How we formed a Nail Polish Company in just 20 quick years and 5 easy steps.
Welcome to the story of Polston & Co! Our family run business is comprised of a father and son and their wives. We research, develop, and manufacture non-toxic nail polish and related products. The four of us would like to introduce you to our story. If you’re interested, continue on. If you’d rather just read the short version or skip this to shop, we won’t mind!
Step One: Genius Gathering
In our particular scenario I am not so much a genius but more a coordinator of genius. My own personal journey can be explored here. Today I’m going to focus on the Co. in Polston & Co.
Since I’m telling our story, I’m going to do it my way. I discovered Norman2 in 1998, the genius chemist brain integral to the advancement of this technology, our company, its products, and, although I didn’t realize it then, the father of my true love. I found him at a dinner party I attended with a now ex-boyfriend (not my true love as it turned out). When I met Norman he had been formulating paint in private practice for 6 years. He was managing more orders than he could fill, had two revolutionary products in two different industries, and really needed a hand. Together we expanded the business, bringing the manufacturing of our products under our roof, and other business-y things like setting goals, building out our market presence, etc.…
By the end of that first year we had a beautiful manufacturing facility, the formulas were set, the accounting software in place, the private label orders begging….now we need a genius industrial engineer to run the plant (actually I don’t know if we needed an industrial engineer specifically, but that’s what we had access to….) Norman’s son Jared was living a charmed life in Colorado, big open sky, thriving business, snow skiing. He was totally unsuspecting of the plan that was put into motion that would yank him east to Pennsylvania. After much cajoling Jared sold his home and business in CO, more about him here3, and joined us in Pennsylvania. It was going to be fabulous! Until we met. The record came to a screeching halt (did you hear the screech?). Wow. Nothing meshed. Not our politics, not our food choices, not our cars (Chevy for me, Ford for him). It was a rough start. Norman, for some unknown reason saw the value in us 3 as a team and dragged us to counseling, company lunches, company retreats. None of that worked (but bless him for trying!). It turned out what we needed was a 1985 Ford Mustang and 4 years later we were married. I digress. Soon Tina, Norman’s lovely wife joined our team. She plays the intermediary; the master at Robert’s Rules or some adaptation of them, she reminds us of our focus and helps to cut a clear path toward it. I like to think of Tina5 as our glue, or maybe as a masterful overseer…..
The important thing to take away from step one is: we found our genius. We needed the four of us. We discovered we shared a vision and plan to reach it, then, we fought to keep it together. (Maybe not in that order…but, it worked for us.)
Step Two: We determined the WHY
Why do we want to manufacture and sell an alternative to a huge multimillion/billion dollar industry? Why not just jump on board and make what everyone else makes with a better label? I’ll tell you why not, and it’s not all tree-hugging. Of course, Norman could throw some formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate, in a mixer with some really sexy red pigment, whip it all around and produce a solvent based nail polish, and he could probably do it better than anyone else (from what I understand it actually doesn’t take a genius to do this), but the truth is we like Jared, love Jared. Asking Jared to handle toxic chemicals, risk his lungs, his skin, his life for nail polish, no thanks! Also, Jared every day in a haz-mat suit is a real waste of a fabulous body…… So, caring about our manufacturer is one reason, the other is the ethics of it all. Continuing a tradition of beauty products UNHEALTHY6 for its users, not just the retail customers but the whole chain from manufacturers to nail salon workers7 is unconscionable. If we wouldn’t want the exposure, why would we promote it and sell it and expose millions of others to it? We represent an alternative for those who want it, and a stepping stone for those not ready to take the plunge. We’ll never stray from our ethics. Also, non-toxic paint manufacturing is fun, just ask Jared.
Step Three: Identifying our tribe
So we have the HOW and we know our WHY next was figuring out WHO cares? Who is our tribe? Who shares our ethical convictions and our love for products that add to a beauty routine in a meaningful way? My guess is YOU are an example of our customers! We are fortunate that our products have a wide reach. Busy moms working in and out of the home love our Signature Foundation & Finisher and the Tenacious Top Coat for the time it saves them, 20-somethings love it for the durability it gives their painstakingly done nail art, rock climbers, mud runners, and other athletes love it for the overall way it protects their manicure, users who have educated themselves on harmful beauty products, avoiding toxic chemical exposure, women with allergies, and your good old fashioned but right on trend tree-huggers are finding us and using our products. And there you have the origin of our tribe. We admire each and every one of them and strive to empower their individuality.
Step Four: Stick to your Guns
“Do what is right not what is easy.” Every new product launch and direction we take our products and company provides us with a period of reflection. Are we making decisions that reflect our mission8? We are launching the Signature Foundation and Finisher and Tenacious Top Coat proudly labeled “8 free”. We’re not blasting all over the label: “USE US, THEIR’S MIGHT CAUSE CANCER” (I don’t know that solvent based polishes will cause cancer, but you get the idea…). We believe we should give you products that stand on their own as excellent, not a lesser but necessary alternative. Use them because they work, we launched them because they work. To learn more about what “8 Free” represents check out this post9 by Norman.
Step Five: Hitting our Stride
There is a lot of good that comes from a family business. Our relationships are strong. We’ve learned to disagree in a healthy way, much better than the early days before I was actually family. There are grandkids for Norman to dream about becoming chemists and carrying on the family business. We work bi-coastal most of the year. It works for us and keeps us in tune with what’s happening coast to coast in fashion, legislation and regulation affecting our industry.
Norman and his wife Tina live in California for the winter and Vermont for the summer, Jared and I hold down the fort outside of Philadelphia. Our Polston & Co. meetings are lively and often include a gin and tonic on a deck in Vermont and lots of interruptions by small children.
Jared never expected to find himself making nail polish, I never expected to be coordinating a family business, and Norman, well, this may be exactly what Norman expected…..
It’s a great adventure and none of us would change it. We hope you’ve enjoyed learning about us! Please tell us a little about YOU in the comments.