi KatzOkay, so now my lip balm, I've sold a case or two to all of these, 150 cool boutiques, and they're only taking a small quantity, right?
David PirrottaYeah, they take about 12-24, depending on what your case packs are. So, I always ask, how are your case packs? The questions that most brand owners don't ever want to know. They're like, "I don't know." Yeah, the case packs, they come in 12, 24. And then after we have a good cashflow, and she can cover her overhead and all of that, that's when we start looking at Nordstrom and Nieman's, and if it's clean we look at Detox Market and Credo and the Follains of the world. There's also Lemon Lane and ILIA, which a lot of people don't know that, but she's got more doors than some of the other all clean doors that are on the market..
Jodi KatzSo, when I've been in these 150 small fashion or apothecaries -
David PirrottaWe'll say like 100.
Jodi KatzOkay. Now you'll see where my sales are, right? So, you'll be able to craft a story for me, like oh my god, the fashion crowd loves my lip balm, right? And that's just based on sales?
David PirrottaUsually, we worked with Totokaelo. Some stores, even if they don't sell a lot, they're marketing vehicles. So, my thing is, when I launch a brand, like I was just at Paina in Miami, I love seeing my product in their shops at the bazaar. I love seeing my products in their spa. I like seeing my products in their minibar. Then also, I jump on a plane, and I end up in New York City, and I end up at Bergdorf's. Oh, I just saw that brand again. Or I go downtown, because I'm a Soho person and I walk into Totokaelo, which is like the coolest store, and I was like, wow, I love the Margel here, it's so chic. Oh, look at all the new Dreath. Oh my god, there's that brand. I've got to buy this brand. It's in all my favorite places.

I kind of do this strategy where it's in your favorite hotel, it's in your favorite spa, it's in your favorite boutique, your favorite department store, your favorite eCommerce business. We work with Net-a-porter, the inception of their beauty department when David Olson was there. And we work with Revolve, and we work with Goop, and we work with all the suspects that everyone wants to be in.
Jodi KatzOkay, so now we have some runway, because I sold a case or two to 100 of these stores. Now you're figuring out where to position me in terms of some eCommerce, maybe?
David PirrottaWe start working with eCommerce early on as well, because we want to have that visibility, so we usually in the beginning ... And then, depending on what the price point and the packaging is, if it's cute and it's for younger, then I start thinking Anthro, or I think Terrain, or I start thinking, where else can I put this? I don't really think of Sephora or Ulta until there's enough brand awareness, because if not you'll fail miserably there, but I do start thinking there's a lot of great new beauty areas at Nieman's, and even Nordstrom is doing some cool stuff. Bloomingdale's is doing a few different new vehicles as well that are doing really well for them.

So, I kind of figure out, just by the DNA of the founder, because I am going to see if that person can ... I have a few brands that sometimes I look at the founder and I'm like, oh my god, they can't go into the fashion stores because they have the worst fashion sense. But they're real cute, but you're like, oh my god, they dress terribly. And that can only go so far, because globally, when you start going out there and you don't have everything pulled together, it doesn't do so well. Then I have to be honest with them.

