When launching his business, Vladimir Zolotnik, co-founder of Belava, a line designed to promote salon sanitation, created his first product before he had a name for his new company.
“Natalie, my wife and partner, came up with ‘Belava,’” Zolotnik says. “We wanted a simple name for the company and for our website. It had a homey sound and would be easy to remember but it doesn’t have a specific meaning.” The concept behind Belava’s beginnings was also simple; design products that make for a safe and sanitary pedicure service and an enjoyable, relaxing visit to a salon.
MODERN spoke with Zolotnik about the reason behind the brand and its future plans.
MS: Please share a bit about the background of Belava.
VZ: It was founded in 2004 by Natalie and myself. It came about out of a conversation we had with someone in our family. They talked about being in a salon and experiencing very unsanitary conditions during a pedicure service. At the same time, there were many accounts of people contracting infections from visiting salons where there wasn’t enough attention to cleanliness or hygiene and the tubs were not being properly cleaned. It sounded to us like a problem to be solved and we saw an opportunity.
I’m an engineer and Nathalie is an accountant so we didn’t have experience in the beauty industry but I understood manufacturing and development. I’ve designed many things so I worked on this myself and we came up with our first Belava product. It was a blue tub and a removable liner.
MS: What was special about the tub and liner and how did you introduce it?
VZ: What was special about the tub is that it had a disposable, pre-fitted liner. It was easy-to-use and ensured that during each service, the client was putting their feet into a clean tub. Of course, it was supposed to be best practice to clean the tubs of these pedicure thrones after each use but that wasn’t happening, everywhere. Those chairs have so much plumbing and piping in the back which creates the perfect environment for bacteria to grow. The removable liners make it simple to be sanitary.
Working with vendors and mold makers from my mechanical engineering past, I made the first prototype and then produced our first batch. In July 2004, during a pretty hot summer, we walked from salon to salon, up and down Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. Then we went to the San Fernando Valley and did the same, salon to salon, on Ventura Boulevard. We talked to everyone, listened and learned. Slowly, we gained some traction. Belava was born in our garage and was built by going door-to-door.
MS: How did you launch to the professional beauty industry?
VZ: After we had tweaked and improved the product, we introduced it at Cosmoprof Las Vegas. We got a booth there and people were very positive in their response. We heard, ‘Finally, someone is doing something about this problem.’ It was pretty inspiring.
We went to more trade shows and talked to the industry. We got more and more feedback about the tubs and liners but we also started to think about our next product. Around 2007, we designed a heated massage unit, the Pro Massager. It’s a very robust, strong massage for either a wet or dry pedicure service. It’s also very quiet so it doesn’t disturb the environment.
MS: Please talk about your chairs that can be used for different services.
VZ: Around 2007, there was a big slowdown in the economy and the nail salons started to slow, as well. We thought it was the perfect time to give beauty professionals and salons a way to use a little bit of real estate to make a profit with just one piece of equipment. We designed a chair that can be used for manicures, pedicures, facials, eyebrows, eyelashes, threading, facial waxing, permanent makeup—the list goes on. It’s very simple, all-in-one, with no need for additional plumbing or permits. All you need is a sink and a client.
Our first chair we called Dolly. The chair was hard to break and easy to fix. You don’t need a professional to change it, you just need a screwdriver. Our chairs are very easy to maintain.
Sole proprietors who work from their own salon suites or booths or who rent space in existing salons loved the chair. So did schools. They are some of our best customers. It’s very sanitary and easy to keep clean which instructors love.
Our second chair, Embrace, had everything: adjustable heater/massage unit, pedicure tub, an attached manicure table and swing bowl. It is our best-selling chair. It’s very compact and can be transported with an SUV
MS: What is next for Belava?
VZ: For the last ten years, Belava has become our life and we’re very quickly outgrowing our Canoga Park, CA headquarters.
We are coming up with new product. We want to increase distribution and to have our name mean reliable equipment. I like to say that the only thing we import is my accent.
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