Painting The Town

Nailing It Down

It was time for the big guns. It was time for a guy who owned neckties and read spreadsheets and spoke the lingo of mergers and acquisitions. "I said, `I'm hiring a CEO,' " says Dineh. " `I'm going to pay him a fat sum of money--all the money I would have made--and let him run everything while I get a massage.' "

With the help of a major consulting firm, Dineh located William Botts, a former cosmetics-industry executive with what Dineh calls "tons of business experience." Botts had, in fact, recently helped another nail polish company through an acquisition by Revlon. "He had technical experience, and he knew how to fix what was going on," says Dineh. "But what I really loved was that he understood my vision and was genuinely excited about it. He was a perfect fit."

Botts did indeed whip Hard Candy into shape, doing everything from cleaning house to bringing accounts on line. It's his expertise and structure that allow Hard Candy to function like the multimillion-dollar company it is. Given the circumstances, hiring a CEO was clearly an intelligent move. But it's also one that many other entrepreneurs have resisted for fear of losing control.

Here, Dineh's youth may have worked in her favor. She is unburdened by ego; she has nothing to prove. Getting help wasn't a sign of weakness but a matter of practicality. Likewise, retaining creative control of the company isn't a complex psychological issue. It's simple. "You just say what you want," Dineh explains. "Bill is a strong-minded person. He has his own opinions and a lot of experience, and I respect what he says. But I also understand that if I don't say what I want, I will lose control. I came to terms with that very quickly."

Today, the Hard Candy team appears to be a happy little ecosystem. Pooneh, who is a lawyer, handles contracts, administration and financials. "Dineh and I are very different, but that works out fine," says Pooneh. "She's very creative, and I tend to be focused on the business side of things."

Einstein and Dineh, on the other hand, tend to think alike. A musician in the few free hours he has, Einstein is a creative powerhouse in his own right. Though he gives Dineh full credit for being the brains behind Hard Candy's success, he's an important piece of the puzzle--an equal partner in brainstorming sessions and an equal pair of hands when the hard work begins.

And if Dineh herself isn't exactly limp with relaxation these days, she is energetic and focused instead of fried. Having a CEO in place has enabled her to concentrate on her true calling: spinning out the style that's made Hard Candy famous.

It isn't easy being hip. Because Hard Candy positioned itself on the cutting edge from the start, it can't simply follow fashion. It has to be out in front. Although Hard Candy's initial colors--which were heavy on the pastels--vaulted the company into the major leagues, the pressure is constantly on to create still newer, hipper colors. Other creations include "Porno," a deep metallic red, "Heist," a nonmetallic chartreuse, and "Trailer Trash," a metallic silver.

How does she know whether metallic silver will actually work? For Dineh, it's a question of following her gut. "Ever since I've known Dineh, she's been able to look at things and say `That's cool' or `That's cheese,' " says Einstein. "Even in [high] school, she'd do something that everyone would say was stupid, then six months later they were all [copying her]. She was six months ahead of everyone else, which is a huge advantage now."

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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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