She is known in the nail industry as a pioneer, an innovator, an entrepreneur. She has been in the industry for over 10 years, singlehandedly building her then small nail supply firm into an international supplier of one of the widest assortments of nail care products in the industry. Many credit her company and efforts as an original that helped shape a product and an industry. From her competitors she often gets respect, from her clients, love.
Her name is Alyce Brand, quite possibly the matriarch of the nail industry, but clearly the magic behind Magic Sculptura Nails.
We recently had the opportunity to visit with Alyce on several occasions in the course of interviewing for this story. What we found re-affirmed all we had known and heard about her. Her willingness to devote the necessary time was compelling…. Considering the interviews came at a time when a close relative was ill, and she was still in the throes of a company in the midst of change. Through it all, nothing seemed to perturb her. Her answers were brief, yet honest, and the matronly image that greeted us clung to her as she warmed to the interview.
Although somewhere modest about her age, and very shy in front of the camera, Alyce good naturedly revealed how her company developed and grew over the years, and the reason for the success…much as if she were relating the story to an old friend. Her manner was warm and casual and quite arresting as her remarks often implied a trust that broadened as we talked. Quick with a laugh, even at the expense of some long past blunder, she exuded a certain modesty that belied her considerable experience and knowledge of the product and industry.
Alyce first came to dabble in the nail industry in 1973, a period in her life when her background was in accounting, and she operated what she modestly refers to as a small bookkeeping concern in Southern California. Her initial involvement with nails ….a personal expression she continues today.
“I don’t care what anyone thinks, women the world over are all the same. They love to have their hair done and their nails beautiful. Well I was no exception. I’ve always had long, beautiful nails….and by having my nails done, I came to realize some of the problems that I was having with product. It just seemed that there was a better way.
Once she accepted the formulas and developed the Magic Sculptura acrylic system, Alyce was faced with a marketing and distribution puzzle. Back then, there just weren’t many other suppliers of the product and it soon became apparent to Alyce that the best way to sell her nail product, and to continue to sell it, was to teach the manicurist how to teach the manicurist how to properly use it.
“It was so new,” explained Alyce, “that we had to teach the manicurist how to use the product properly in order for them to understand it,” she smiled. “So we set up classes and offered them to everyone that bought the product. Very soon,” she added, “we had salon owners calling asking if we could help out a particular manicurist that was having some difficulty and then before we knew it, we were acting as a placement service an employment agency. I had girls that had recently graduated calling for jobs and salon owners calling for girls.”
At about this time, Alyce developed her own nail salon concept, whereby she combined trade product sales, warehousing and nail care for the consumer. It was combination that worked almost instantly, allowing her a place to sell, educate, warehouse and experiment with product, with the added benefit of day –by-day feedback from her girls and clientele.
Through the years, her combination of products and education produced a working formula that others followed as a marketing guide. As her product and its acceptance grew, mostly through endless trade shows and educational classes, accessories were added that simplified the task of sculpturing nails…all with the goal of improving the efficiency and thus the profitability of the manicurist. From essentially one product in 1973 to a line that encompasses well over 400, Magic Sculptura represents a complete and growing offering for the professional manicurist.
“Our concern has always been with the manicurist,” explained Alyce, “and with providing her the necessary tools to be more efficient with the sculptured nail. As we grew, and product use grew throughout the nail industry, we concentrated on the items that would enable the girls to work faster. After all,” she added, “time in this business is money. We wanted to offer the tools necessary to save them this valuable time, and money.”
Magic Sculptura’s line includes professional and student product kits, deluxe kits, emery boards, paper and cushioned files; professional powders and liquids; four different tip styles and finishing touches; professional accessories and nail forms; accessory kits; nail wrap supplies and teaching aids; manicure supplies, gold and glitter nail accessories; files and refills; pedicure implements; and a variety of miscellaneous items.
“There are over 160 different products,” said Alyce, “but if you count the different types of products available instead of categories, there are over 400.”
The current success of the company, further strengthened by a recent marketing move, attests to the style and effort of Alyce, the sole driving force behind the company she founded. The reason for the growing and long term success of Magic Sculptura is, quite simply according to Alyce, because of “hard work and long hours.” That however, may be only part of the story. Through the years, Magic Sculptura and the nail industry have been her life, with friends, associates and clients all blurred into a trade friendship that she works for and cherishes. She describes her distributors, for example, more often as close friends than business acquaintances. Many she started with years ago are still with her, relying on her knowledge and business acumen as much as her friendship.
