Old School - A Look at the Pioneering Companies of the Nail Business

NAILS wouldn’t be celebrating its 20th anniversary if it weren’t for the support of many manufacturers in our industry. To help us celebrate this landmark, we talked to the top brass at several companies that have been around from our very beginning.

Part of the reason that NAILS is even around to celebrate its 20th anniversary is because the nail industry has grown at rapid pace over the last two decades. Now a $6.45 billion industry, we are here to support nail professionals in their quest to succeed. We wouldn’t have been able to do that, and you wouldn’t have been able to grow your own business over the years, if it wasn’t for professionals in their quest to succeed. We wouldn’t have been able to do that, and you wouldn’t have been able to grow your own business over the years, if it wasn’t for professional manufacturers.

Many of the big companies around now started out as small, family-run or single-owned business. Did you know that Creative co-founder Jan Arnold and Essie’s Essie Weingarten used to schlep products from door-to-door? Did you know that The Nailco Group’s first foray into distribution was a simple endcap full of nail products created by Larry Gaynor in response to manicurist’ needs for basic supplies?

Do you ever wonder what these manufacturers think are the most significant contributions to the industry? Or what products or events they most regret? This month we talked to Arnold, Weingarten, and Gaynor and asked them to divulge their opinions of how far the industry has come and where they see it heading. They offer sage advice for nail techs just entering the industry and they admit what troubles them today’s nail world.

The outlook: extreme positive. According to these manufacturers, the nail industry can only continue to grow. They see prices rising, nail service becoming increasingly popular and star-worthy, and they even predict retail sales will go up.

These certainly aren’t the only manufacturers who have been around for the last 20 years, but it is a pretty good start. Stay tuned next month for conversations with OPI’s George Schaeffer, Orly’s Jeff Pink, and Star Nail’s Tony Cuccio.

Jan Arnold, co-founder, Creative Nail Design

<p>Way back then ... it was a family affair. Dr. Stuart Nordstrom (right) started Creative Nail Design out of the family garage. Daughter Jan Arnold (seated, left) worked for the company from the very beginning.&nbsp;</p>NAILS: How did you get started?

Jan Arnold: We started our business in my father’s garage in 1979. My dad was a practicing dentist and a chemist with a lab set up in the garage. One day a manicurist challenge my father to create a superior sculpting material that she could use for artificial nails. My father analyzed what was being used and logically concluded that switching to a cross-linked technology would solve problems and create nails that are clean and natural looking. This discover, plus some4 basic dental principles of sanitation and adhesion, became the basis of our first product was “Where health and beauty go hand on hand.“ It was very important to us that natural nails be protected and properly cared for, especially when being enhanced. Back then, there was no education available on how to achieve the proper mix ratio, how to assure perfect adhesion, and how to practice preventive servicing. We believed “You can’t educate what you don’t innovate.” To this day we do our own innovation and primary manufacturing, which enables us to educate the product and easily solve problems.

<p>Today ... Creative president John Heffner joins Arnold in keeping the momentum gowing.&nbsp;</p>My father was a true pioneer and my brother Jim and I were his partners in developing a business around his great vision Dad continued to innovate and created the education and marketing. He hit the road to find educators and distributors and Jim out together operations and manufacturing. My brother, Tommy, joined the manufacturing team, which then feed Jim  to join me on the road to work the shows, visit customers, and continued to grow the business. All the while, my mom typed labels, made deliveries, and wrote birthday cards, never letting us forget our family values.

What’s the most significant change you’ve seen in the industry over the last 20 years?

The total acceptance of nails and nail services around the world, enabling the industry to go from about a million dollars in revenue to a $6.5 billion industry in two quick decades. The growth was driven by consumer demand, improved product technology and sound education to empower nail professionals to provide intelligent servicing.

What is you most significant product contribution?

Creative Nail Design’s most important contributions include a dedicated investment in nail enhancement technology with revolutionary products like Solarnail (the first cross-linked polymer), Radical (multi-dimensional cross-linked polymer that is prime optional), and Retention+ (the first covalent-bonding, multi-dimensional cross-linked polymer). Formation nail tips are still the number-one tip on the market and they continue to gain market-share. SolarOil was created 20 years ago and continues to be the most effective way to toughen nails. SpaPedicure took this service to the next level of excellence with marine-based ingredients that enable the professional to deliver a facial-quality service for the feet. Scentsations lotions are loved by nail technicians and their clients alike. They make retailing easier than ever, for a new revenue source for all salons.

How has your company changed over the last 20 years?

