5 Questions With… Tony Cuccio
DAYSPA checks in the with beauty biz maverick.
Beauty biz entrepreneur Tony Cuccio started Star Nail in 1981, selling cosmetics out of a suitcase on Venice Beach, California. “We rented a five-square-foot empty lot for $200,” Cuccio recalls. “The guy who owned it thought I was nuts. But it gave us the opportunity to meet salon owners on their days off. We built an entire wholesale business on the beach and it just took off from there.” Since those humble beginnings, Tony and Roberta Cuccio (the business partners have been married 32 years), have grown Star Nail into a multimillion-dollar global company, expanding even further in 1999 when they added Cuccio Naturalé natural hand-and-foot care products to their empire. Today, when he’s not pitching the family’s products, blogging about the industry or training spa owners around the world, Tony’s cheering the accomplishments of his two grown daughters (a doctor and a beauty school grad) and, occasionally, sailing the high seas with friends. —Lisa Sweetingham
Tony, what’s the biggest and most common mistake you see spa owners make?
Waiting for business to come to them. If I could give one seminar to every salon or spa owner in the world, it would be on how to promote business and cross-market to customers. For instance, let your nail tech give your hairstylist a mani/pedi, along with five business cards with the tech’s name on the back. The hairstylist’s clients will notice her beautiful nails and for every client referral that brings, the nail tech gives the hairdresser $5. Spa owners should also incorporate more teaser or introductory offerings, such as inexpensive mani/pedis and express services, just to get the customer inside the spa to see what it’s all about. It’s very important to make the spa more appealing to women who might be hesitant to try it.
Do you get pedicures?
I get manicures and pedicures every three to four weeks, schedule permitting, and I always bring in my own tools and products for the nail tech to use. I won’t let them touch me with anything else.
What was the last good book you read?
The Elephant Whisperer: My Life with the Herd in the African Wild [by conservationist Lawrence Anthony]. It has interesting lessons from the wild—and from the instincts of elephants—that you can apply to your life and your business. It teaches you a lot about people.
What would you tell your 25-year-old self if you could go back in time?
The only thing I’d have done differently is I’d have invested more in advertising. Early on, I went for short-term advertising and marketing to put more money in my pocket. If I could do it all over again? I’d have parlayed more of the profits into advertising so I could build a bigger brand name.
If you hadn’t become a beauty biz titan, what would you have done instead?
When I was 16, my father died of a heart attack. There was nobody there to give him CPR. That really affected me. I actually went to school for respiratory therapy, but I didn’t have enough money to finish my education. So, I probably would have pursued something in the medical field, maybe taking care of patients in their homes.