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At Ease, Private! Private labeling offers an end to all the woes of dealing with retailers.

By Don Debelak

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Private labeling wasn't part of Michael Levin's initialgame plan. The idea for his innovation, a clear plastic overlay forbroken fingernails that adheres with a nail-friendly adhesive,first struck Levin back in 1989, when his then-girlfriend cracked anail. At the time, she couldn't find a product to repair thenail-and she complained to Levin that cracked nails were a commonproblem among all women. Levin, sensing an opportunity, decided tohire a market research firm to evaluate the market. The resultswere staggering. Levin, now 42, reports that "60 percent ofthe women [surveyed] broke a nail once a month, and 35 percentbroke a nail once a week."

Levin perfected his clear plastic overlay design in 1992, aftersearching for and experimenting with dozens of plastics andadhesives. But when Levin tried selling the product directly toretailers, he was in for quite a reality check. With the productretailing for just $3 to $4, Levin found that "drug storechains weren't willing to add a low-priced, low-volume itemfrom a one-product vendor."

That's when Levin considered all his options and decided toprivate label. "Lots of nickels are better than a fewdimes," Levin reasons. The most consistent of the threeprivate label customers he's worked with, ProfessionalSolutions, signed on in 1994 and has since sold Levin's productunder the name Instant Nail Repair. The decision proved to be asmart one for Levin: Since 1995, his Danville, California, company,Custom Solutions, has been selling about 1.5 million units of theinstant nail-repair product per year.

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