“I have always thought that customer service is important,” explained Alyce, “and dealing in an open and friendly manner. We constantly pass along all the knowledge we learn about the product and take the time to listen as well. I would say that it’s this genuine interest in customer service and our product availability that has added to our success. But of course,” she smiles, “none of this would have been possible without the product.”
Currently Alyce and Magic Sculptura are in the midst of change ….a marketing shift that actually seems to enable Alyce more time and freedom to pursue her goals within the nail industry. The shift came about as decision to sell a division of her company…that aspect dealing with the distribution of product to beauty supply houses; a network of international distributors she had developed this past 10 years.
“Essentially, I have sold the company’s distribution network, allowing me to fully concentrate on the distribution of the product within the nail industry itself,” explained Alyce. “I remain as Magic Sculptura Nails and act as a distributor of the product to the Magic Sculptura salons throughout the country. I will still be active the company and will continue to hold and develop our educational program, work trade shows and remain in business within the nail industry.”
The decision to sell her company, not an easy one by her own admission, was only after reaching the conclusion that aspect of the business could be more fully explored “and needed the extra time necessary that I just didn’t have.”
“I have been involved with Magic Sculptura for over 10 years, and I have accomplished a lot more than I thought I would….but I just didn’t feel that at this point in my life I wanted to take on the added responsibility.”
The firm that picked up the Magic Sculptura line and distributor network is M-F-G, a well-established manufacturer and distributor of beauty products.
The move according to Alyce was a good one, and allows her to devote the time and energy she needs to projects for the nail industry and the manicurists.
“It was a tough decision…after all, I have many feelings about my distributors. Many are very close friends and I often think of them. But I feel good about M-F-G. they are widely respected and one of the biggest firms in the beauty industry…and they represent the type of people that I know will carry forth the Magic Sculptura tradition. I will also continue to work with them as a consultant.”
Paul Diamond, M-F-G vice president, believes the decision was equally sound for his firm because of the strength of the Magic Sculptura line is the second largest in the nail care products industry,” said Paul, “and with our capability, we hope to make it the largest.”
A division of M-F-G, Morris Flamingo, is the “largest manufacturer, distributor and importer of beauty products in the sundry field, with three different warehouse locations coast to coast, and with a capacity of over 200,000 square feet.”
“Previously, we had been a distributor of Magic Sculptura, carrying 11 different products,” said Paul, explaining how his firm learned by direct experience Alyce’s concerns and commitments. It is with this understanding and company strength, said Paul, that M-F-G “plans on maintaining and emphasizing Alyce’s commitments and to carry forth her style.”
“Also, by shipping the same day, which we historically do in other which we historically do in other divisions, we will be able to offer the dealer the benefit of smaller inventory and quicker turn on the entire Magic Sculptura line.”
How this move will affect the nail industry can again be summed up by Alyce’s own statement : “I have more time to fully concentrate on the needs of the manicurist and those of the nail industry,” she said. “We’re still here, still doing business as Magic Sculptura Nails and still working on projects I’ve always wanted to pursue.”
Claiming she is not one to sit around, scoffing at the idea of quietly retiring from Magic Sculptura Nails, Alyce offered a glimpse of her future plans for her firm. Among them, an expanded educational format aimed at the “full service” salon; additional products for the manicurist, and an opportunity to re-model her own salon.
Of the latter, she has just finished a major re-modeling. Magic Sculptura Nails salon now has a more open feeling, a park-like setting a new look that has her manicurists and clients beaming.
“Well, after seven years, I wanted a new look…so I practically started from scratch. A new environment is so very important and a comfortable one is always good for the customer.”
The result: nine individual booths, a bubbling fountain, beautiful white and yellow awnings over each booth, trees, park benches, a accenting park lamps and green outdoor carpeting.
But what then of her immediate goals?
“I’m planning way ahead and getting my new education program going, and other projects that I have been putting off,” she confessed.
“Business around here will be pretty much as usual, what with selling product and servicing the nail industry. But we are moving in exciting new directions…among them our new hotline program, a toll-free service especially for the manicurist and salon.”
This new service, soon to be established at the firm’s Long Beach location, is a toll-free number for all Magic Sculptura product, education, classes and troubleshooting questions.
As we leave Alyce Brand and her own special style of business magic, we can’t help but think of her as an entrepreneur, one who saw an opportunity and pursued it….and succeeded; as a pioneering spirit working from a goal into a personal dream. Yet through it all, the successes, the plans, the stumbles, the 10 years of personal ambition and hard work, we are also reminded that Alyce Brand is still very much a part of the nail industry.
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