We start working with all those different types of channels, I think until we know we have enough cashflow to warrant freelancers. Because once you go into department stores, you have to have staff. You have to have budgets for sampling, and gift with purchase, returns, and all these kinds of things, and people don't put that into the equation or cost against their product. They don't think, oh, I get a chargeback if my shipping company shipped incorrectly. And a chargeback can be the exact amount of your entire PO if you don't follow the rules.
Jodi KatzThis is so interesting, because at Base Beauty, we do all the marketing, but we never touch distribution. It's not our thing. But everyone always comes to us, the dreamers, saying "I want to be in Sephora," right? And they don't know about all these steps before that.
David PirrottaNo. They don't even know that sometimes you need to have UPC codes, and you need to have an Inkey List, and you have to be prepared to be EU-certified, and Canada Health certified, and all these different things. And they're like, "Oh, but I have 25,000 of these boxes." And I was like, a lot of designers and packaging companies don't tell you this because it's a way for them to make more money. So, if you didn't do all the research, they'll print exactly ... They know what the rules are. It was just so sad, because I -
Jodi KatzOh, you mean people get their packaging produced and it doesn't have ingredients on them?
David PirrottaNo, it doesn't have a UPC code. If you don't have a UPC code that works, you can't go into these multi-channel doors. It can been a cute boutique with just pricing, it has a little sticker UPC code. But there's so many ... then you have to have, once it's open, how many days, is it 12 months, 6 months? You have to have all those kinds of different things on the packaging.
Jodi KatzOkay, so you sound like a dream for these smaller brands who don't have any of this knowledge or team in house.
David PirrottaYeah, and I also have Cody Sai, who's my marketing director. He came from working with a brand in-house for like seven years, and before that he worked for an agency that did all with the stylist, and nail stylist, and hair stylist. He was an agent all of those, so he's been in beauty forever. And so, we have a book of all the best chemists, all the best packaging companies, all the best counter display companies. We have all the best brokers we work with to get EU certified. We have all of that information. A lot of our brands, they come in, they're like, that commission's really high for sales. I'm like, you're getting a lot.
Jodi KatzOkay, let's talk about that. There's a cost to doing business with you.
David PirrottaOf course.
Jodi KatzBut it takes money to make money. Okay, so I've heard of companies like this before, but those founders that have no cashflow, I've heard them say, I can't afford that.
David PirrottaOf course they can't afford ... Well, in my model, there's always been, okay, if you're going hire me as a consultant, that's different because that's a retainer, and it's just me giving you advice until you're ready to launch your brand. And then when it's ready to launch, we're pretty much just a showroom for you, because we have a showroom here in New York, and then we have one in Los Angeles. It's a showroom for you just to keep your products on the shelves. And then, we work on commission, so it's based on ... Which is terrible, because just recently we lost a brand that we only had for three years, but they don't realize that it takes us three years to finally make money, and then they leave us for another company that will say they can do more than us, but they can't. Trust me. And the great thing about me is I don't take back ex-brands or ex-boyfriends. Once it's over, it's over.
Jodi KatzOh, really?
David PirrottaYeah. Once it's over, it's over.
Jodi KatzThere's no year of closure?
David PirrottaNo. I've tried that so many times, it never works out. There's a reason why everything good comes to an end. This one brand, my team was so upset, because we retailed it, one of my employees has it in his own little retail concept that he has. And so, I was just like, wow, they don't realize we work so hard making no money. We're actually losing money working with them for two years, and then when we finally start making money, they leave. Karma. Do you know what I mean? It's terrible, but I probably should have ... Oh my god, I have, this is a CBU table. I have it in my kitchen. It's interesting, because the brands I've had the longest, I've had ILIA Beauty, which is one of the number one organic makeup lines, and I've had it nine years.
Jodi KatzWe just had Sasha on the show.
David PirrottaYou did? I love Sasha so much. She walked in, she's one of the founders that walked into my showroom. She was developing her product. She had six lip conditioners, and she wanted to know who was placing Rodin in all the stores in Canada, because she had seen it. And the girl is like, "This guy David Pirrotta in LA." So she just came down to LA, met with me.
Jodi KatzWow.
David PirrottaAs soon as she walked in, I had a moment, and I was like, she's the Bobbi Brown of natural makeup. And from that moment, we both, we had our growing pains together. She's one of my longest-running brands, and she's like a sister to me. I'm so proud of her, but it was so ... I took her six lip conditioners in the back of my Honda, and then I had a Prius. Now I have a BMW. But still, I really, it was a hustle. And so, she was developing, and I was the one presenting it to a lot of the boutiques and getting it out there. And now, it's going to definitely sell within a year or two for sure. That brand has blown up so big.
Jodi KatzSo, when she came in, it was just a couple weeks ago, my Base Beauty team was here, and so many of my team members freaked out. They were starstruck. And we meet a lot of people, right? We're meeting people all day long. There were a few moments where Sasha was the Beyonce.
David PirrottaOf course.
Jodi KatzAnd I've never seen that before. People are excited to meet my guests, but it wasn't this kind of starstruck, like oh my god, you created something that is so magical to me.
David PirrottaIt's magical. And my whole thing is, in natural beauty, there's only probably five brands that you can think of makeup that you would use, and hers by far is the most kind of relatable, because it is like the Bobbi Brown or Laura Mercy or Trish McElroy of clean. Because I look at other brands like Kosas, and I love Kosas too, and I don't sell the brand, but I appreciate the packaging and the quality, and that's like the NARS of natural. Then you look at Cara Waith, and she's like the Viteri. And then you look at W3ll People and Jamie Ehrdahl and RMS, and those three are in the same clump, which is more the really green, very true to that person that's more crunchy. Does that make sense?
Jodi KatzYep.
David PirrottaAnd so, there's only really three or four. And then there's Vapour, that falls between Kosas and ILIA. Do you know what I mean? There is a customer for all of those people, because when I was doing makeup, I wanted people's skin to look like skin, and that's why I've always loved Sasha. When she walked in, she wasn't a girl that had a full face of makeup, and I never made my clients look like that. If they wanted to have that full drag look, wrong guy. I do not do that. And so, when I met her ... I already had Linda Rodin, and she's iconic. As a New Yorker, if you don't know who she is in fashion and beauty, it's like ... So, I had Rodin, I had Sasha. I've had the most amazing ... When I retire, I'm going to do the best brand owner coffee book of all the brands I've launched. I've launched 80 brands now.
Jodi KatzThat's so cool. It's like the photographer who puts the collection together, their best work. This would be like your best brands.
David PirrottaYeah. I was just recently interviewed by someone to do something for New York Magazine, and she had all these names for me, because I'm the behinds the scenes, and just recently I've been going on podcasts and people want to know who I am, because I was kind of the force that drove a lot of these brands to success. And a lot of the brand owners couldn't get to where they are if it wasn't for myself and my company and my team. Brands like Rodin and Odin and ILIA and Sachajuan. The list goes on. We have so many brands in our repertoire that people know exactly what that brand is and who it is and who the founder is, but it takes a lot of work to build that brand in the early years.
