Daniela Belmondo will be the first to admit she didn’t have to think too hard about what to call her line of organic skincare products.
“I love that my name is Belmondo,” she laughs.
Born in Vancouver but raised in her parents’ home in Italy until she was eight years old, Daniela has a surname that translates literally into ‘Beautiful World’. Belmondo Skincare, which is now sold in boutique shops from Vancouver to New York to Florida, was never going to be called anything else. The unique selling point, also taking inspiration from her Italian heritage, is that one of its key ingredients is Organic Italian Olive Oil.
“There are many benefits to olive oil both when eaten or applied to the skin,” explains Daniela. “My grandma had these big chunks of olive oil soap and we would use them for everything. She’d shave them down and put them in hot water. Then we’d clean the floor with this or use it as bubble bath. We’d hand wash clothes with it. And obviously we’d cook with olive oil all the time. A good olive oil is like a good wine. You know how once you’ve had a good wine nothing else stands up to that? It’s the same with olive oil.
Esthetics School was great because it allowed me to focus on what I really liked.
“I actually source my oil from Calabria, which is where I was raised. I didn’t plan it that way. It just happened that one of our suppliers I’m working with gets the olive oil from there.”
Daniela didn’t always know that she was going to enter the skincare product industry. But she did know that there was something within her that loved to help and nurture. She was working with children when she started investigating a more hands-on career midway through her 20s.
“I went to a variety of spas to get treatments and see if it was something I would enjoy doing. Then I looked into what it would actually mean to go to spa therapy school. Blanche Macdonald was the name that kept coming up. I went in, chatted with one of the directors and signed up.
“There was a lot of science, which I’d told myself I wasn’t good at it. But it turned out I understood it with no problem. They also briefly taught us how to make products, which I took a real interest in. Esthetics School was great because it allowed me to focus on what I really liked. I loved facials and everything to do with the skin, and wanted to focus on that area of esthetics. I figured that out while I was still in school.”
To see Belmondo next to established brands on the shelves – that’s pretty awesome.
Daniela went straight from Vancouver Esthetics School to a job at a spa that only did facials – Skoah in the city’s Yaletown neighbourhood.
“I was so grateful to be a part of their team. At the time the Yaletown branch was their only location and it was exciting to be on the edge of something that was growing. I started as a skincare trainer and then moved into more of a management role. I saw the potential and growth opportunity and it was exciting. There were endless opportunities. I helped open the Metrotown branch, and after two years I moved to Calgary and helped start a new Skoah location.”
Daniela eventually left Skoah to start her own practice, providing facials and massages from a space in a well-known wellness centre in Downtown Vancouver called the Electra Health Floor. She did that for a couple of years, before embarking on a travel marathon that included protracted stays in Hungary and Australia. Considering her options on the way back to Canada, the thought of trying something new while wanting to stay in the business led to Daniela’s light bulb moment.
“Up until then I’d been using a different product line,” she explains. “It was good –natural and organic – but I still had a few questions about it. I just didn’t feel that strongly about it. I thought, what if I did my own line? There’s no shortage of amazing skincare products. I knew that going in. But I wanted to offer something different. I decided I was going to bring the whole olive oil component to my formulas.”
Of course, there’s a huge difference between having the idea for an olive oil-based skincare line and creating the products, selling and marketing them, and actually getting them on the shelves. With the inspiration came the commitment to the perspiration.
“I worked on it for about a year,” she admits. “Many times I wanted to give up. I did everything, from the formulas to the packaging to picking bottles. I’d worked with a lot of lines and tried a lot of products so I knew what I wanted in the formulas. I wanted it to be as clean as possible. Getting those formulas perfect is a complex process, so I had to put my ego aside and have someone help me.”
Belmondo Skincare is now on sale in boutique shops across Vancouver, including Anthropologie and LYNNsteven, the boutique owned and run by Blanche Macdonald Fashion Merchandising graduate Nicole Durnin. But those Olive Oil essences are spreading further, and have even reached Broadway in New York City on the shelves of ABC Carpet and Home.
“This was a big deal for me,” smiles Daniela. “It’s a wonderful collection of different pieces for the home, with this great apothecary area. From the first time I saw it I knew Belmondo had to be in there.
“I wanted to get Belmondo into ten stores last month. I wanted to set myself a high goal, knowing that even if I reached half my target that would be good. But I did all ten. That was awesome and showed me how much was possible. I want Belmondo to be in just one store in each neighbourhood in Vancouver. I’m coming close to exhausting that market now. Which is an awesome problem to have. It’s already in New York, Florida and South Carolina. The next step is taking to Toronto, LA and San Francisco.”
If it weren’t for Blanche Macdonald and that step onto the path I wouldn’t be here today.
Even in the crowded skincare product industry, it seems like a virtual certainty that Belmondo will reach Toronto and the rest of North America in the not-too-distant future. A line this good is too good to stay secret for long.
“To see Belmondo next to established brands on the shelves – that’s pretty awesome. At the end of the day much of what I do is driven by customers. I’m grateful for feedback – even if it’s terrible. I had that at the very beginning with our packaging. Once we fixed that, the feedback has all been very positive. I love building relationships with buyers and end-users. I can make product until the cows come home. I can have the best press. But if it’s not resonating with people and they’re not feeling good about buying it and using it – loving how it feels on their skin and what it stands for – then I haven’t succeeded”
Daniela doesn’t provide hands-on services these days. But that unique connection estheticians have with their clients is still there, albeit in a different form. And those years of hands-on expertise give Daniela a competitive advantage that’s clearly delivering results.
“If it weren’t for Blanche Macdonald and that step onto the path I wouldn’t be here today. Perhaps you could go into this industry without the hands-on experience, but that experience does give you a different view. There are small components I bring from everything I’ve done into my business. That includes my time at Blanche Macdonald and the people I’ve worked with since. I still feel I have that personal rapport with clients. Maybe even more now, because it’s my product.”
Belmondo Skincare has already taken Vancouver by storm. It’s only a matter of time until the rest of the world catches up.