Women's History Month Spotlight: Vivian Valenty

Vivian Valenty
Vivian Valenty
Courtesy of Dazzle Dry

The founder and president of VB Cosmetics and the creator and manufacturer of Dazzle Dry Vivian Valenty, Ph.D., offers a deep dive into her career and advice for women who are business owners and professionals.

  1. What inspired you to join the professional nail industry?
    “Serendipity got me into the professional nail industry. As the program leader for a venture group of a global company, I was managing a product line that had potential uses in the electronic/semiconductor industry. After the venture group had changed ownership three times and I was tired of putting up with gender-related obstacles in the corporate world of that time, I needed a new focus. When the idea of developing a top coat for the professional nail industry came to my attention through my husband’s chemical consulting company, I took on the challenge by working on the project at night, during weekends and holidays. After a year and over 300 trial formulations, I had a sample that dried traditional nail polishes within just six minutes using UV light. This was to become the world’s very first UV Top Coat. In 1990, I sold the patent and left the corporate world to manufacture my new top coat while innovating and creating other new products under private label for emerging entrepreneurial brands.”

  2. When and how did you get started in your career?
    “My career as a chemist started in 1964 when I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in chemistry from a prestigious school in Manila, Philippines. I was hired just before graduation to be a research chemist at The International Rice Research Institute and focused on elucidating how the chemical and physical properties of rice starch impact the cooking and eating qualities of the rice grain. I became so excited about the relevance of chemistry to our daily life that after two years, I applied for and received a one-way travel grant with no strings attached from the Ford Foundation to pursue graduate studies in organic chemistry at The Pennsylvania State University. I graduated from this institution in 1971 with a Ph.D. in organic chemistry specializing in biochemical processes.”

  3. 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?
    “The Equal Rights Amendment had not yet come into being at the start of my career, and as one would expect, there were gender-related roadblocks. I was not an activist and chose to overcome these roadblocks via sheer grit and determination, hopeful that performance in my work would forge my success.

    “I experienced this gender-related roadblock also in graduate school. Thus, my husband and I decided after graduation that he would become the sole breadwinner, while I would focus on the family. I would not look for a job to foster my career until we became a family of four and were comfortable in leaving the children with a daycare provider. This time came four years later when I landed a job as an assistant professor of organic chemistry and biochemistry at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York.

    “After two years of teaching, I decided this career path was not for me. Internally driven to innovate, I accepted a research scientist position at the New York State Department of Health in Albany, New York. I then subsequently became a target of sexual harassment, and instead of filing a legal complaint (because I did not think it was the best of my three options), I left this post of four years to pursue work as an industrial research chemist, developing bio-based chemicals from corn and soybean feedstock as alternatives for petrochemicals.

    “Looking back, it is not ironic to me that a toxic disruption led to my eureka moment! Positively rising above adversity and bias has always been my way. Focus on self with daily accomplishments was my key to success. Within my career move, I realized that my true passion and talents lie in the creation of products that solve real-life problems, and focusing on beauty would enable me to help naturally rebuild the esteem of women. I have maintained this core dedication ever since, and my hope is that the work we continue to do at VB Cosmetics and Dazzle Dry will not only help improve the industry and lives of its consumers but also leave the earth a better place for our children to sustain and thrive within—long after we are gone.

    “I will not describe in detail other gender-related roadblocks I have experienced over the years, but suffice to say, there were many and most due to extreme competitiveness prevalent in the then male-dominated community where Machiavellian acts were used to suppress the success of others.”

  4. How can women support other women in this industry?
    “Women should learn how to work collaboratively with other women. Be a mentor, especially to those who are just starting their careers, empowering them to be their strongest and best selves by focusing on setting and accomplishing daily goals. Teach them not to let others detour their power, passions or path. And above all, be transparent in your business dealings, seek common ground whenever possible, and do not settle for anything less than a win-win situation. Always try to purchase products if not a compromise in quality, from women-owned companies. Treat anyone with the same respect or compassion with which you would like to be treated. Let us make courteous respect the new universal contagion, no longer about gender, race or how one identifies self.”

  5. Tell me about another woman who has inspired you.
    “My mother left the most indelible impact on my life. Because of her, I became strong and resilient when faced with adversity. She was the youngest child in a farm tenant family and the only child to get a post-high school education, thanks to her older sister who hand-washed clothes for the wealthy in Manila to support my mother’s college education to be an elementary school teacher. My mother’s goal was to send her six children to college because she realized that education is the ticket to a life better than you came into. She taught me the difference between your needs and your wants, which became the foundation of how I lived on a budget, always within my means. That meant walking instead of taking public transportation to save a dime, eating less, using the library instead of buying the textbooks, renting bed space instead of a whole apartment, making do with one pair of shoes, and coming up with creative ways to save money for a rainy day. Because, believe me, life is not always rosy, and having that cash cushion could be a lifesaver.”

  6. What is one thing you know now you wish you would have known when you started in this business?
    I now know that the biggest challenges in business are managing cash and people. Owning and running your own business is not for the faint-hearted. You must be able to ride the ups and downs, which requires a stout heart. Managing cash for me is simpler than managing people. From an early age, thanks to my mother, I have lived within a budget. To survive, a business must operate in much the same way—it cannot spend more than its sources of cash.

    “People are complex creatures, and a business must be a healthy community to be successful. I am finding out that frequent and transparent communications lead to mutual understanding and building trust. Trust is needed to maintain this healthy community while fortifying a positive and collaborative corporate culture.”

  7. What other key learnings and practices do you wish you to share with other professionals?
    Making a lot of money should not be a business owner’s principal goal, not at the risk of losing one’s soul. Money is a necessary and powerful tool to achieve a company’s goals, but it should not be the primary goal, in of itself. An individual’s and company’s dedication needs to be of higher purpose and commitment to industry and planet. For instance, after reading the FDA’s statement that UV-A (the light emitted by the nail lamps) is potentially more dangerous than UV-B (the light responsible for the tanning in indoor tanning beds), I resolved to no longer create cosmetics that require any exposure to UV light. The slow drying and quick chipping of traditional nail polish remained issues that I felt required a healthier solution than UV-curing products.

    “I spent the next 10 years developing a healthier solution, which resulted in the launch of Dazzle Dry® in 2007. VB Cosmetics’ mission continues to be building a healthy corporate community where members share common goals, accept personal responsibility, earn each other’s respect, excel in their tasks, help each other be successful, and continue our ongoing efforts in social responsibility. We plant one tree for every retail order online to combat global warming and support education-based nonprofits: Girls Opportunity Alliance, Black Girls Code and A Call to Men. We provide participation in profits and creative opportunities for all."

Related: Women's History Month Spotlight: Suzi Weiss-Fischmann

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