The Little-Known Tale of OPI’s Unlikely Origins

OPI’s origin story is probably one of the most unique business stories in the history of the beauty industry.

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OPI’s origin story is probably one of the most unique business stories in the history of the beauty industry.

I was in my 20s, working with my brother-in-law at a small dental supply company in L.A., and we noticed that nail technicians kept coming in to buy our products. Realizing that dentures and artificial nail extensions share similar chemistry, we saw an opening in the market and seized it.

We knew we could make a safer, higher quality product than what was already being used, and after two years of formulation, I began dropping off the “rubber band special” at every salon on Ventura Blvd. 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.

Later, it was my interest in fashion and design that prompted me to take OPI into the world of color in 1989. Our unconventional beginnings convinced me that listening to your instincts is key in business—especially the beauty business, where trends are constantly changing.

When I first started exploring the nail polish beauty category, I concluded that the category was missing the mark with women. It wasn’t personal and it wasn’t relevant to their needs, desires, and beauty aspirations.

It needed to be developed by a woman who was just like them—me! A working mom with a busy family and professional life, I was looking for the same things other women were: quick beauty solutions, a spark of color that could lift my spirits, and nails I could be proud to show off, whether sophisticated, sexy or just plain fun.

For more OPI history, and how I managed to juggle it all, check out my new book I’m Not Really a Waitress: How One Woman Took Over the Beauty Industry One Color at a Time.

Originally published on Quora. 

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