Jodi KatzSo, my question to you, out of curiosity, I don't have my own lip balm brand ...
David PirrottaYou keep bringing up lip balm. Is it coming out?
Jodi KatzNo.
David PirrottaCan I see the packaging?
Jodi KatzNo.
David PirrottaOh, is it antibacterial?
Jodi KatzIt's fantastic. It's like a nightclub. I'm not going to let anybody in. The idea of working with you, while there is a cost to working with your team, I would imagine that it speeds up the process versus hiring somebody like an intern to help me do this, right? Is it 10 times, 100 times? I would imagine that your resources and your connections just speed up the process of proving that the product is received well.
David PirrottaIt probably costs them the same as hiring one full-time employee. To be honest, it's actually a bargain for them if they can get in, because we get like 26 brands a month now. So, if we choose you out of ... People submit so much product. There's a larger company that I'm in talks to that I can build a larger team, and I can build this into a scalable business, because it is a scalable business. I just don't want to do it.
Jodi KatzI feel like a reality TV show coming.
David PirrottaYou do?
Jodi KatzYeah, because remember when Bendel's would have -
David PirrottaAre you going to be on it with me?
Jodi KatzCan I be a judge?
David PirrottaOf course.
Jodi KatzOkay. Remember when outside Bendel's, people could line up with their handbags and whatever, show them, and get in or not get in? Remember that?
David PirrottaYes, I do remember that.
Jodi KatzThat's what I think you should do. If you're getting inquiries, 26 brands are approaching you a month to get a slot for one or two, wouldn't that be a fascinating show?
David PirrottaIt would be a fascinating show. Actually, that's why I created our beauty website, because I was going to do kind of a platform, which I haven't really put the energy or the marketing into it, and it's just organically, we get 10-15 orders a day. And don't ask me how that is happening. I'm like, how is that happening? We haven't even put any energy into that. But I was going to put all these brands on there and have our customer base check it out, give their feedback, and have the brands give us enough samples to sample out little bags for people, so on checkout, they can sample all the new brands, and it would be a way for me to pick the next one that would be on the website for a longer period of time.
Jodi KatzRight.
David PirrottaBut a reality show would be fun.
Jodi KatzYeah, and it's a little Shark Tank-y, and a little Project Runway-ish, right?
David PirrottaYeah. Oh, god.
Jodi KatzOkay, we can talk about this offline. I'm totally in.
David PirrottaYou're totally in?
Jodi KatzIt would be so fun, because I feel like, even though I'm not on the distribution side of it, I'm talking to the end user, the customer. So, the minute I meet somebody and I hear about their concept and I meet the founder, I know if they're going to be a superstar or not, right? You can just tell if they have it in them, and if their product is differentiated. So, I think it would be really fun for the world to see and hear that process. You have your three criteria, but I'm sure there's actually more that goes into it.
David PirrottaOh, there's so much more.
Jodi KatzSo, giving this really honest feedback around, listen, your lipsticks are nice, but there's a million lipsticks out there. Try again. And that might just actually help people that are watching, like Shark Tank does, create better ideas for the future.
David PirrottaThere you go. Wouldn't it be fun if they go back into a workshop and start redoing their packaging and looking at -
Jodi KatzProject Runway, yeah. This is so fun!
David PirrottaAnd they would be like, oh my god, and then we would bring in the best packaging companies, there's so many great ones, and the best assistants that know how to help them during that process. And then someone walking around. I would definitely be more like Tim Gunn, being like, "Oh no."
Jodi KatzYou don't want to be a judge, you want to be Tim Gunn?
David PirrottaOh, no, I want to be a judge, of course.
Jodi KatzOkay. So like, we can have people from my team like our brand strategist walking around asking questions like, what is the customer asking for? Did you do social listening? We could have my designers walk around and be like, you know what, that font looks funky. Are you sure this is what you want to show? We can have all these experts dip in.
David PirrottaIt's all a matter of millimeters on packaging. My favorite line from Linda Rodin, she's one of the first and most well-known stylists in New York, and she created the line Rodin, I'm sure your listeners know exactly, it was the first face oil that blew up, and it was one of my first brands, which I was obsessed with, and then it sold to Estee Lauder. And Linda just had her birthday. She's in Mexico City. Happy birthday, Linda, if you're listening. But anyway, we ordered 13,000 fragrance bottles, and I went into her apartment in Chelsea, and she was like, "Sweetheart, we've got to throw these out." I go, "No. Why? We can use them." She's like, "Look at that. The logo is off by just a millimeter." And I go, "No one's going to know." She goes like, "I am." And I go, "What's wrong with it?" She's like, "It's like a model with a saggy ass. You can't fix it. There's nothing you can do to fix a model with a saggy ass." And I was like, "Oh my god!"
Jodi KatzDid you have to dump the inventory?
David PirrottaWe had to get rid of all 13 ... well, we kind of put them away. We had to recycle them. I think they were blown glass, recycled blown glass from Italy. But she bought another 13,000 bottles. She didn't care about wasting the money. It wasn't wasting the money. It was her integrity and her vision. Working with creative directors and owners and founders like that through many years, and I'm also very OCD. I can walk in, and even my strongest person on my team who's super creative, they'll see everything, but I will walk in and be like ... I just look at it, and I'm like, "Oh my god, we've got to fix that." I can spot it really fast.
Jodi KatzYeah. Well, the customer can too, right? This is so fun. Okay, I know you get 26 brands a month asking for your support, but do you want to share your email address with our listeners, in case they want to reach out and learn more about your company?
David PirrottaOf course. They can reach out to, my email address is david@davidpirrotta.com. It's D-A-V-I-D P-I-R-R-O-T-T-A.com. And then also, my marketing director who helps me with all projects and filter all new brands, his name is Cody Sai, and his email is C-O-D-Y, cody@davidpirrotta.com. D-A-V-I-D P-I-R-R-O-T-T-A.com.
Jodi KatzI want to know how many people emailed you after listening to this episode. Because I'm really fascinated. I'm surprised I haven't heard about you, but I'm so glad to know you now, because I can refer people to you.
David PirrottaYou can, and it's interesting, because someone just said to me, I guess I can say this now because the piece hasn't come out, but she said, "You're like the brand whisperer." And I go, "Actually, I'm more like Charlie."
Jodi KatzThe voice on the phone? That's a Charlie's Angels reference, for anyone who doesn't understand it.
David PirrottaAnd so, my angels are the brands. They're all, they have to go out there and do ... And my team. I stand behind the brand we choose, and I believe in the brand owners and founders. A lot of them can, eventually the truth comes out. A lot of them are very opportunistic. There's a lot of opportunistic people. I've gotten better at filtering it. I failed again this year, a few years ago. But now, I'm really solid, where I know when brands are creating brands for the right reasons or the wrong reasons, and I don't work with brands that are private label. They have to be your own formulas. So, anybody that's creating something with a manufacturer that's someone else's formula, do not even email me.

