Courtesy of OPI
Co-founder of OPI Suzi Weiss-Fischmann shares how she became a successful businesswoman in the nail industry.
- What inspired you to join the professional nail industry?
“I have always had an unshakeable belief in the transformative power of color. When I first started exploring the world of nail color, I felt something was deeply amiss. The nail category did not offer women anything personal or relevant to their lives, with basic colors and generic, one-size-fits-all names like Red No. 4 and Pink No. 2. Color has always given me joy and hope, and I wanted to share that with other women. I wanted them to have the entire rainbow at their fingertips through OPI.”
- When and how did you get started in your career?
“OPI (which stands for Odontorium Products Inc.) has one of the most unique origin stories; it began not as a professional nail care brand but as a dental supply company during the acrylic movement of the 1980s. My brother-in-law, George Schaeffer, and I noticed that manicurists were buying adhesives intended for producing dentures to apply acrylic nails, as they share a similar chemistry. We saw an opening in the market and seized it. I began dropping off the ‘rubber band special’ at every salon on Ventura Boulevard in Los Angeles. A jar of powder, liquid and primer–rubber-banded together–became the OPI Traditional Acrylic System and was a huge hit, giving OPI its start in the professional nail industry. In 1989, we introduced the first 30 nail lacquer shades, and the rest is history!”
- As a female leader/professional, what are some obstacles you experienced, and how did you overcome them? Have you confronted gender-related roadblocks in your career?
“Rather than gender-related roadblocks, I found most of my challenges to be more personal in nature. As the co-founder of the business, creating something totally new from the ground up, the hardships I experienced were like those of any business owner, such as challenges of scaling and growing a company. I also had to get over my fear of public speaking, which I did reluctantly with a lot of practice. Another challenge I overcame was a fear of making decisions; now, I consider decision-making my business ‘superpower.’ Making quick, decisive, educated decisions is how I have stayed ahead of competitors. As a leader, you can expect and accept that there will be a bumpy road ahead. What is important is to develop resilience and flexibility so you can get up the next day and start all over again. After all, setbacks happen, and from them you have the chance to learn something new.”
- How can women support other women in this industry?
“It is a great industry for women. One way to support other women is as easy as going to a women-owned nail salon to get your manicure or pedicure! Another simple way to support women in the industry is to share their work. I am in awe at the creativity of female nail artists, and showcasing that talent through OPI and my own social channels is very rewarding. As a leader, I think mentoring is so important. The life experiences and lessons I can share will help others on their own journeys. By contributing to someone else’s success, you elevate the entire industry for everyone.
- Tell me about another woman who has inspired you.
“My mommy is my No. 1 inspiration. Despite all the hardships she faced, she was grateful for each day, and I try to embody that same spirit in my life. I am also inspired by women all over the world; the everyday woman is my muse and motivates me to bring happiness and excitement through colors and collaborations.”
- What is one thing you know now you wish you would have known when you started in this business?
“Patience is one of the most valuable skills you can possess as a business owner. As a naturally impatient person, I learned again and again the importance of patience, and the importance of doing something right the first time around.”
- What other key learnings and practices do you wish you to share with other professionals?
“Today, there is often an expectation placed on women in charge that they need to be cutthroat to be competitive, but that is not true. I have always found that being nice, being humble and listening to people has served me well. Instead of pushing others down to get to the top, inspire them and bring them along on the journey. I also believe that no relationship is too small, too insignificant. People invest in people. OPI’s success, and indeed my own personal success, has always been about relationships. From suppliers to the sales force to the maintenance crew, and later in our journey, from fashion editors to public relations pros to celebrity trendsetters—and above all, to the consumer—our business was built on relationships. My final piece of advice: follow-up. Follow up on everything, with a note, an email, a call, a thank-you. Your personal touch will be the key to your success.”