Great Ideas for your Small Business: Become Politically Active
Dal lamagna has sold millions of tweezers. In 1996 he was busy selling himself. “Hi, I’m Dal LaMagna, and I’m running for Congress,” LaMagna said, handing out campaign flyers to sunbathers on Tobay Beach on Long Island.
“LaMagna— rhymes with lasagna.” LaMagna, a successful entrepreneur, spent about $200,000 of his own money to unsuccessfully run against Rep. Peter King (R-NY). King represents the affluent 3rd Dis- trict, which includes Nassau County.
“Tweezerman,” as LaMagna is known, said he decided to run for office when the federal government shut down during 1995’s acrimonious budget debate. “I was outraged,” he said. “Hey, you’re running the largest business in the world.
You don’t shut it down when you’re trying to figure out your budget. Period.” The man his wife Marissa describes as “the Italian Woody Allen” ran on a simple platform: He wants to protect the environment, create jobs, and keep kids off the streets. He’s personally against abortion but believes in giving women the right to choose what’s right for their families. “I care about humanity, I care about social causes, and I care about giving back,” he said.
Looking back, LaMagna said running for public office rep- resents the American Dream. His grandfather emigrated from Italy and shined shoes for a living. His father worked as a longshoreman and fireman to support his wife and five children. He never got to Washington, but he doesn’t regret his attempt. In fact, he might try to run again.
Persistence is what eventually propelled his business to success. The company he founded twenty years ago with $500 worth of tweezers has been growing at a rate of 30 percent a year.
Although LaMagna has an MBA from Harvard University, he’s been involved in a string of entrepreneurial mishaps. In 1969, when teenagers were into free love and rock concerts, he tried turning drive-in movie theaters into discotheques— a major flop. Other ill-fated ventures included selling lasagna pans and producing a coming-of-age movie that tanked.
In 1982, discouraged and nearly broke, he moved back home and took a $6-an-hour job at an electronics firm. It was there he first saw needlepoint tweezers used to pick up tiny electronic parts.
He remembered how difficult it was to remove a splinter he got when sunbathing nude on a roof. So he bought a few industrial tweezers, repackaged them, and tried selling them to lumberyards for splinter removal. A beauty supply shop owner suggested he find a tweezer that would really pluck eyebrows.
Tweezerman tweezers were a big hit, despite selling for $12 when regular tweezers sold for $3. In 1994 Time magazine named his tweezers one of the best products of the year, and sales exploded.
Today Tweezerman markets sixty grooming products and expects to sell close to two million tweezers. The company offers a lifetime guarantee and repairs about 200 tweezers a week free of charge.