At long, and after considerable prodding, Karen and Aydin Ozcan, the energetic, proud owners of Karen’s Nail Designs have finally agreed to reveal the background on their company and its mercuric rise to the top.

One of the first to venture into the world of nail jewelry and having long been a staunch supporter of Nails Magazine. Karen was nevertheless hesitant to open herself to public scrutiny for fears of ruining what she calls her own special brand of “personable, friendly style of business.”

But the demand from her clients, friends and industry for details about her trend-setting firm pushed this reluctant “star” into agreeing to the interview.

Although at first nervous, and a little tongue-tied. Karen soon relaxed and began describing her company and style in tones of honest sincerity, accompanied by an occasional side-long glance at her husband Aydin for encouragement.

"I'm very nervous about this," she confided, almost at the start of what would be a long, yet enjoyable interview. "I'm so concerned about this industry, and my company and product, that I want this to be just perfect. And yet I'm afraid of being too honest ... it really is a kind of a dilemma," she added, punctuating her statement with just a whisper of a nervous laugh.

The best way to proceed, she finally agreed, was to just let the story tell itself.

Karen's Nail Designs, for those unfamiliar with the company, is one of the largest nail jewelry firms serving the nail-care industry. What began some seven years ago as a salon-to-salon sales approach with a very limited product line has grown and developed into an internationally marketed com­pany that boasts over 500 pieces to its line .. . product offering that now includes charms, gold nails, any combination of both, and a growing nail supply business. The direction of the company is toward the color­ful and professional promotion of product, an approach proving very successful with the recent adver­tising campaign that centers prod­uct around flowers, "For the Smell of Success"; set-up as a miniature highway for "The Road to Success," and on top of Godiva Chocolates, for "The Taste of Success."

Company History

But it was back in 1977, explained Karen, that she first came to notice nail jewelry. At that time she was working as a part-time real estate agent, and full time salon sales for a local beauty supply house, when at a nail show happened upon nail gems offered by a company that was soon to become a supplier, and then later a competitor.

"Even though they were very basic, my first thought was that they were a fabulous idea, and I really loved them. So I bought a few and went out and sold them.

"I was one of their first customers and in fact," she added with a giggle, "we used to meet in parking lots halfway between where I worked and their place to conduct business."

This is where the true story of Karen's success actually begins. Because it is here, some eight years ago, that her boundless enthusiasm and belief in this fledgling product soon outpaced the company's ability to supply her. Rather than limiting herself, Karen decided to cut her ties and begin to manufacture her own line of charms. It was a move that benefitted her greatly ... now she had the capacity to sell the products the way she knew how, and she had control over the finished quality of the pieces (which even then, meant everything to her).

"By then the nail jewelry business became so large that I quit my real estate job and beauty supply and devoted all my energies to the nail business. All of my friends thought I was crazy, but then they didn't have the belief in this product that I did."

Still, though, it was a little nerve-wracking, what with attempting to stay on top of product demands as well as organize and run a young company. But her experience in the beauty industry, which included ownership of a wig shop and the management of several beauty supply houses, prepared her men­tally for the stress and frustrations, and her love of the product gave her the motivation to continue.

It didn't take long for Karen and her growing product line to have on impact on the nail market. Her designs and product quality were always of prime concern, and her enthusiasm for the product evolved into a friendly business style that she credits her success to.

"Since the beginning," reflected Karen, "I have always loved my charms and been really proud of what we do. That's why we have been successful ... we sell our­selves and build a strong relation­ship with our customers. Besides, I would never make anything I wouldn't wear myself. And that shows in our charms and other products."

Secrets Of Success

This personable style ("I even answer my own phones...") is one ingredient of Karen's "secrets" of success ... the other is her prod­ucts. For eight years, she has been designing charms, gold nails, charms with precious and semi­precious stones, Swing Studs, ini­tials, and channel sets (with two diamond-to-ten-diamond channel sets available in all sizes) . . . with a growing success that sometimes overwhelms even her. Many of her charms she started with are still strong sellers, attesting to the strength of design and quality of the product.

"One of the first pieces we intro­duced," said Karen, "was the Rose­bud ... still one of my favorites. And it is also one of our strongest sellers, even after all these years.

