Over the centuries, our civilization has progressed on the theory that necessity is the mother of invention. It takes a great deal of inspiration and perspiration to take an idea and make it a reality. Traveling the road to success, the inventor has to overcome many obstacles before reaching her goal.
In the nail care industry, many dedicated and professional technicians invent new and unique nail care products every day. They are motivated by a desire to give their clients the best service, which sometimes demands a product or tool of one’s own creation. A few nail technicians shared with NAILS how they created, developed, and marketed their inventions.
Her Success Is in the Bag
Debbie O’Hara, nail technician and educator from Woodland Hills, Calif., was tired of walking around with a fishing tackle box or suitcase to carry all her products.
“I could not understand why nobody had ever designed a bag just for nail technicians. I thought, maybe I could ... and 1 did it,” she says.
The Multi-Tote is two bags zipped into one, with the top portion customized to hold bottles tightly to prevent them from spilling or breaking. Another part of the top portion contains elastic bands to hold extra tools and a non-breakable mirror. The front pouch holds paperwork and accessories, and the bottom half is an open compartment for larger supplies. The bag is made of nylon, and it can either be carried over the shoulder or rolled on wheels.
O’Hara envisioned the idea for the Multi-Tote about eight years ago and began developing a basic concept for the bag. “I designed it so every space is utilized to hold everything a technician needs. The Multi-Tote is good for all markets, too,” she maintains.
Satisfied with her design of the Multi-Tote, O’Hara located a manufacturer to produce a prototype and she secured a patent for it. “Even though we were not ready to sell them, I took a sample to the NAILS Show in Las Vegas a few years ago. The technicians loved it, and I had 100 orders at the end of the show,” she reports.
Marketing the product on her own for two years was not difficult, O’Hara claims. Whenever she demonstrated the Multi-Tote to technicians, the bag sold itself.
“One problem I did face in the beginning was companies trying to copy my bag. They found it difficult, though, because the bag is very intricate.”
O’Hara met with George Schaeffer, president of OPI Products (N. Hollywood, Calif.), hoping to sell him a supply of bags for his educators. Instead, he wanted to become involved with the manufacturing and marketing of the bag, and OPI is now licensed to promote it in the beauty industry.
“I wanted OPI to take over the Multi-Tote so I could go into another market. I formed a company called ‘Wishful Thinking, A Company of Ideas’ to develop other products,” she discloses.
Under the new banner, O’Hara developed a wooden gel products stand. It keeps the bottles placed upside down and well-organized. Technicians with carpal tunnel syndrome find it easier to squeeze the bottles in this position. For the general market, O’Hara created an insert organizer for handbags that can be switched from one bag to another. Unable to find a distributor to market these products now, O’Hara feels confident it will happen in the future; until then she works on her own.
“Sometimes you make good decisions, and other times, bad ones. You learn from the good ones and let the others go,” she says, adding, “but I still want to encourage technicians with ideas to follow their dreams and never let them go. I am a firm believer that dreams’ can come true, but you have to work hard to make them happen.”
Tip-toe to the Bank
According to Liz Fojon, co-owner of PhenomaNails & Hair in Fair Lawn, N.J., inventing her carved nail tips was a fortuitous accident. “About 13 years ago, I was about to go to a party and I broke a nail,” she recalls. “I had nothing to mend it with, so I carved my nail into a diamond shape and applied a couple of rhinestones around it to complement my outfit. It received a lot of attention at the party.”
Thinking she might be able to develop an artificial carved tip, Fojon searched for a strong, quality plastic to make the tip. She then located an engineer to devise a special machine to manufacture the product.
In the beginning, Fojon produced the tips only for herself and her clients. While teaching nail art a few years later, her students saw the tips and the response was overwhelming, according to Fojon. “Many nail technicians would like to create their own learned about the nail tradeshows across the country,” she reveals.
To her surprise, a distributor from Georgia requested a sample for the nail technicians in its sales department to review. “The distributor called to say they loved it, and the owner would be calling me,” she reports.
Nation admits salespeople and distributors may not understand the implement or have the time to demonstrate it properly. “When I show nail technicians how the EaselTech works, they really relate to it. In fact at the tradeshows we will have chairs so clients will be able to try it out. Nail technicians who suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome feel it will benefit them,” she says.
Nation, who devotes all her time to working on the EaselTech, wants to contact local nail technicians across the country to wholesale the product, helping them to start their own businesses. She also hopes to meet other technicians with inventions and merge their products into her line.
“Even though I am handling all the daily operations of promoting the EaselTech, I believe this enables me to keep better control over everything. And as I talk with potential customers, I feel their excitement over the EaselTech, and that only increases my enthusiasm for the work,” Nation says.
She’s Off to Something Big
“I really invented Polish Begone because I could never wear polish working with remover all day,” says Kelly Brown, a nail technician from Duncan, Okla. “At first, I used it only for myself, but when my clients wanted it, I realized there could be a market for the product.”
Polish Begone works like a ballpoint pen. Push the button on top and claws open to pick up cotton or gauze to dip into remover. Push the button again and it releases the material without your hands touching any chemicals. Customers use the implement at home to take off toenail polish or repair a broken nail without damaging their manicures. Hairdressers use Polish Begone to remove hair color from their clients’ hairline area after application, and cosmetologists discovered it works well for removing makeup during a facial.
It took Brown and her husband, Jeff, a welder, nearly three years before they created an implement that accomplished the task. “I actually think I just dreamed it up one night. My husband made a prototype and experimented with different claws to find the right one. It has only been on the market since last January” she explains.
Brown had difficulty locating a machinist with the right equipment who was interested in manufacturing the Polish Begone. “I met with a lot of men, but of course they could not relate to it. And they did not realize the potential of the product in the retail market,” she says. Brown persevered; within three months she located a manufacturer.
Last year, Brown attended BBSI’s summer show in Las Vegas with only two Polish Begone prototypes. The response was more than Brown expected. The implement attracted attention from distributors all over the country. With commercials now running in England and Australia, Brown realizes the potential the implement has to sell in foreign markets.
“But I want to keep it strictly in the beauty industry with nail technicians, their clients, and beauty supply stores — no OTC retailers,” she stresses. Brown manufactures the product in the back other salon so the local customers can deal directly with her.
Brown admits that while developing Polish Begone, she had no idea how to promote the implement, but believed she would find a way. “It is a challenge trying to market one product because distributors like to have a whole line to market. Of course, my goal is to develop a full line of nail care products,” Brown says.
Demonstrating the product and proving to nail technicians how it will help them do a better job is the key to selling it, Brown maintains. “Everyone should realize the real purpose of Polish Begone is to protect technicians’ hands from chemicals. But it also keeps them from messing up their nails,” she says, adding enthusiastically, “Everybody needs one.”
Never Stop Trying
As an inventor, each technician started with the desire to make her job easier or to eliminate a problem for herself and her clients. Faced with legal, technical, and marketing problems, the successful ones never lost sight of their goal, met the challenges, and overcame them all. Hopefully these success stories will inspire other nail technicians to follow their dreams — and keep on inventing.
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