Over the last 20 years we have become a more sophisticated business, which has allowed us to be a more responsive to our customer, more proactive with technology, and well-planned for the future. We have a beautiful and strong team and people and have maintained our family spirit, our fun and creativity, and our total dedication to the nail technicians.  We are a well-managed team based on shared values that have enabled us to be successful: respect, trust, honesty, accountability, communication, and integrity.

What will your company be like when NAILS turns 40?

Creative Nail Design will continue to be the unequivocal world leader of all things fabulous for fingers and toes. Men and women alike, all around the bloge, will ask for our services by name and buy our products because of their status as the top quality professional’s choice for perfect nail care. The industry will have reached a status of ultimate fashion accessory, just as hair color has, and be accessible to all men and women in all walks of life.

What are the moments you’d like to forget?

Hyperventilating in front of an entire sales group at my first sales meeting. The first nail enhancement I ever did. Sculpting my nails out to the end of the form in 1980 and then polishing them in hot pink. Getting ready to a three-hour slide show presentation for 100 nail technicians and having all the power go out. Traveling by bus to find distribution in South because we didn’t have the budget to fly. Developing an indestructible nylon nail tip. Should I go on? In the end it all helped to build the strength to overcome obstacles.

What other companies do you think have contributed significantly to the growth of the industry?

OPI, Star, Essie, Backscratchers, Mona, SuperNail, ibd - the list goes on. These are all people who believed in the business and made their mark.

What is the biggest industry issue facing you today?

Distribution. Its focus on the nail segment and its role in an ever-changing landscape, as well as its ability to meet the needs of the professional nail technicians.

What would you say to techs coming out of school today?

Invest in your continuing education, practice preventive servicing, listen to your clients’ changing needs, deliver top-quality services, use only the best products, and have fun. Find you passion and shoot for the stars.

Tell us one thing about you or your company that we might not already know?

Company president John Heffner is a die-hard rock-and-roll fan.

Essie Weingarten, President, Essie Cosmetics

NAILS: How did you get started?

Essie Weingarten: I was a little nails freak from the time i was 8 years old and my biggest treat was going to the salon and making my nails done. Back then there were hardly any polishes to choose from in the salon. I would go with my father on Sundays to my uncle’s pharmacy and I would buy a bottle of polish to take to the salon.

<p>Back then ... Essie Weingarten got her start win the fashion industry before she began selling her "little label-less bottle."</p>My background is in fashion merchandising. I worked at Henri Bendel and then a private label hosiery company. I decided that i wanted to do a polish line and I met with a bunch of different chemist before finding the right one. We came up with long-wearing, chip-resistant polish that went like silk and wore like iron. I started out with 12 colors and went door-to-door. Next I took them to Vegas and it was like wildfire. I had to hire more people to help me out right away. Shortly after that, we began putting out three, and then four, collections a year.

What’s the most significant change you’ve seen in the industry over the last 20 years?

I have seen a 180-degree turn over the last 20 years. Years ago the term was “manicurist.” now we have nail techs who are stars. And they are earning great incomes. They have great self-esteem.

The nail technicians of today have been able to sell themselves to celebrities, to studios, and their clients. They are the best at what they do and they demand a great price for a manicure. Manicure were only for the very wealthy, but now everyone can afford the services. Getting your nails done is an inexpensive pick-me-up. It’s an easy way to change the look of an outfit, just by changing the polish color.

What is your most significant product contribution?

I took the whole nail polish arena from people just using numbers for the colors to actually naming my colors. Being a strong believer in very subtle colors, Ballet Slippers become the color of that everyone compared their French or translucent colors to. Now everyone is trying to know what the color trends are going to be that is why the color stories we do at Essie are the most copied. I work with the suede and leather industries and shoe manufacturers to forecast trends because they work the farthest out.

How has your company changed over the last 20 years?

<p>Today ... Essie predicts fashion trends and creates color stories around those trends four times a year.&nbsp;</p>We have changed tremendously over the last 20 years. When we first started out, we were the labels-less little bottle. The only reason we put the name in the glass is because of so many polish companies, copying our bottle. Now that we have the named etched on the side of the bottle, companies are copying that too. Also, we used to sell salon-direct. Now we sell to distributors, so it’s easier for salons to get our products.

What will your company be like when NAILS turn 40?

I see the industry having more stars, more celebrity nail techs. I see the price of manicures and pedicures and all spa services going up. I see more people feeling like they deserved to be pampered. Time spent in salons will be quality time. I see bigger and better things for the entire industry I even see salons starting to retail.

What are the moments you’d like to forget?

We had a polish color called Prune face. But we had to discontinue it because people i California were insulted. It was the only time that we had such a controversy.

What other companies do you think have contributed significantly to the growth of the industry?

