Profiles

New Onyx: A Company No Longer Under Wraps

If you were to list the top 10 nail companies in the industry today, chances are that your list might have one serious omission ... New Onyx Nail Products.

This California-based manufacturer of acrylic nail product, tips and accessories, has quietly if not dramatically grown in its eight-year history to possibly a top five rating. Yet few in the trade seem aware of this company’s history, its mercuric growth, or exactly who New Onyx is.

This lack of visibility, although not exactly planned, is the direct result of the marketing directions taken by the firm ... that being the decision early in the company’s history to pursue the beauty supply houses as distributors for their products. It was a decision that worked well for New Onyx, as it firmly established their product line at that level throughout the Midwest, Southeast and Southwest regions of the country. As their distributors grew, and the network they worked to establish, so did New Onyx. The result: A reported 800 percent growth rate just in the period 1983-84, with annual sales in the multi-million dollar bracket.

The two founders, Dallas and Joan Moran (chief executive officer and president, respectively), are a husband/wife team with combined beauty industry experience exceeding 50 years.

Dallas, a jovial pipe-smoker, is an accomplished, experienced businessman who provides the administrative and business acumen New Onyx has needed to succeed. His 34 years in the trade include extensive experience in salon and beauty school ownership, business management consultation, salon designer and occasional lecturer.

Joan, an attractive, vivacious brunette in her 40’s, has some 15 years in this industry and is an excellent technician and qualified trainer. It is her product and technical background combined with her day-to-day understanding of product use that lends an important nail technician point of view to their firm.

So why then is it that New Onyx seems to be the best kept secret of the industry?

“Believe me, it wasn’t intentional,” explained Joan, with a disarming smile. “It just happened that way. We were so involved with product quality and with selling our products to the beauty supply houses that we had very little promotion to the actual trade. We had, and still have, techs on the road holding training seminars, and we worked trade shows, but the bulk of our efforts has always been toward the distributor.”

Apparently this decision was made back when New Onyx Nail Products was just a thought, a plan actually, to produce something better than what was then available. It was in early 1979, and Joan and Dallas owned a beauty school in Seal Beach, California. Joan was working behind the table and became annoyed with the products she was using, and approached Dallas with the idea of investigating an improved product.

“That was actually in late 1978, when I was working in the salon doing nails,” reminisced Joan. “At that time we owned both the beauty school and the nail salon, and started looking around for better products to use in the salon.

“What I was looking for was a product that wouldn’t have an odor, was much more flexible and one that wouldn’t require roughening up the nail bed.”

Joan and Dallas soon located a chemist and began to research the product and its ingredients. After about a year of development, according to Joan, they finally had a product formula they felt confident about.

“All during this time,” added Dallas, “we would try the product on the clients in our salon, who believe me were very patient.”

The product formulation then was very much what it is today ... attesting to its high quality.

“The New Onyx products’ flexibility is such that they enable the manicurist to apply a more natural nail by allowing her to mold in necessary curvature during the last 30 seconds of drying time.

“All of our hardeners and polymers are in the powders, not the liquid, and so the catalyst can be used very sparingly,” she said.

And the powders, available in white, flesh and clear, are “baby powder fine” for smooth application and ease in shaping with very little filing required, suggested Joan.

“All of our concerns, and our ability to meet them with our product, are the underlying reasons our products have become so popular. With our product and primer, there is no roughening of the nail bed. No damage to the natural nail occurs. In fact,” she added, “when your client decides to stop wearing acrylics, she will find her nail bed is in an undamaged condition.”

By the early part of 1981, Joan was almost continually on the road, selling at trade shows, and working training seminars with their earliest distributors in the Midwest and Sally Beauty Company in the Southeast and Southwest.

“This is where we really started to move ahead,” said Dallas, who at that point of the company was more often filling bottles or trying to stay on top of paperwork while Joan was on the road. “With our distributors, and especially Sally’s, we grew very fast. It was not long before we concentrated almost entirely on filling Sally’s orders for our product to prove to them that we could handle the growth.”

And grow they did ... as Dallas readily admits, with Sally’s help and New Onyx’s increased manufacturing capability: When New Onyx first started with Sally’s, they had 26 stores. Sally now has over 300.

“They were clearly our biggest account, and we were their fastest moving nail line,” said Dallas, “so it was a mutual benefit. Also, while we were growing with Sally’s we were still supplying and developing other distributors, holding a lot of training seminars, and traveling extensively with shows in Europe and Australia.”

But for the most part, this sales activity was directed at the wholesale level where Joan and Dallas attempted to market a good quality nail product.

During this time of product growth, New Onyx was itself going through a physical transformation. What started in the back of the nail salon soon grew to encompass a complete storefront, and then another, and then another until it literally ran out of room.

“Back then we were located in one small salon store front,” recalled Dallas, laughing at the then serious situation, “and we kept growing into the next storefront. When one came available, we knocked out a wall and expanded into it until we had five storefronts all next to each other ... just for New Onyx.”

