Painting The Town

Polished Off

And then it broke loose. Hard Candy had one of the shortest fuses in the history of explosive products. Celebrities were among the first to bite. Before long, actresses Alicia Silverstone and Drew Barrymore were flashing Hard Candy polishes. Then came the fashion press. "Before the end of the summer, Seventeen, Elle and Vogue were writing about our stuff," Dineh says. "It gave us national exposure, but we were not prepared for the response."

"Suddenly people were ordering more than we could possibly make," says Einstein. "We got our friends involved. At one point, we had 12 people working out of a two-room guest house" (behind the apartment Dineh and Einstein lived in).

Hard Candy became the creature that ate its founders' personal lives. "Every room in the house was polluted with this stuff," says Dineh. Not only was the business physically overwhelming, but it was also a mental challenge of Olympian proportions. "I didn't know anything about business," Dineh explains. "I didn't have any computers, except for this Macintosh with Quickbooks on it. I was overwhelmed and burned out."

In came Mom to save the day. Dineh and Pooneh's mother, Shahnaz, wasn't a Fortune 500 executive, but she had run their father's medical offices for years. Sensing that her daughters were a little taxed, Shahnaz flew in from Michigan and got to work. "She set up our Visa machine so we could accept orders over the phone. She helped us get a real manufacturer. She handled invoices," says Dineh. "She was so crucial in this business. I know we wouldn't be here today if it weren't for her help."

That help also took the form of an investment from Mom and Dad. Dineh won't disclose the actual amount, but she readily acknowledges that it was substantial--in the six-figure range. The money also enabled the partners to move the company to a commercial office in Beverly Hills in 1995.

But even the strongest parental support wasn't enough to keep Hard Candy from cracking. The exponential growth continued, and as it did, Dineh's exhaustion multiplied. Things got out of hand. Hard Candy simply couldn't keep pace with demand. The pressure mounted.

"I didn't sleep. I didn't eat. I was a working fool," Dineh confesses. "My learning curve could not keep up with the [company's] growth curve--there was no way." She reached the point where she didn't care about turning a profit or building an empire. Dineh was literally on the brink of collapse when she did what just might be the smartest possible thing: She let go.

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This article was originally published in the February 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Painting The Town.

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