The ones that are still around. We have seen a lot of companies come and go. So of course the ones at have hung in there have absolutely helped to make this an industry rather than a cottage trade.

What is the biggest industry issue facing you today?

Diversion, diversion, diversion. Basically everyone is going to have to code bottles like those who are doing it already.

What would you say to techs coming out of school today?

Follow your dreams. Stay focused. Be the best that you can be and it will all come back to you. Believe in yourself.

Tel us one thing about you or your company that we might not already know?

We have a wonderful following of clients who do combinations of our colors on their nails. They know exactly which colors they like to wear together. Guys in New York know the color combinations their girlfriends are wearing. It’s just really neat.

Larry Gaynor, president/CEO, The Nailco Group

NAILS: How did you get started?

<p>Way back then ... Larry Gaynor (here with&nbsp;his wife Teresa) started his company to fill a need for supplying manicurists with much-needed products.&nbsp;</p>Larry Gaynor: Inside a health and beauty aids store. Manicurist came in asking for gallons of polish remover, 5 Second Nail Glue and so forth. So I put an end cap display together of manicuring supplies and it sold like crazy. Soon the thereafter, Nailco started.

What’s the most significant change you’ve seen in the industry over the last 20 years?

The 80’s were an era of excitement, new products and women getting out the house to dig into new careers. Schools overflowed with students in part due to many housewives starting a new career. They had money and they understood customer service. So new stuff included nail wraps, gels, lights, nail art, airbrushing, odorless acrylics, and dip powders. I remember when Orly introduced Ridge Filler. Wow!

The early ‘90s saw more innovation such as quick-dry top coats (Seche), refined gels (Softlight), high-tech drills, and fast-set acrylics. This created a second wave of excitement.

Then the biggest change with the biggest impact came with the national expansion of discount salons. Too many nail techs didn’t want to compete and thought they had to lower their prices to win over consumers. So they left an even bigger opening in the field for more discount salons to service the demand.

What is your most significant product contribution?

<p>Today ... The Nailco Group's thebeautybook and offer a full complement of salon and spa products.&nbsp;</p>We are the pioneers in so many ways - from catalogs, tradeshows, e-commerce, to customer service. We are always working to give nail techs the tools required for their success. I would have to say thebeautybook, or full-color catalog with the largest assortment of products, has been the biggest contribution along with the services offered in conjunction with the look. We’ve given nail tech a variety of products to their business sizes and budgets as well as to offer world-class services by experienced professionals who understand their needs.

How has your company changed over the last 20 years?

In 1985 we started as Nailco Manicurist Centers. We then changed to Nailco Salon Marketplace with the addition of tanning and spa products in 1991. In 1995 we evolved into The Industry Source with the addition of hair products. Today, the company name is The Nailco Group with four distinct divisions, including The Industry Source. We have also added a lot of new services and programs (for instance, we are the only ISO9002-certified company in our industry) we added The Academy, one of the top advanced educational facilities in the U.S. for professionals. Another item is our Salon & Spa Design division to assist in interior design needs. We do everything from Auto-cad to select details from more than 500 suppliers.

What will your company be like when NAILS turn 40?

We will always be the leader and reinventing ourselves based on our customers’ needs. The change in the industry will come at the salon level. Much like cry cleaning and auto service establishments, the local community will be where the action is. We offer services consumers need and that demand will continue to be filled.

What are the moments you’d like to forget?

The political challenges that drain resources without bringing much back into the industry along with the transformation of the industry due to discount salons.

What other companies do you think have contributed significantly to the growth of the industry?

Way back, there was NAILS and Mainly Manicuring. If you take a look at the companies that advertised in those publications back then, there is only a small handful still in business. And those that are in business are the true survivors.

Essie and OPI for polish, Creative Nail Design and Tammy Taylor for acrylics, ibd for gels, Backscratchers for wraps, Seche for top coats, more recently, Nail Tek for nail treatments and FPO for nail and hand care.

What is the biggest industry issue facing you today?

Lack of direction. Nail techs need help and it’s the classic chicken-and-egg dilemma. We need to better educate the public about the opportunities in nail care and we need to take existing nail techs better business people so they can make more money. The other issue is lack of product development. The public is bored with new colors; we need to excite them about something else.

What would you say to techs coming out of school today?

It can take two years, even more, to build a client base. Embrace this time to learn and build your career. Practice. Take advanced classes often. Mentor with some great. Read books on customer service. Set-one-, three- and five-year goals. And just as important, invest time and money into your career.

Tell us one thing about you or your company that we might not already know.

Our internet site, is the number-one site in our industry. You can see all products in thebeautybook, check order status, download MSDS, pick up on special, and manage your account.

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