The idea for Tweezerman came to Dal LaMagna during sex.
No, really. I'm not kidding. He was 32, living in Venice Beach, Calif. On a hot was July 4th, he listening to Jimi Hendrix and getting high on his redwood deck, when he saw his neighbors (two sisters) sunbathing naked on their deck. They invited him down to join them. One of the sisters' boyfriends arrived and soon they were, uh, ya know...right there on the deck! And the other sister looked at Dal as if to say, "Well?"
Later on (sorry, that's all the description I'm doing) at home in the shower, he discovered dozens of redwood splinters in his rear end. He took a mirror, a small tweezers and a sewing needle to try to take them out himself, but couldn't. He went to the pharmacy looking for some specialty tweezers -- the kind you use for removing redwood splinters from your butt after sex -- but none existed. Fortunately, one of the neighbor girls extracted them. An idea was born.
Tweezerman was one of dozens of entrepreneurial ventures that Dal LaMagna created. Most of them failed epically. As a college student in Rhode Island, he started what may have been the first electronic dating service and combined it with promoting dances. As a freshman at Harvard Business School, he sought to leverage his scholarship money by buying calls on a hot stock, only to lose everything.
He ran nightclubs, restaurants and ice cream parlors, even produced films in Hollywood -- and got himself into heavy debt. Interestingly though -- and this is the secret of his entrepreneurial success -- he was never defeated by his failures. Each one was an object lesson, in how to negotiate, how to make sure you close on a deal as fast as possible, how to treat people whom you owe money in a way that makes them tolerant of a long payback period, how to get employees to be loyal for life. Often, as we learn from LaMagna's journey, the only way to learn how to do all those things right is to first do them wrong.
LaMagna eventually turned his entrepreneurial instincts into huge success with Tweezerman. Long after his escapades in Venice Beach, he took a job at an electronics firm that used long-nose tweezers to handle components. He remembered his splinters. That's where most people would chuckle, and get on with whatever they were doing. LaMagna had his Eureka moment looking at those industrial tweezers, and then set about creating his own consumer version. He found a manufacturer, did the packaging and then wore out lots of shoes hustling them to pharmacies.
Eventually, he realized he could have a wider market in the beauty shop business, so he focused there to great success. One day he walked into an account with his Dal LaMagna Grooming products (that was the name of his company originally) and the receptionist yelled out, "Hey, everybody, the Tweezerman is here!" And the rest, as they say, is history.
LaMagna's success with Tweezerman was part resilience, part promotional genius (billboards on New York highways that said, "We aim to tweeze"), and a very big part of what he calls socially responsible capitalism: including employees in stock ownership, and making everyone responsible for outcomes and failures. He also ran for Congress, and even for President. His personal story is colorful, but his entrepreneurial lessons revealed in his book are invaluable.