Image is everything, she says, especially in the beauty industry. People need to understand you, to get an idea of who you are and what you stand for.
Our image is service, she emphasizes, of the reliability of the old Pony Express,
Our image is service, she emphasizes, of the reliability of the old Pony Express, now refined and softened for the '80s. Our image is of beauty, of fantasy. Our image is the Pegasus, that beautiful, graceful, winged mythical creature, flying, soaring with such freedom, such purpose. That is our image, and that is what we are all about... a new, creative company soaring to new heights.
Judy Chambers, president and owner of Heads and Nails Inc., producer of The Nail Express nail care line, and hair and cosmetic products, knows image ... she also knows consistency. It is the one aspect of her young company that she has pursued relentlessly and with a dogged persistence that is now evidenced by her new facility: a combination salon, training center, corporate headquarters and warehouse recently opened in Huntington Beach, California.
It is the end result of months of planning, cajoling, of double-
It is the end result of months of planning, cajoling, of double-checking. Everything had to be perfect, had to convey the correct consistent image, had to be right. And now with the new facility completed, the interior salon and corporate offices furnished and finished, the warehouse stocked and ready, Judy is poised and ready for the next stage of growth long since planned for her young firm.
Today she is enthusiastic, excited about her new salon/ offices, relieved that the project is finally completed, and very aware that her goals are within her grasp. It is a feeling she was unsure, at times, whether she would ever enjoy.
"The opening of the new facility was a goal since the beginning, since day one." said Judy, "and something that we have worked very hard for. I knew it would happen, and what we want to do. . pamper our ladies."
With each such transition, a history card is completed and maintained providing the information necessary for a consistent product as well as adding another image-oriented pampering.
"Also," added Judy, "if the counter girl is out one day, or unavailable, someone else can fill in just by pulling the card and recognizing what has been done previously."
This approach and emphasis on customer service in her salon is a similar commitment she zealously pursues with The Nail Express line. It is also indicative of whatever she sets her mind to.
"When I first started my business, in November 1982, I incorporated as Heads and Nails, Inc., and had The Nail Express ready to roll. I knew early that I wanted to do nails and hair and to tie it in with a shop, so I wanted a name that would show what I was doing and what I was attempting, because I had planned and believed that in a year's time, I would be at this point with my business."
Her first product offering was through The Nail Express, a slow-dry acrylic formulation. In addition, she offered a few miscellaneous items such as emery boards and forms. (She currently has two products in her line: a slow-dry and a fast-dry.)
"The day I started, I had four people working for me, going to the salons and manicurists, trying to sell my product," she reminisced.
"Then Carole Concitis and Suzanne De Julio came along at about the same time, after I had been open for about four months.
"Although they worked separate areas, they would work together and help each other out, and helped us all over the rough spots.
"With those two, it wasn't long before people saw that they were coming back, that they were persistent, that they were giving them good service. So our name and product started to grow in acceptance.
"Carol was a go-getter who is now an independent rep servicing the area of West Covina to Tustin, and Suzanne, through determination and persistence, is now my general manager working the San Diego area supervising her own crew."
Along this "rugged and dusty road" to product acceptance and growth, The Nail Express crew learned some valuable lessons through their work at trade shows . . . lessons that "we still laugh about."
"Our first show was a student spectacular in Buena Park," she laughs. "The place was filled with students that didn't care much about nails. But the show was good because we got a little taste of what people were asking at shows and what to expect."
The WINBA program was Judy's second show, and gave her the boost she was looking for.
"The WINBA show clearly started my volume," explained Judy. "We had a lot of calls after and quite a bit of repeat business. The exposure at that show was very important . . . people started to take us seriously."
That one show, emphasized Judy, helped her get "off the ground," but it was her general approach and pricing that provided the catalyst for the long term growth.
"When I first decided on my price structure, I tried not to be the lowest, but I wanted to be reasonable so that I could compete with the names. I'm still reasonable in my prices, and that was my purpose then and now. Instead of just turning me off as being too high, or too low, they would at least give me a try. But I didn't go at it attempting to compete on price alone."
The combined strategy of price and service proved to be the winning style for her firm, giving her a success that allowed her to pursue the second half of her goal: her cosmetic and hair products line. The end result of her plans, keep in mind, was her salon/education/office/warehouse operation, then in its embryonic stage. But she knew that if she was going to pamper women with quality hair and nail work, the next logical step would be to offer a salon retail program featuring her own line of cosmetics.
"I then approached several people in an effort to carry a line of cosmetics in my salon, but they wanted an outrageous amount of money and did not provide the types of aspects I needed to successfully retail the product. In fact, I was very disappointed with the lack of service from these companies."
What happened next was to happen exactly with her polish line, her hair products, and quite conceivably any other area she wishes to get involved with: When backed into a corner, or treated unfairly, she will do it on her own.
"That is exactly what happened, and why I decided to carry my own line," said Judy. "I retained this chemist, which was my first step, who is very talented and experienced in the beauty products field, and together we are formulating what will end up being 50 products, from lotions to face scrubs, that will be retailed out of my salon."
The Heads and Nails Inc. cosmetic line, named the Judy Chambers Collection, also includes a polish offering that currently stands at over 40 shades of polish as well as a variety of accessories. The point, Judy emphasized, is that The Nail Express and related items are available only to professionals; the cosmetic and hair line to the public.
"I will also carry some beauty supply products, but I won't be going into a lot of different product areas only because I want those people to come to me to be taken care of, not to buy a product and then take care of themselves."
In addition to the standard salon practices, the facility is set-up to sell product to the trade, either directly or through her firm's effective UPS program.
"We have separated the professional from the consumer just in the layout of the salon, and the location of the warehouse," said Judy.
"In this way, we can give the professional the privacy she wants in her buying needs without the presence of the consumer."
Sue Karson, secretary and service manager, has organized the warehouse and shipping function to levels of efficiency that continually amaze and please Judy. "Sue is extremely meticulous, especially in her concern and supervision of the packaging and shipping department. Her style virtually guarantees trouble-free speedy delivery, and her personality is such that her function at the order desk is indispensable," explained Judy.
In all our discussions, the image of the Pegasus remained, as if an ideal or lofty goal that continues to dangle just out of reach. For Judy it is a personal image, one that stirs some emotion, some passion that continues to entice the chase. On a basic level, the Pegasus implies a "delivery on wings," a pony express for the world of nails. But that is too literal, too limited, too unimaginative to fully capture and describe its hold on Judy. She claims it epitomizes what she is doing in the industry, that it conveys her imagination, drive and goals. Additionally, I suspect the Pegasus is a good luck charm, a lucky piece, a rabbit's foot that holds some special meaning. What is clear however is her conviction and belief in this image, her desire to pursue and mimic it, and her refusal to compromise.
"I love the beauty industry," she said, conveying a secret contentment. "I love what I am doing. I love all the different aspects... the servicing, the fashion, the fantasy. I always have."
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