The next move, literally, was to other buildings offering industrial and office space without the higher rents of retail storefronts. What began as a two person, one storefront operation is now a full-fledged, multi-faceted corporation with approximately 22,000 square feet of office, manufacturing and warehouse space in two buildings in Stanton, California. It now employs as many as 100 people in various aspects of the business.

“And we have an option on the building next to us,” revealed Dallas, with a bit of a gleam in his eye, “to handle the growth we are projecting for 1986.

“Barring any unforseen complication, we anticipate doubling our 1985 volume by the end of this year.”

This rapid growth was not as easy as Dallas and Joan imply. For the first several years, the increase in volume was more than a bit hectic, according to Joan, but they were able to stay on top of the additional demands placed upon them. But it was in 1982, when they developed their own tip line and started manufacturing the product that the growth rate came very close to outpacing their ability to handle it.

“1983 and ’84 were very busy years for us,” added Dallas, with a touch of understatement, “and very close to too much. Sally’s was growing fast and placing additional product demands on us, and our tip line was proving very successful.

“By the end of ’84 we were forced to reorganize and restructure our company procedures to compensate and coordinate the added demands.”

According to Dallas, a new sales manager was brought in, the firm’s sales forces were revamped and company policies were restructured.

“It was quite a process,” sighed Joan, “but it had to be done. And now we are the stronger for it.”

Throughout this eight-year period, the Western United States was largely ignored, or overlooked, by New Onyx as they struggled and at times fought to stay in control of their firm’s rapid growth. But now the firm is well structured and poised for new markets and increased activity. In an effort to broaden their product line and its availability across the United State New Onyx will begin actively promoting their second line of acrylic powder and liquid, California Nail, across the nation with an emphasis on both the West Coast and the nail technician.

“We initially developed California Nail several years ago. But since we didn’t have a rep network for that particular product or market, we pushed ahead with the New Onyx product line,” explained Joan.

Now, according to both Joan and Dallas, the company is in the position to establish this product as a “side line that co-exists with New Onyx.”

“The product line will be available nationally,” outlined Joan, “and we are hiring new reps and technicians in order to give this product the same kind of push in the marketplace we gave New Onyx. We know that the product is of top quality and that with our manufacturing capability we will produce a consistent product.”

The manufacturing capability referred to by Joan is a key element in the New Onyx success story. The ability to produce a product in-house allows this firm to maintain strict quality control systems critical in a rapid growth situation. And New Onyx’s commitment to equipment strengthens the firm’s price competitiveness.

One specific example that Dallas proudly points to is his firm’s tip making capability.

“Don Harvey, our plant manager, has over 25 years’ experience in different stages of manufacturing and quality control,” he said, strolling through his plant. “And he has an amazing ability to make different molds.

“When it came time to research and plan for the manufacture of tips in-house, Don spent several months and several trial molds getting one that was just perfect.

 

“Now this tends to be an expensive process,” Dallas said, “but we end up with not only the best tip available, but reliable, consistent molds. To give you an idea, we have produced well over 70 million tips, and that mold is still perfect.”

Another example of the firm’s quality control concerns is the regular assignment of what is commonly referred to as lot numbers that identify any given product as to when it was manufactured.

“We put these code numbers on batches of material so we can track every product that has been made as to when it was manufactured and, importantly, where that batch of product was delivered,” he said.

“In this way, if we have a question about the quality of a particular product, we can recall all of the products that were manufactured in that lot, if needed.

“And that,” smiled Dallas, “is a great feeling.”

In the manufacturing plant, everything is very clean, brightly lit and appears organized around worker efficiency and safety.

“That is exactly right,” agreed Dallas, pausing to draw off his pipe before proceeding. “Everything is very clean and the employees are protected at all times. It helps not only in morale, but also in keeping my insurance premiums down.

“This attitude also enables us to maintain the finest powders and liquids, by using pure ingredients, housing and filling in dust-proof facilities and in maintaining our own standards and formulations.”

It is an area of his company that Dallas is very proud of ... and rightly so. It is an asset that has enabled his firm to grow in product depth as well as volume: Currently New Onyx markets nail buffers, adhesives, forms, glue remover, nail enamel dryer, and an antiseptic thymol solution Thymolize Plus, in addition to their powders and liquids and tips.

Looking back on their company’s growth and product development seems to overwhelm both Dallas and Joan, as they pause long enough to reflect on the hectic pace of their company and lives. But one is left with the impression that although they might be surprised and a tad overwhelmed, they are thoroughly enjoying the experience. And it is also quite obvious that they have no intention of slowing down.

 

Future plans for this aggressive company include an additional tip line, further development in the abrasives field, and a possible move into skin care products.

Such moves will undoubtedly follow the same format and direction as their existing successful line ... with one definite difference. Now when one talks of New Onyx Nail Products it will not be the question of who they are, but rather what they have done now.

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