Fundamentals … they are from which everything else springs, without which a product or system would not be what it is, nor develop into what it could be. They represent the foundation, the ground work, the base that supports all that is to follow.
In art, it is the combination of such fundamentals that transforms a vision into a masterpiece. A crayon in the hands of a child is a fundamental … in the hands of a professional, an artistic tool.
Such is the key to Nail Mate’s stunning successes over the past several years … a reliance, insistence rather, on creatively handling the fundamentals of product development and business management.
“All the great artists, Picasso, Dali, Matisse … started somewhere,” remarked Mel King, impressive and eminently presentable in his North Hollywood, California office.
“My guess is that they started with the basics, with the fundamentals of their art.
“As all nail artists must start somewhere, we choose the basics, the fundamentals, the essential tools of nail artistry with which to make our market impact … we started with the abrasives, the emery boards that for years have been one of the fundamental tools of the trade.”
It was from that initial product offering that Nail Mate has grown to offer four different varieties of emery boards (the garnet, black, silver and gold), five varieties of nail squares. Buff N Gloss, nail glue, replaceable files, nail brushes, nail forms tips, nail filler, toe separators, silk and linen nail wraps, and a recent introduction of liquids and powders. It is a success story that Mel emphasizes was the result of a dedication to product quality and to basic, credible, fundamental business approaches.
“Well, on the one hand,” reflected Mel, “we probably lend ourselves to be somewhat conservative, to rely on the basic, exhaustive approach that has always worked for us in the past.
“Specifically, we have the facilities to experiment and test labs that offer us a variety of services and options. And before we fully market a new product, we test market thoroughly with an excellent cross section of manicurists. They tell us what is wrong with a given product … we are never concerned with what is right with it, that will take care of itself. We want to know the opposite. In this business, you can spend too much time looking at and for the benefits rather than looking for problems, and that is what will run you into snags every time. So I think that we are somewhat conservative in that sense.”
This “conservative” approach to product development is one that has been ingrained through the 16 years of work and experience in the beauty industry: It is a background that includes work as a salon owner, beauty supplier, manufacturers rep, manufacturer of sundry items, and currently, nail manufacturer. It is a background and depth that has proven basic manufacturing and business principles that continue to guide Nail Mate today … principles further shaped by Mel’s personal commitment to the quality of life, and by extension quality of product, of professionalism, of benevolence.
“We hope that our background helps us get from point A to point B with the greatest degree of success,” said Mel. “I think that we have been around long enough to have a pretty fundamental understanding of how the beauty industry functions on a full spectrum of levels: creatively, product inception, research and development, distribution and marketing.”
There are, however, a few things that still amaze him.
“Well, one of the most refreshing things about this industry is that at the manicurist level, everyone is anxious to share their knowledge and their technique … an attitude which for years we just didn’t have.
“You now,” Mel continued, “there is an old Chinese proverb that says that in order to master, we must teach our craft … otherwise we can never become a master. There may be truth to that…
“Sharing is the greatest joy on this planet,” he added, aware that he had strayed somewhat from the subject, but comfortable with his message nonetheless.
“I don’t mean to be philosophical, but it is the truth … everything we do in life pretty much that we remember, all the good times we had growing up and even today, really are time and things that we shared. And I think the same thing is true for business.”
This thought of sharing, as it relates to business, is intermingled with other thoughts on quality of life and creativity that at times muddies up the distinction between Mel King and Nail Mate. But as the two are themselves so intertwined, it is important to gain an insight into the man, his values and how they effect his company.
“There are two things that I think are of paramount importance … quality and creativity. I can never over emphasize the importance of quality in everything we do, starting with the quality of life itself. I believe that quality is important throughout life in everything … and certainly our work habits and style are part of that,” he said.
Mel believes there is a market for quality and believes that he can change that human reliance on the “same thing,” can change that “tunnel vision” with quality and the essence of his products.
“Too often, we get so burdened down that we don’t look at the opportunity that arises to increase the ease of our work through better tools, newer or faster techniques. It is so important that you be analytical, creative, open to the belief that you can do your job more effectively, better, more efficiently.
“Of paramount importance: quality and the ability, the creative ability to look at new products and to judge their viability.”
