I have never been very typical and have always been proud of that. I like being different in my opinions, ideas and outlook on life. It has allowed to continuously grow and enjoy experiences most people don't give themselves the opportunity to take advantage of. As a matter of fact, my teenage daughters will tell you my number one piece of parenting advice is to try and "not" fit in.
The less we worry about what others think, the more we can follow our heart and chase our dreams. So that is what I did at the age of 48 when I decided to do something totally outside the norm from what my female peers were doing. Instead of fighting the aging process, I decided to use my lifetime experiences in fitness, embrace my maturity and show others that age is just a number and we are only as old as we let ourselves feel. And so the journey to "One Million" social media followers begun.
Like every other challenge I have taken on, I approached this new venture with the same thoughtfulness. I can't count the number of times I have been asked this past year “How did you do it?" It's an anomaly for people to consider how it was possible to grow such a huge social media following in such a short amount of time. I think they believe there is some “magic trick' and want to hear my secret, but my answer is plain and simple. I did my homework and I remained true to myself. Every entrepreneur knows that success is the perfect combination of preparedness and good fortune. My success follows this same logic. I researched, read and asked questions of anyone who seemed to know about the world of social media. Not all of it was accurate and there were a lot of gray areas, still I took it all in and came to my own conclusions.
Then one cold February evening I took my first brave step, uploaded a video of me jumping rope and hit “post". I waited for something to happen. My nerves rattled a little as my very first comment came through. “Wow you are good!". Instant smile. Ok, good feedback. I will continue.
Feeling more confident than ever, I decided it was time to go all out and started to share more about my age and my life as a Psychologist, with a 20 year marriage and two teenage daughters.
As the days passed, I allowed myself to be vulnerable, sharing with whomever would welcome it, the world of fitness I had grown up with. A million doubts raced through my mind. What would people think? Would I get criticized for being too old? Still, I was determined and I knew if I did this right, I had the chance to impact so many people in such a positive way. I was not going to give up. I became more and more passionate about creating new and exciting content. I wanted to share everything I learned throughout my lifetime of fitness, from dancing professional ballet as a child, to teaching aerobic classes back in the 80's, to competing and placing in bodybuilding shows in my early forties. I had learned so much over the years and aside from being able to help my close friends, this was the first time I was getting the chance to share on a much broader level. It was amazing to see comments and questions from all over the globe. I felt connected and inspired in return. I was even given a nickname of the “Jump Rope Queen" because of my unique style of jump rope. I quickly became known for my energy and authenticity.
Not only did I focus on exercise, but as a Psychologist, the mind/body connection has always been a critical part of whom I am. I often spent hours writing content for my motivational posts.
I always told it like it was and people responded well to that. I made a point to network and reach out to others so we could find ways to support one another. Pretty soon, the sponsors started knocking, but I refrained to give in to temptation and focused instead on telling my story rather than looking to turn a buck for a product I didn't believe in. People could tell I was the real deal and came to me with questions on everything from diet to dealing with injuries. I always led them in the right direction if I did not know the answer and did not provide false information or try and take credit I wasn't worthy of. Building a community was first and foremost in my mind. I knew the business end would come down the road, but sometimes we need to hold off and be patient to reach our longer-term goals. This strategy worked for me and now I have a select group of brands I endorse because I have been a loyal consumer of theirs for years. That is refreshing in today's world of false advertising and it makes a valid point that there is still room for integrity.
Feeling more confident than ever, I decided it was time to go all out and started to share more about my age and my life as a Psychologist, with a 20 year marriage and two teenage daughters. Suddenly my momentum was on a fast and steady rise. I was encouraged to branch out to Facebook and YouTube and I partnered with a fitness app company to develop my very own training app that could be used by people all over the world for anywhere/anytime workouts. I hired a branding expert, a videographer and photographer. I even started doing live streams. I was really doing this! It was an amazing feeling to know that I represented every woman and helped them to feel good about themselves again, rather than getting discouraged over photoshopped images. I helped others see they didn't have to be in the field of fitness, or in their twenties to look and feel great, they just had to have the motivation and drive to make their well-being a priority.
I will say that despite the great reward and creativity my new venture has allowed, it is also quite a departure from my everyday life. I would be lying if I said it was easy. As my brand continues to grow, I need to find more and more ways to juggle my primary career and my family. A good friend of mine who is also an entrepreneur asked me how I was managing and what I felt I needed to give up. Then she laughed and said “sleep right?'. I still wonder how she knew. Like anything new, there are always sacrifices to be made, but in the end it is all worth it. What I love best is that I am showing my daughters through example what it means to be a strong independent woman and follow your dreams. I am also showing all women out there that it is never too late to reinvent yourself. If you can help others along the way, well that's really the icing on the cake. I am fortunate at this late stage in my life to create a new exciting adventure for myself, one that is continuing to grow on a daily basis. I wonder what the year ahead will bring. I also know that since I am doing something I feel so strongly about it will only get better and better!
