By Angela Rose | Jun 06, 2022
A biochemist with a background in both education and research science, Valenty discovered a passion for product development while working for a variety of large corporations in diverse chemistry fields. She made an entrance into the beauty industry with the invention of the world's first UV curable nail polish top coat for the husband of a local nail technician whose clients were always smudging their manicures before they were dry.
"It was a great opportunity for me," Valenty says. "I worked on it at night and on weekends and holidays. After one year -- and 300 plus trial formulations -- I had something with all the things he wanted. The client's nails were dried in under 10 minutes -- three minutes of air drying and then a three-minute exposure to UVA light -- and the polish was removable with Acetone."
Though the want-to-be entrepreneur who commissioned the novel product eventually declared bankruptcy, Valenty had retained the patent to her invention and was able to sell a new-and-improved version of her UVA-curable nail polish top coat to another business. She developed multiple additional products as well, and VB Cosmetics began private label manufacturing a variety of them for early-stage cosmetics companies who needed to build their brands.
During this time, Valenty was also working on a new iteration of her nail polish invention that would avoid animal by-products, toxic chemicals, and a common ingredient -- known as nitrocellulose -- that contributes to nail yellowing, while no longer requiring UVA or UVB light to facilitate quick drying. Along with her husband, Steven, the company's vice president, she launched the Dazzle Dry system at Cosmoprof in Las Vegas in 2007.
"It took me 10 years to perfect it," Valenty says of her four-product nail polish system. "I used the education that I had gathered in my years of being a chemist and working in different fields of chemistry to do it. It will dry in five minutes after you apply the topcoat, stay on natural nails for at least seven days, is non-yellowing, and will come off with regular polish remover."
Though launched with only nine classic colors, the Dazzle Dry line now offers more than 593 SKUs to professional nail salons and spas across the U.S., e-commerce consumers, and prestige shoppers on Amazon and QVC.
Every product in the Dazzle Dry system is manufactured in the company's 40,300-square-foot facility in Chandler. Valenty estimates that VB Cosmetics will manufacture at minimum 840,000 total units this year with a stretch goal to exceed more than 1 million units for the first time.
"VB Cosmetics is the only U.S. nail polish company that is vertically integrated under one roof," Valenty continues. "We have to be vertically integrated because Dazzle Dry is a unique product utilizing a different material set than traditional polishes."
She explains that other nail polish brands in the U.S. buy nail lacquer bases and color concentrates from two large manufacturers on the East Coast. While some buy the components already mixed, others mix their own colors and send them to outside vendors to bottle the products. Smaller, indie brands may even bottle by hand.
"We are making everything in-house on our own," Valenty explains, "which allows us to check the raw materials that come in and make sure that they are fit for our end product that we are claiming is clean, nontoxic, and non-yellowing. We have to do the work in order to have control over the quality of our product."
VB Cosmetics has made significant investments in manufacturing automation and other technology to accomplish this goal. This includes analytical instruments for quality control of all incoming solvents and other raw materials, instruments that control particle size distribution to optimize the pigment milling process, and a multiangle spectrophotometer to accurately determine the color space of each lacquer.
Automatic dispensing equipment helps the manufacturing team build colored polishes more consistently and safely, while state-of-the-art mixers blend the colored lacquers more efficiently. Automated bottling machines -- designed and built in Arizona -- enable a smaller footprint for filling product bottles.
"We continue to look for opportunities to employ automation and robotics to relieve our staff of tedious work tasks, upgrade staff skillset, and provide a more enjoyable work environment while increasing the efficiency of our operations," says Valenty.
Challenges: In Q2 of 2020, VB Cosmetics' sales to professionals within the nail industry fell to almost zero as salons and spas were closed due to COVID mandates. Fortunately, the company's e-commerce sales channel helped to keep business going as home consumers bought record quantities of nail polish and enabled the business to end that year profitably and enjoy 26 percent year-over-year growth in 2021.
The pandemic-hampered supply chain, however, is still posing challenges. "Everything from raw materials to parts to packaging and equipment takes much longer than before COVID," Valenty says. "Our in-house inventory has ballooned because of that. If it takes six months to get some packaging material, you need to have a whole year supply. And because of that, we have to manage our cash. Since we don't have outside investors, we are building the company using revenues and profits. The more inventory we have to buy, the less profit, and the less we have for investments."
Opportunities: "Significantly increasing our market share in the U.S. and gradually increasing our global sales in selected regions," says Valenty.
Needs: Valenty says that the professional development of VB Cosmetics' staff is a big need. "With COVID, the difficulty of finding skilled workers is tougher," she continues. "Some of the staff that we hired do not have experience in our industry or the tasks we have available. We need to train them, and we're getting help from the Arizona MEP -- that's the Manufacturing Extension Partnership. They've been helping us with providing consultants at reduced rates."
Currently, VB Cosmetics has two open positions as well. "We're always looking for individuals who share our values," says Valenty, "to bring new expertise to VBC."