We recently connected with Vivian Valenty and have shared our conversation below.
Hi Vivian, thanks for joining us today. Can you recount a story of an unexpected problem you’ve faced along the way?
I started my business in 1990 inventing marketable products that solve problems. Because of the investment capital needed to bring products into the market, I decided not to sell them under a brand that I own, but to build the business manufacturing them. I incorporated VB Cosmetics in 1993 and sold the products to start-up marketing companies in the beauty industry under their own labels. It took me 14 years to realize that I had to build my own brand to have any chance of retiring with a positive, enduring, lifetime legacy.
In 2007, I launched Dazzle Dry® as my own brand after ten years of its product development. I invested in printed trade magazines advertisements, exhibiting in tradeshows, retained a New York City-based PR agency and a manufacturer’s rep group, and commissioned an e-commerce website.
I was optimistic that because Dazzle Dry is a unique product that solves the problems women complain about with traditional nail polishes, the business will take off within two years of its introduction. Therefore, keeping our 30+ employees made sense to me as we will need them for the anticipated volume of business I thought will be forthcoming.
But I did not expect nor planned for the recession that started in 2009. To make matters worse, my two-year old website went down. By year-end 2010, I had used up the company’s line of credit and with the paltry sales orders from a handful of customers, the company was theoretically bankrupt. It was the first, thankfully and hopefully, the only time during my business ownership years that I cried.
How did I get my business to bounce back from such a deep hole? My husband did not lose faith in me and urged me to keep the business going until I spent our last penny. It required a heart of steel to let go of 20 employees. The ones we kept agreed to take a 30% cut in pay and help us through the recession. A friend suggested a call to the Small Business Development Center (SBDC). The SBDC assigned a counselor with marketing expertise to help me. The first question the counselor asked was, “Do you have a business plan?” I answered, “Yes”. He said, “Show me.” I pointed to my head, saying, “It’s all here.” To which, he replied, “If it is not in writing, you don’t have one.” He gave me weekly homework to finish each section of the business plan and by the end of the third month, I had a complete plan. Amazing things happened afterwards. Every step in the plan materialized according to their priority without any effort on my part. It is as if the universe read my plan and brought what I needed to my doorstep. Perhaps it was serendipity at work! Because I wrote down the steps I needed to take, I recognized the solution when presented. These were the critical steps in the order they happened:
1. Find a web designer to build a new website. A web designer called an offered a complete e-commerce site in one month and take care of all online marketing initiatives. In essence, he served as my webmaster and marketing agency for a modest monthly fee. The contract was for two years and renewable. The website brought sales that exceeded his monthly fee every month. We experienced double digit year-over-year growth every year and renewed our agreement twice.
2. Hire a salesperson. An experienced sales person showed up and agreed to a creative pay structure that is based on the company achieving milestones.
3. Exhibit at a few tradeshows to demonstrate the products.
4. Hire an excellent educator to build the education team. Sales and education became indomitable team in opening new accounts.
5. Redesign the product packaging. We came up with a plan that was affordable and enabled us to build inventory of new look while minimizing the disposal of products in the old look.
The above steps pulled VB Cosmetics away from the brink of bankruptcy and using judicious management of cash flow to avoid approaching outside investors for operating capital. We continue to have double digit year-over-year growth and increasing the number of our loyal fans, thanks to our unique product that delivers on our claims, great customer experience, and continuous improvement company culture.
As always, we appreciate you sharing your insights and we’ve got a few more questions for you, but before we get to all of that can you take a minute to introduce yourself and give our readers some of your back background and context?
I have a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from Penn State University. I have been a chemist for 58 years, the last 32 years have been developing products mainly for the nail industry. In years past, I served as an Assistant Professor at Skidmore College, a research scientist at the New York State Department of Health, and a product chemist/inventor at Tate & Lyle and General Electric.
The following are the products that I invented and sold to clients who retired as multi-millionaires when they sold their business:
1. I got into the nail industry in 1990 by inventing a product that dries freshly applied nail polish in less than ten minutes. It was the first time UV curing technology. was used for this purpose. Traditional nail polish takes at least 60 minutes to dry and this product saved women time while allowing nail techs to put more money in their pockets.
2. In 1994 I invented a coating to allow sublimation dye printing of ceramic mugs that withstand automatic dishwashing. Prior to this invention, sublimation dye decorated ceramic mugs have to be hand-washed to prevent delamination and bleaching of the print.
3. In 1997 I created a product that became the nail industry standard for fast and easy callus reduction.
I am most proud of Dazzle Dry, a nail polish system that dries fast, wears like a gel, and removes like a polish. This product gives women their life back as it only takes five minutes to dry. It gives women using it peace of mind knowing that it contains no harmful chemicals. It saves users money as they can keep it on for two weeks versus the two to three days they get from traditional polish, while giving the confidence to show off their beautifully polished nails because it does not chip prematurely. It gives me pride and pleasure to help in combatting global warming by planting trees because for every order we receive online, we plant one tree in partnership with WeForest. In less than four years, we have planted 247,037 trees and helped educate the communities of the reforested areas have a more sustainable way of life. Dazzle Dry also have allowed me to support non-profits with improving the education of young women such as the Girls Opportunity Alliance. Dazzle Dry will help achieve my goal of leaving a positive legacy for the planet and its inhabitants.
How about pivoting – can you share the story of a time you’ve had to pivot?
I have many stories but the most recent one happened in 2020 when the Covid pandemic hit the US and the states were announcing lockdowns. We looked at several scenarios for the business and our analysis was definitive. We had to remain open or else we will not survive. As soon as we found out that we would be considered an essential business and can remain open if we manufactured hand sanitizers, we scrambled to purchase isopropyl alcohol USP grade as much as we could and produced the FDA approved hand sanitizer. We did not sell a drop of this product. We donated our total production to the Salvation Army which distributed it to the first-line responders, Fire Departments, hospitals, etc. in the City of Chandler, State of Arizona and Navajo Nation.
Can you tell us the story behind how you met your business partner?
My co-founder/business partner is my husband, Steve. We met while in graduate school. He did not notice me at first but I noticed him during our first year at Penn State. He was the speaker at the first graduate chemistry colloquium that I attended. I was impressed. We passed each other in the hallway a couple of times during the next two years and I remember how thrilled I felt hearing him say hello in a baritone almost bass voice.
In early January 1969, a female classmate and I had a date to go see a play. I offered to get the free tickets at the student union and went to see her in her laboratory space to announce that our date was on. She informed me sadly that she can’t make it because her fiance was going to call that evening but instead of discarding the tickets, perhaps her lab mate who happened to be Steve, would want to use the ticket meant for her. Steve came over; I handed him the ticket, and he said, “I will see you later”. I did not expect “see you later’ to mean, “it’s a date”. You can imagine how surprised I was when he showed up in my laboratory space an hour later. He handed me a book and said, “you may want to read this before I pick you up at 7 tonight”. The book was the play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. by William Shakespeare.
That unplanned date was the beginning of a fast-track romance, and he proposed marriage, which I accepted at the end of February! Our wedding happened in August with his close relatives and our classmates in attendance. All of my family were in the Philippines and no one could make it to the wedding.
This August, Steve and I will celebrate our 53rd anniversary!
- Website: https://dazzledry.com
- Instagram: dazzle_dry
- Facebook: Dazzle Dry
- Linkedin: VB Cosmetics, Inc.
- Twitter: beautymadeeasy