I hope I have inspired you!
In many ways I am a shining example of the American Dream. I was born in Hungary during the Communist era, and my family fled to Israel before coming to the U.S. in pursuit of freedom and safety. When we arrived, I was just a young, shy girl who couldn't speak English. After my childhood in Hungary, New York City was a marvel; I couldn't believe that such a lively, rich place existed. Even a simple thing like going to the market and seeing all the bright, colorful produce and having so many choices was new to me. I'll never take that for granted. I think it's where my love affair with color truly began.
One thing I had was a strong work ethic. I worked hard in school, to learn English, and at jobs including my first job at Dairy Queen -- which I loved! Ice cream is easily my favorite food. From there, I moved into the garment district where my brother-in-law's family had a business. During this time, I was able to see how a business was run and began to hone in on my eye for aesthetics and willingness to work hard at any task I was given.
Eventually, my brother-in-law bought a dental supply company in Los Angeles and asked me to join him. LA, a place with 365-days of sunshine. How could I say no? The company started as Odontorium Products Inc. During the acrylic movement of the 1980s, we realized that nail technicians were buying our product, and that the same components used for dentures were used for artificial nails. We saw a potential opening in the market, and we seized it. OPI began dropping off the "rubber band special" at every salon on Ventura Blvd. in Los Angeles. A jar of powder, liquid and primer – rubber-banded together – became the OPI Traditional Acrylic System and was a huge hit, giving OPI its start in the professional nail industry. It was 1981 when OPI first opened its doors. I couldn't have predicted our success, but I knew that hard work and faith in myself would be key in transforming a new business into a company with global reach.
When we started OPI, what we were doing was something new. Before OPI came on the scene, the generic, utilitarian nail polish names already on the market – like Red No. 4, Pink No. 2 – were completely forgettable. We rebranded the category with catchy names that we knew women could relate to and would remember. The industry was stale and boring, so we made it more fun and sexy. We started creating color collections. I carefully developed 30 groundbreaking colors for the debut collection -- many of which are still beloved bestsellers today, including Malaga Wine, Alpine Snow and Kyoto Pearl.
There is no other nail color brand in the world that touches the totality of industries the way OPI does.
With deep roots in Tinseltown, we eventually started collaborating with Hollywood. Our decision to collaborate with the entertainment industry also propelled OPI forward in another way, ultimately leading us to finding a way to connect with women beyond the world of beauty, relating our products to the beverages they drink, the cars they drive, the movies they watch, the clothes they wear – even the shade they use to paint their living room walls! There is no other nail color brand in the world that touches the totality of industries the way OPI does. It also propelled my growth as a businessperson forward. I found myself sitting in meetings with executives from some of the top companies in the world. I didn't have a fancy presentation. I didn't have a Harvard business degree. I realized that what I had was passion. I had a passion for what we were doing, and I had my own unique story that no one else could replicate.
Discipline, hard work, and passion gave me the confidence to grow from that shy immigrant girl to become the person that I am today
Bit by bit, I grew up with the business. Discipline, hard work, and passion gave me the confidence to grow from that shy immigrant girl to become the person that I am today -- an author, public speaker, and co-founder of OPI, the world's #1 professional nail brand.
I learned quickly that one can be an expert at many things, but not everything. Running a business is very hard work. Luckily, I had someone I could collaborate with who brought something new to the table and complemented my talents, my brother-in-law George Schaeffer. My business "superpower," or the ability to make decisions quickly and confidently, kept me ahead of trends and competition.
Another key to my success in building this brand and in growing in business was being authentic. Authenticity is so important to brands and maybe even more so now in the time of social media when you can speak directly to your consumers. I realized even then that I could only be me. I was a woman who knew what I wanted. I looked at my mother and daughter and wanted to create products that would excite and empower them.
There's often an expectation placed on women in charge that they need to be cutthroat to be competitive, but that's not true. Rather than focusing on my gender or any implied limitations I might bring to the job as a female and a mother, I always focused instead on my vision. I deliberately fostered an environment at OPI filled with warmth. After all, at the end of the day, your organization is only as good as its people. I've always found that being nice, being humble, and listening to others has served me well. Instead of pushing others down to get to the top, inspire them and bring them along on the journey.
You can read more about my personal and professional journey in my new memoir out now, I'm Not Really a Waitress: How One Woman Took Over the Beauty Industry One Color at a Time.