As a manufacturer of nail products, Nail Mate is in the business of providing the new and more efficient. Mel’s attitude, however, is that it is his responsibility to “put something back into the industry,” to help continue its forward evolution. It is not a responsibility he jumps into lightly, or quickly. Jokingly he admits that he may even be late in marketing a product. The delay in any final decision is based, partly on maintaining Nail Mate’s credibility.
“When we look at something different, we look at it from the attitude that it must have real viability. If it has multi-year stick-to-itiveness, we are interested. And once we have decided that and it does have creditability, does have longevity, is functional and that there is a place for it within the existing market, then we ask, ‘How can we improve on this product or concept.’
Usually, Mel adds, if you are objective enough there are ways to improve in terms of “what the product does, its efficiency, or by making it more accessible to the professional manicurist or nail artist.
As an example, Mel offered the background behind Nail Mate’s current move into a nail dip product offering.
“When we see something new coming along, like dipping for example, we ask ourselves, ‘Does dipping work?’ Absolutely. So then the next barrage of questions begin … can we improve on its format, can we make it simpler, easier, improve its educational format and potential, all without confusing the professional?
“The point is that we don’t go out and duplicate something just because it is selling … we wait, and wait, and wait, until the product or application can prove to be viable. Then we take the step of adding the Nail Mate touch.”
Clearly then, it was the style and commitment to the basics of market and product research that enabled Nail Mate to develop strength of products and market penetration. By fully understanding product, the needs of professionals, and understanding manufacturing techniques, Nail Mate made its mark first with their abrasives, through the highly successful gold emery board (the Gold Standard) and secondly through the offering of their nail brush line. It was marketing at its best and resulted in a recognition and success the firm was expecting.
“Yes, we feel that we have set industry standards, particularly in the abrasives,” said Mel, slowly, with a reflective tone that suggested a certain modesty. “The Gold Standard specifically. We did take the time, which was months by the way, before that product became a reality. But now because of our manufacturing methods and standards, we feel that the gold board has definitely become the standard for the acrylic industry.
“It is a superior, long lasting, ultra sharp surface that has proven to be the finest for acrylics. And its popularity attests to its long term credibility,” he added.
The nail brush was another area that generated early Nail Mate attention and one that developed into an extensive product offering, marketing and display commitment.
“Well, initially I was a little disappointed with the acrylic business to see how little emphasis was placed on the nail brush … and at the lack of understanding that all brushes are certainly not the same. It was an area that needed help, so we went after it.
“After doing our homework, we realized that there are basically two modes of application: One is the flat brush patting method and the other is the round brush rolling method. Almost every brand of acrylic has different conceptual ideas as to where to start on the nail or the nail form, but it is our feeling that while we don’t promote any one method we do insist they use a quality brush.” emphasized Mel.
Consequently, Nail Mate offers nail art brushes, a basic flat brush as well as three different round tipped brushes.
“We know the characteristics of bristling and the subtitles of different brushes and brush material, and have elected to use sable. It has the greatest resiliency to springing back and won’t hold product. It will pick it up and hold it, but with a slight bit of maneuvering will release it. These brushes provide the manicurist and nail artist with a quality, fundamental tool with which to refine their skills,” explained Mel.
The success of the brushes indicated by industry acceptance, provided Nail Mate with an opening to pursue their new sculptured nail product … a move that illustrates, Mel’s comments about his company: Why acrylics now … isn’t it a bit late?
“We feel that there is a place in the acrylics and powders market for us,” explained Mel, a very viable place. We also feel that the market has never been more receptive to it as a product, and fully realize the dramatic growth that is yet to come. Yes, we waited for the right conditions for our move, as well as the right quality of materials. We feel that we have them both, and look for long term success with our sculptured product.”
As the interview was wrapping up, Mel voiced a closing thought in regards to what he felt was the best way of describing his company:
“Sitting here where the buck stops, when we put out name on it, that pretty much means that to me, I have endorsed it. It means that I am saying that this product works and works better than any other like it out there now … otherwise I am not going to put my name on it.”
And what qualities should such products exhibit?
“Longevity in terms of durability, ease of use. They should also be somewhat exciting, that create a little stir in people,” added Mel.
But the important aspect of his firm and his style is that Nail Mate likes to think that they are “doing the right thing and doing it right.”
“Beyond that we are just a bunch of desks, telephones and people. People doing what they know to be right with a product that is right at the right time,” concluded Mel.
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