A Polished Performance
An entrepreneur-inventor comes up with a novel way of applying nail polish—and in the process, develops a new demonstration concept in specialty retail.
For the longest time, Fa Park couldn’t get over how complicated the application of nail polish was. He remembers seeing a woman in a chauffeured car in Manhattan, more than 20 years ago, trying to do so at every stoplight. Subsequently Park stopped by his neighbor’s beauty salon and checked out the manicure section. The two events together got him to wonder why nail polish was only applied with a brush. Could it be made into adhesive strips instead? This idea fueled the growth of Incoco; a company that sells self-stick, nail polish strips.
During his initial research Park found there were plastic products with decals that could be applied to nails but there were none made with real nail polish. He began experimenting. Park bought a bottle of nail polish, spilled it onto paper, waited for it to dry and then cut it out, but it didn’t work. Then he bought 3M address labels and poured the nail polish onto the silicone paper backing. That worked better and he knew he was onto something.
Polishing the concept
That was 1988. Park put his budding singing career on hold to focus on his invention full-time. He wanted to make a machine to produce the product in bulk, but did not have the expertise. However, his brother was an engineer in South Korea, so he flew there, and they worked to develop a machine together. “It was a lot harder than I expected,” Park says. It took about two and a half years but they finally developed a working machine.
Park returned to the U.S. in 1990 to sell his product to cosmetics companies. One global cosmetics firm was very interested. “They invited me to a business meeting and asked what our capacity was, because they needed 3 million packages,” he says. The company’s capability was more in the 300-packages range. That deal died, and Park’s brother bowed out, but Park didn’t give up.
Back in the United States, he worked as a music teacher while also attending trade shows and seminars. Park took chemistry and engineering classes to learn the skills that would help him bring his invention to market.
It proved to be worth it when in 2005 Park signed a private label contract with a cosmetics company for 22 million packages. “It was the American dream,” he says. “I never gave up, and I made it.” Park launched his own brand, Incoco, two years later.
The product is entirely American made, a fact Incoco proudly points out in its marketing brochures. Incoco, which has 80-plus employees, is also the only company that both manufactures and sells this product.
In 2009, the first Incoco “Nail Bar” opened in the Garden State Plaza in Paramus, NJ. There are now 30 Incoco carts and kiosks (all called nail bars) in several countries, and Park says his goal is to have 300 by next year. A nail bar is like any nail salon except the staff doesn’t do cuticles and other work on nails. This means the nail bars don’t need special permits to operate. The customer picks the color, and the staff can do the application—staff members also do demos where they teach customers how to apply product.
Applying Incoco nail strips, which come in multiple sizes and feature the equivalent of three coats of polish, takes about five to 10 minutes. The product comes in about 100 colors, and in styles that include French, matte, neon, glitter and chrome. The company is launching a nail art line this year, which will feature designs all made with nail polish. A manicure costs $6 to $12, while the packaged product costs $6 to $7, and can last for two weeks. Customers receive a few extra strips for touch-ups. Polish strips for toenails, which tend to be popular offerings in the summer, are also available.
Retailers buy Incoco product wholesale, and the markup is about four to six times, Park says. A starting package for nail bar products is about $2,500 to $3,000. Incoco sends staff members to train and work alongside new retailers for the first couple of days. Samples are provided to allow retailers to demo the product by applying it to two of a customer’s fingers and enticing them to buy more. According to Park, repeat customers account for about 50 percent of the business. “Once they see the value, they return,” he says.
For more information, please visit incoco.com.