Essie Weingarten's nail polish has been on some of the most famous nails in the world, from Madonna to Sen. Hillary Clinton to Britney Spears. Her colors are bright and fanciful from reds to pinks, and even shimmering blues. They come in little bottles that look more like toys than fashion accessories.
"I have been on the most famous nails you can imagine," Weingarten told Sunday Morning correspondent Mika Brzezinski.
American women spend nearly $1 billion a year on their nails and it is a business as fiercely competitive as any in the fashion world. Although corporate giants like Revlon and Maybelline count for most of the retail sales, Weingarten's company, called Essie, has made a name for itself in nail salons across the country as the colors with the catchy names. Some of them include "Fishnet Stockings," "Sugar Daddy," and "Room with a View."
If you happen to be among the millions of American women who have worn Essie, you might wonder where all those names come from. Weingarten, who says "a well dressed woman always gets her nails done," said her million-dollar idea came to her as a little girl.
"When I was very young, my treat was getting my nails done and there were never any great colors," she said. "There was red, there was platinum, which was a frosted white, a bright pink, a medium pink, a mauve; that was it."
Even then, she was formulating her business plan.
"In the back of my mind, I always thought, 'Hmm, maybe one day I can find a chemist, come up with a great formula, and then I'll do the colors,'" she said.
In 1981, with a degree from New York's Fashion Institute of Technology, Weingarten decided to make her childhood dreams a reality and invested $10,000 of her hard earned cash to make and market her first 12 colors. She gambled that Las Vegas would be the place to show her hand.
"I thought I'd get more bang for my buck in Las Vegas," She said, "We had dancers, we had dealers, we had bartenders. We had all these women who were exposed to the public and always had their nails and toes perfectly manicured."
Her test marketing was a huge success. Within a week, the orders started pouring in.
"They thought it was the best nail polish they've ever used," Weingarten said. "It went on like silk and lasted like iron."
Twenty five years and 300 colors later, the girl from Queens has an apartment on Park Avenue, a house in the Hamptons, and a $150 million empire with her name on it. Essie nail polish is sold in 50,000 salons and spas across the nation and more than 60 countries worldwide.
"I never thought there would be nail salons on every corner," she said. "Even in the middle of the country, women have now found that that half hour pleasure of going to get their nails done really does something for them. There was never a nail salon in Paducah, Kentucky. There is one now."
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