Profiles

What is OPI? The Real Question May Be “Who”

What is it that goes into OPI sculptured nail products? Personality…and lots of it. The personalities of the two key individuals who run and manage this acrylic product firm, and the imprint they have left on the three-year-old Southern California company, tell as much about their product as any chemical analysis…and probably more. A company’s policies and style are very much a reflection of the people who run it. Therefore, the question is not necessarily “what is OPI?” but “Who is OPI?”

George Schaeffer and Susan Weiss are OPI Products. As partners in the firm, they have nurtured, cajoled, and shaped the business and service style of their company.

George, at 37, is very much the epitome of the immigrant story. He came to this country from Hungary some 28 years ago and learned English in the New York public school system. While attending City College of New York he received his early business training in the garment industry where a struggling family business was developing. Eventually the business grew into a highly successful clothing manufacturing firm. George may be best described as a success-oriented over-achiever, driven by what he calls the Mormon/Jewish work ethic—“Running it straight and honest.” He has a wonderfully mischievous sense of humor and a personable business style. As a tough negotiator, a tactic honed through years of scrambling in the garment industry, he says, only half jokingly, “I may squeeze you for a half-penny, but I never allow it to compromise my quality.” By his and Susan’s admission, he is also trusting—maybe too much so—and an avid believer in the truth.

Susan Weiss is George’s business partner and incidentally, for the past 12 years, his sister-in-law and provides an excellent complement. She, too, is from Hungary, having left her homeland 17 years ago to live in the United States. Susan also firmly believes in the potential for opportunity in this country and tackles her job with a zealous intensity. She is quieter than George, almost to the point of shyness, especially when she leaves the negotiations to George. But she is also a shrewd business woman and will often slip into “Hungarian for privacy” with George to make her point. She is a devout believer in their product and a very capable, experienced manager for OPI Products.

The effect of all this on OPI is indeed measurable. In the three years that the firm has been offering its products to the nail industry, they have systematically, almost cautiously, added to their line and reputation.

“Ours is the old style,” mused George. “It is a business philosophy of loyalty to the little guy, to those who got us started. This is the whole gist,” he added, “giving them extra, the best possible product attainable. Our first consideration is the product—the profit will come if the product is right.

“Don’t get me wrong,” George adds quickly, with a sheepish grin, “we like a little profit.”

“Our approach has always been to do it right or not at all,” adds Susan. “We see the opportunities, but also know how easy it is to lose them.”

This attitude, which is close to an old world style or craftsmanship, is one that has been ingrained by George’s successful years in the garment industry. Back then, a deal was agreed upon and finalized with a handshake.

“I had a big advantage when I came into the nail industry,” explained George. “I was completely naïve of the way business was done in the beauty industry. When we offered the OPI product we thought that quality and friendly, reliable service was all we needed. “We were right, of course, but it took us a year and a half to grow and develop our company’s reputation. We grew slowly—you know one thing led to another, to the point where we are now…an innovative, growth-oriented company.”

The specific background on the company, and its entry into the nail care field, is worthy of mention as it further illuminates the style of George and Susan. In 1981 George purchased Davis Dental Supply Co., which had been in business since 1952, and proceeded to learn the dental business. Davis Dental continues to provide George and Susan with an astonishing depth of product background and knowledge. It is one element of the OPI story that both view as an asset. OPI Products was born in 1981 as a result of demand by manicurists for a product that was as good as KADON, a product which was being used for sculpting nails. This product was basically designed as a “porcelain” filling for front teeth.

“As I talked with manicurists I realized the potential market for an acrylic product that could be used on the nails and started asking them what it was they wanted in a product,” reminisced George. “What they were looking for was setting time and product flexibility, similar to that of KADON. They also wanted a product which was safe, easy to use and which contained no methyl mehtercralyte. So, drawing from our knowledge and background in dental grade acrylics, we developed the OPI formula.

“First and foremost,” explained George, obviously ready for this particular topic, “there is no such thing as a porcelain powder for nails. The only porcelain powder that we know of resembles the one originally developed by Johnson. It is marketed under the trade name CERAMCO and is sold to dental laboratories to be applied to the metal framework of crowns and bridges. Most porcelain powders are combined with a water based liquid, using a fine red sable brush, and building up the porcelain around the metal by wetting the brush and picking up a small amount of the powder until the desired shape is achieved. This is the same technique that is now employed by the professional manicurist during the formation of the sculptured nail. The big difference is that all porcelain powder must be baked onto the metal (as well as onto any other object to which it is applied) in a 2200° oven for 15 to 20 minutes before it is set hard enough to be workable. As I write in my ads, I don’t think most women would appreciate having their hands baked in a 2200° oven. True, it would eliminate all lifting problems, but so would the customer’s hands be eliminated in the process!”

Both George and Susan are obviously proud of OPI’s achievements. From a single formula, their firm has grown to encompass all the equipment and accessories needed for sculpting nails. “And with each product, we chose the best. Not the second best to maybe save a few pennies, but the very best,” added George.

Keywords:   company profiles     George Schaeffer     history of nail care     OPI products     Suzi Weiss-Fischmann  

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