Meet David Pirotta, the go-to person in beauty for brand management and distribution. Known for his passion for beauty, contagious enthusiasm, and endless energy, he is the secret weapon for indie brands carving out their place in the hyper-competitive category. After a short stint in an accounting firm after college, David found himself behind the Natura Bisse counter at Bergdorf Goodman that became the first step to building a career in beauty. David shares his career path, and the results of trusting your gut, working hard, and always being kind.
So why beauty? How did you break into beauty and what was your first job in the industry?
It’s a very funny story! It was the summer of 1999, I had just graduated from college and started working in NYC in an accounting department. One day during my lunch break I sat down at my favorite Latin restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen, ordered arroz con pollo and two glasses of wine… during lunch, I decided I wasn’t going back to my day job and headed to Bergdorf Goodman to pick up an oxygen face cream I had read about in Vanity Fair. I walked into Bergdorf’s, headed right to the cosmetic floor to find the Natura Bisse counter. That’s where I met Antoinette Rizzo, an industry veteran … we immediately connected over our Sicilian descent. She told me I had great skin and asked if I was looking for a job. I said, as a matter of fact, today was my last day. I started the next morning. The rest is history.
What was your dream job when you first started? Did it change over time?
Immediately I knew I wanted to stay in the beauty industry. I worked in all sorts of positions because I knew one day I would start my own company. When I was working at Barneys and met brand owners and distributors I was inspired and decided someday I wanted to be in their shoes.
When did you know you wanted to build a career in beauty and how did you go about it?
I knew right away and I was prepared to work my way up and learn as much as possible. Back in those days, I could work 70 hours a week and it felt like I was only working part-time. I loved what I was doing that much.
What did starting your career on the retail floor working for various brands teach you about the beauty industry?
It taught me how to work with all kinds of personalities, it taught me a lot of patience, but most of all it taught me how to clientele and build my network.
What do you consider your first “big break”?
Although I had to take a big pay cut leaving the cosmetic floor, my first big break was working as sales and marketing director for Jeffre Scott NYC, a niche showroom that managed sales for some of the most sought-after brands of the time. After that position, I went in-house with Red Flower as sales and education director, and that was where I received my MBA in the beauty biz.
When did you decide to start your own business and how has DPBM evolved?
My partner at the time received a job offer he couldn’t refuse and we left our lives in NYC and headed to Los Angeles—I have to thank him for convincing me to make the move. Within 6 weeks of living in LA I signed my first brand and started my company from our guest room. I realized that I wasn’t as scared in LA to do my own thing as there was a lot more room for error than starting a company in NYC. I took all my years working at Bergdorf’s, Barneys, Jeffre Scott, Red Flower, and The Art of Shaving and started helping young brands grow their distribution. After 2 years of hard work, I had some of the best brands on the market in my portfolio.
You’ve become the go-to for representing and launching indie brands in the US market. What do you attribute to your success?
I have … LOL! It probably didn’t hurt that we helped launch brands like Rodin Olio Lusso, SACHJUAN Haircare, ILIA Beauty, and so many other incredible brands. We’ve worked really hard to curate the best assortment of brands and really understand each brand’s unique essence. Our team is dedicated to providing the best customer service, cultivating relationships, and creating experiences at retail. We have a great network of the best retail and salon partners in North America!
Supporting the brands you represent at retail is an important function of your business. What do you look for in retail talent?
I look for personalities and confidence … I need my sales team to believe in themselves as well as our brands. I need them to be fearless pulling in and engaging with new customers as well as selling to our existing relationships. I also look for a sales team and employees that have initiative … I want to see them hustle and show every customer our brands.
Do you have any tips or tricks you can share on making sales happen on a sales floor?
The key is to always make eye contact and greet everyone with kindness. You’ll see how far that can take you in sales and anything you do!
Which skills should someone working on the sales floor focus on if their goal is to work on the business end of the industry?
You need to have initiative and chutzpah. You have to love the industry. Starting my career on the floor was my undergrad in beauty. Working on the floor you see it all, from trends to all the newest launches and, most importantly, what customers really want. Still to this day when I’m out traveling each market, it’s visiting stores and salons where I learn the most!
Who/what has served as your inspiration throughout your career?
My beautiful grandmother, my mother, and my aunt Lucile. These three women were the ones who taught me to love products and luxury, so I guess it was inevitable for me to end up in beauty.
What is the most memorable piece of advice you’ve received about the beauty industry?
Nearly a decade ago I was speaking to an 83-year-old CEO who had been in the industry his entire life, and he told me, “I don’t know anything … I can never stop learning. When you think you know everything you know nothing at all!” He looked me in the eye and said, “Never stop learning—that’s the key to success!” What he told me had such an impact, truly that the only way to stay relevant is to keep learning.
What advice would you provide to someone who has big goals but feels stuck in their career?
Never be scared, take risks, and always believe in yourself but, most importantly—always be kind!
If you could start over again, what would you have done differently (if anything at all)?
This has been my journey and I wouldn’t change or do anything differently. The one thing I will always continue to do is learn and challenge myself!
What surprises you about the beauty industry?
Nothing seems to surprise me anymore! Just embrace and work it out!
Originally written for Counter Intelligence Issue 02 and republished with permission.
Photo: via David Pirotta Brand Management