Although, Karen was reluctant to openly discuss her design process or how she and Aydin come up with ideas for their line, she did mention that some inspiration is derived from her considerable history with nail charms and jewelry

"How we design," interrupted Aydin. "It is not as important as the fact that they are the finest. We take a great deal of pride in what we do, and sometimes will turn down an order if we feel that it can't be done right, with the kind of quality we know it needs to have. We would rather have a satisfied customer and pro­duce something we can be proud of than to sell something of poor quality."

This commitment emphasized the couple, "is how we are able to build the trust necessary to continue our success.”

“The reasons for this success" added Karen, "is first the design and quality of the pieces, and that we are a stocking manufacturer ... we deliver. But," she said, using her charm-covered nails to help make her point, "it is also because we have a strong customer base that appreciates our personable style."

Throughout the interview, Karen and Aydin would look to each other for comments and encouragement ... at times Aydin cautioning Karen, Karen interrupting Aydin. What was obvious was the pride both have in their company and their desire to remain somewhat private, in what appears to be an effort to retain that personality, their openness and honesty.

"Karen is honest, hardworking and a little bit crazy,'' remarks Aydin. "She believes so much in her products and is so proud that she can really get wrapped up in her work."

"This business is my life," adds Karen, as she nods knowing at Aydin, "And I am hard working. But get such a pleasure from this business from my customers. What can I say?

Karen's Nail Designs customers share in that loyalty and have since the early days of the company loyal to Karen...and with good reason. She is friendly, personable, a sharp business woman but also dedicated to those same customers. It is a part product of what motivates her.

Her approach is to build long term business relationships shying away from the "one time sale." opting instead of help educate and further the success of nail jewelry.

"We are very interested in the customer who is concerned with quality and with selling merchandise to her customers," outlined Karen, "They are the ones who deserve the credit. They are the ones who have taken my products and made such a success of them. And that's why we do the things we do for them.”

Service Touches

Karen offers several services for the convenience of her customers: An 800-number for toll-free order­ing, a product exchange program, product repair options, special order capability, and as always, product line expansion.

"We will take gold nails and charms and exchange them for others if they don't sell for one particular customer," explained Karen, the pride telling in her voice. "We know they will sell, we believe in the products so we offer that kind of service touch."

Additionally, she said, special orders are easily handled as well as requests for any charm/gold nail combination.

"We can do whatever the cus­tomer wants, and we can deliver it to them on time and with the same quality that they see in our bro­chures and at shows," said Karen.

Customer requests were also the reason Karen cites for her firm's most recent move . . . Karen's Nailery, a nail supply house catering to the needs of the nail professional.

"We were literally forced into supplies," explained Karen with just a hint of a mischievous smile, "Our service is so good with the nail jewelry that soon the demand for other products and items just pushed us into opening a nail supply house. Now we carry everything for nails.

In terms of product, Karen's latest evolution is her Royal Collection and channel set diamond nails. This collection boasts several outstand­ing designs as well as a new process for the firm.

"In the new collection," revealed Karen, pulling a variety of the new pieces to help explain, "we have incorporated more of a flowing line design, more of what I feel is a fine jewelry look. And of course my channel sets are in that collection and I'm very proud of them,"

The channel sets are a new way of setting stones into the charm and gold nails, explained Karen, where­by the stones are flush mounted into gold bars, forming a channel look.

"We are very proud of this new product, and the way it all turned out," said an obviously pleased Karen, "The response from our customers has been overwhelming, but I'm really not surprised ... I have to say that they are really very beautiful. We are the very first company to come up with this con­cept for the nail industry and we are very excited about this very special style,"

Karen's Nail Designs, located Van Nuys, California, has made quite a name for itself, through product quality, Karen's own inimitable style, and most re­cently through a stunning, creative advertising promotion. The depth of their line, their near-immediate delivery, and now the availability of any number of nail-related items, puts this growing firm on a very strong foundation. But when all is said, it is still Karen that is at the center of her firm's success. It is her style, pride and perseverance that must be credited and truly "re­vealed" as the secret of her success.

"I still get a little sentimental when I think back about this business," said Karen, flushed and not at all embarrassed, "especially when I think back to where we started and what we have accomplished. It never ceases to amaze me."

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