Nov 19, 2013
by Roland White CBN Feature Writer
In 2010 Light Elegance and McConnell Labs moved to a 13,000 square foot building in the Redmond Enterprise Zone. The new facility is the perfect combination of office, marketing, customer service and manufacturing facility for McConnell Labs to produce the Light Elegance nail products that are sold worldwide.
In 1999 Lezlie McConnell opened a nail salon in Eugene. Although Lezlie’s background was in sales she knew what most women wanted when it concerned beauty was to experience relaxed salon and nail treatments in a posh environment.
Her upscale nail salon was instantly popular as she built the business, listening to her clients and providing them the best possible salon experience. It wasn’t long before her clients and technicians let her know that the nail products available were unsatisfactory due to caustic odors, tedious application process and limited product lifespan.
Lezlie explains, “When I opened my salon I thought the best nail product on the market was acrylics and acrylics were what most nail technicians were trained on. Once I opened the salon and clients started complaining about the smell from the acrylics, I knew I had to look into other options. At that time, I did not know if there was something better on the market but I knew I had to investigate.”
She searched for new products that were odorless and easier to work with but was still not satisfied with the final product. Lezlie says, “The disadvantages of all the acrylic brands was the smell and they were brittle not flexible...the gels on the market were were runny, hard to work with, too flexible and rubbery. That does not make for a happy client and I wanted happy clients.”
Lezlie continued to do her research and eventually found an international product that satisfied her nail techs and clients but it proved to be too expensive to make a profit. “I did finally find a gel with the durability I needed but it was made in Germany and the cost was so high there was not a lot of room for profit.”
Prior to opening her nail salon she met and married her husband, Jim McConnell, who was a chemist. Lezlie explains, “I was married to a polymer chemist who was formulating for a company who manufactured coatings in the wood and transportation industry. The light bulb didn’t go off right away understanding what he did, but one day it came on me…. nails enchainments were just coatings, maybe my brilliant chemist husband could make me a gel for the nail techs in my salon? “It was so exciting for the nail technicians to sit down with a polymer chemist and give him their complete wish list on the perfect nail product. Once Jim knew what the nail techs wanted he went to work inventing his new gel nail product in our garage.”
The salon became the new testing ground for the gel products which became very popular with clients and technicians alike. It wasn’t long before word got out to other nail salons locally and nationally with sales of the products growing by leaps and bounds. With sales increasing the McConnells evaluated the potential for a worldwide market of the Light Elegance products and what began as a garage production facility in 2000 grew into McConnell Labs in 2003.
Although Jim didn’t invent urethane acrylate and urethane methacrylate technology he improved the product says Lezlie, “There were other urethane methacrylate on the market….but he perfected it. He made it more durable to wear, easier to use and later he was one of the first to make a urethane methacrylate polish, which is what put Light Elegance on the map.
“Once people in the nail industry found out Jim was a polymer chemist they started asking us if he could make their gel. Wow, we had not thought about manufacturing for other companies in our industry. Over the last eight years we have really grown the McConnell Labs part of the business and are now making many other nail company’s gels, lamps and other products used in the nail industry.”
Jim has continued to perfect and invent products. He has added a high efficiency UV Curing Lamp to their product line. “All gels (urethane acrylate) need to be cured by a UV or LED curing lamp,” Jim explains. “The Light Elegance lamp is different because ours is the strongest on the market today. The better the cure the shinier the nail and the better the product adheres.
“What really sets us apart from other curing lamps is that they are made at our facility in the U.S. The lamps are assembled at our facility in Redmond but the different parts that make up the lamps mostly come from companies in Oregon, from the shells to the cords. We are very proud of this and have worked hard to keep almost all our manufacturing here in the U.S. All our nail products are made from raw materials we purchase from resins producing companies and all final products are made in Oregon.”
McConnell Labs produces quite a variety of products for the Light Elegance line. “We have about 15 different categories in the Light Elegance line and there are at least 10 products in each category. We offer at least 130 different polish colors and 65 different glitter gels,” Jim explains.
McConnell Labs plans to continue developing Light Elegance products with sales in the U.S. as well as over two dozen foreign countries.
The McConnells say, “The people, the weather and the City of Redmond has been so wonderful to us, they welcomed us with open arms, gave us great tax incentives. They are interested in LIght Elegance and McConnell Labs growth and wellbeing. Central Oregon is a great place to live, do business and create products that are made in Oregon.”
406 Umatilla Ave.
Redmond, Oregon 97756
CEO/ Owner: Lezlie McConnell
No. Employees: 8
Year Established: 1999
Product/Service: Acrylate and urethane methacrylate nail products, gels, wraps and natural nails. Hot News: Recently selected by Redmond Economic Development Inc., to be featured in the first annual Made in Redmond Tour.
Outlook for Growth: Company plans include expansion of 6,000 square foot for warehouse and manufacturing products and continuing to develop international market for a wide range of non-yellowing Light Elegance Nail Products that can be applied to gels, acrylics, wraps and natural nails.
406 Umatilla Ave.
Redmond, Oregon 97756
CEO/ Owner: Jim McConnell
No. Employees: 8
Year Established: 2003
Product/Service: Urethane acrylate and urethane methacrylate nail products.UV Curing lamps Hot News: Recently selected by Redmond Economic Development Inc., to be featured in the first annual Made in Redmond Tour.
Outlook for Growth: Plan to be more vertically integrated in manufacturing process. Laying the ground work to manufacture own urethane acrylate and urethane methacrylate resins in local facility. Allow them to not only manufacture resins for own use but also for other companies who currently purchase from other resin manufacturers.
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