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Wella Company Hosts Founders’ Forum With OPI’s Suzi Weiss-Fischmann and Briogeo’s Nancy Twine

The women shared their brand stories and the key to success.

For her first event as chief executive officer of Wella Company, Annie Young-Scrivner gathered OPI’s Suzi Weiss-Fischmann and Briogeo’s Nancy Twine for a founders’ forum aimed to inspire.

Young-Scrivner is relatively new to beauty. Prior to joining Wella in December of 2020, when the company became an independent identity (now under KKR’s ownership), the executive was the CEO of Godiva Chocolatier. And previously, she had a more than seven-year career at Starbucks. At Wella, she oversees a nearly $3 billion portfolio of professional and retail hair and nail brands. Along with OPI and Briogeo, there’s Wella Professionals, Ghd, Sebastian Professional, Clairol and Nioxin.

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Held at company headquarters in Calabasas, California on Nov. 10, the two founders discussed their brand story and the key to success, led by moderator Stephanie Mehta, CEO and chief content officer of Mansueto Ventures.

“We realized that artificial nail extensions have the same chemistry as making dentures,” Weiss-Fischmann said of she and her business partner, brother-in-law George Schaeffer. They had started a small dental supply company before pivoting to the nail industry (OPI stood for Odontorium Products Inc.).

“We saw all these nail salons popping up on Ventura Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles, doing artificial nail extensions called acrylics,” she went on. “We put three products together, the primer, the powder and liquid, called it ‘the rubber band’ special, and George drove the car and I ran into each salon, dropped it off, and I said, ‘Please try it. I’ll be back.’ That was our focus group. I went back two weeks later, and the nail technicians only asked one question: ‘Where can we buy it?’ And that’s how OPI was born.”

She encouraged entrepreneurs to blend imagination and discipline into their business plans, emphasizing the need to act quickly to survive and maintain growth.

No need for “too many executives,” Weiss-Fischmann said. “We had George and I and then we had the management under us ready to manage the meetings and things were done.…We had ideas, and we executed. Speed-to-market was one of OPI’s great successes. In the beauty industry, there’s no time to think too much because trends come and go.”

For Twine, her start began in finance.

“When I started my career, it was actually the start of the financial crisis back in 2007, 2008,” Twine said. “It was a really, really crazy time. A lot of my friends were getting laid off. And also, being a female on Wall Street was really, really tough, especially during that time. And unfortunately, midway through my career at Goldman Sachs, I lost my mom. And it became this catalyst for me to really think about what it was I wanted to do in life. And I decided that I wanted to find my passion.”

During the discovery process, she recalled the time she spent with her mother, a physician and chemist, growing up creating their own skin care products.

“I decided that’s what I wanted to do,” she said. “I wanted to take that childhood memory and actually turn it into something bigger. And that was also provoked by the fact that the industry had really changed. More consumers were seeking out clean and natural products. So, it just made sense for me to focus on that part of the industry.”

It was in 2013 at CosmoProf in Las Vegas that she met buyers from Sephora who felt Briogeo would fill a void in the hair care category. The brand — with “clean” ingredients in mind and using recycled materials in packaging — was made for all hair textures and types.

“Once I got the deal with Sephora, I quit my job at Goldman and here I am now,” she said.

Suzi Weiss-Fischmann, Stephanie Mehta, Annie Young-Scrivner and Nancy Twine. Courtesy of Wella Company

Turning to Young-Scrivner, Mehta said: “You’re in the unusual position of sort of re-founding a company that is 140 years old, and you’re about to celebrate your second anniversary as a standalone company.” What is the new Wella? she asked.

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“We get to focus on hair,” Young-Scrivner said. “We get to focus on nails. I really believe in the entrepreneurial spirit and elevating the founders that we’re so fortunate to work with and to continue to elevate their brands.”

The founders discussed being “scrappy” in their early days, having a start-up mentality, a clear vision and unstoppable determination to succeed.

“When I meet entrepreneurs that don’t end up finding the success that they were looking for, it’s not because they didn’t have a great product or great service, it’s because they let the challenges stop them too soon,” said Twine. “And so, staying positive and figuring out creative solutions to solve problems is really critical.”