You've got to have your own formulas, because I believe in integrity in ingredients. I don't want something that someone else has a label on it that's on the market already. I want someone to create something different, a point of difference, something using ingredients that haven't been used before. Think outside the box. Change up the packaging. Even make it retro. '90s are back. Go back to the '90s packaging. I just saw an SPF line that I'm so excited about that reminded me of Lancaster. I don't know if anyone knows what Lancaster is. You can only buy it in Europe. But back in the day, all my friends in camp, their mom's had Lancaster, and we'd steal it, and we'd think we were so cool to use fabulous, high-end SPF on the beach. Because back in the day, no one used SPF, but we were feeling fabulous. So, now this one brand is now repackaging it that way. We're going to start working with them. We have two new brands we'll be working with shortly, as well as another brand from overseas that is a skincare brand, and another doctor brand.
Jodi KatzCool.
David PirrottaYeah.
Jodi KatzOkay, so I love this. Now, offline, you and I will talk about this reality show. We produce things here, so we can just -
David PirrottaYou do?
Jodi KatzYeah, we have ... look around you.
David PirrottaI love it.
Jodi KatzOkay, so you'll see David and I next on, I guess, YouTube, on a reality show. But thank you for sharing your wisdom today.
David PirrottaYou're welcome.
Jodi KatzAnd for our listeners, I hope you enjoyed this interview with David. Please subscribe to our series on iTunes, and for updates about the show, follow us on Instagram @wherebrainsmeetbeautypodcast.
AnnouncerThanks for listening to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® with Jodi Katz. Tune in again for more authentic conversations with beauty leaders.

Want to sponsor the pod?

Available On:

Apple Podcasts