Welcome to the Eventual Millionaire Podcast. I’m Jaime Tardy and today we have Sue Ismiel on the show. Sue is the creator and owner of Nad’s The Hair Removal Experts. Created in her kitchen in Australia and named after her oldest daughter, Nadine, Nad’s has had a huge success all over the world. I can’t wait to find out how a medical records keeper has created an international business. So thank you so much for coming on today, Sue.
SUE ISMIEL: Thank you, Jaime. It’s great to be here.
JAIME TARDY: Well first let’s sort of go back and get some background. How did you start in business and how did you grow up?
SI: Wow. That’s a long time ago. How did I start in business? They say necessity is mother of invention. I was a woman on a mission. It was like the military mission. I just had to solve my daughter’s unwanted hair problem and nothing was going to stand in my way. So I became this mad scientist with no scientific qualifications and I turned my kitchen into a laboratory and I used the men in my life as lab rats and the rest is history.
Where do I come from? That’s a question about my cultural background?
JT: Yeah, in reading your information you’re not from Australia, right?
SI: Well that’s correct. I was born in Syria and my family migrated to Australia in the early ‘70s. I was 15 years of age back then and I suppose who we are depends on those crucial, those defining moments that transform us as human beings and in my case, there are many defining moments that have helped me transform from a lost and confused little girl to who I am today – a proud owner of an international business that I run from my office that is based right here in Sydney.
JT: Excellent. So tell me more about that. What made you go from Syria to Australia?
SI: I guess my parents were looking for a better life for the family. My father decided to migrate to Australia and it was something that we all looked forward to particularly for me as the older child, you know, I began seeing this land of opportunity and I just couldn’t wait to get here. But when we first arrived, I was encountered with the most significant moment of my life on the third day in my arrival to this country and of my school attendance. I was assaulted and bashed up on a school bus by a group of girls because I could not speak English.
Every time I reflect on that moment I almost see myself flat on my face embarrassed and humiliated. But you know, looking back at that defining moment in my life, I have nothing but gratitude for it because I knew that there were only two options for me. I either had to learn the language and connect and become part of this new world that I’m in or shrivel, wither and die and I obviously didn’t want to do that so I had to do whatever I had to, to become who I am today. It took me three months to learn the language, make friends and accept myself and move forward in life.
JT: Wow. Only three months to learn the language? That’s really impressive, especially for a teenager.
SI: Yeah. I had to block the outside world with all the negatives that I was inundated with, I had to block them out. I asked for a special English class and I would sit there and I would literally watch, not only listen to the sound of the language, but also watch the teacher’s pronunciation of the word because I wanted nothing but to learn the English language at that point in my time. That was it for me. My life was, it depend on learning the language.
JT: That’s crazy. I would have never known that you weren’t a native English speaker if I wouldn’t have heard that because you have an Australian accent, of course, but in general, you speak perfectly.
SI: Oh you’re very polite, Jaime.
JT: Well maybe because a lot of the people in the U.S. can’t speak English very well, right? So that took a lot of dedication. I mean that’s really huge for you to be able to sort of close off and put on your blinders and just work really hard and learn that. What did that take for you?
SI: It took a lot of courage and a lot of hard work. If I can fast forward 20 years since that day that I was assaulted on the school bus and I was confronted with one of the girls that actually was the leader, if you’d like, I was in a shopping center demonstrating the Nad’s product and I was surrounded by a group of people where I was demonstrating, educating them about this product and all of a sudden, I saw this face that I recognized in the crowd and my jaw dropped and I just stopped and froze and then I walked towards her and I asked her, I said, “Is your name Faye?” She replied, “Yes.”
I said, “Did you go to Fairfield Girls High School?” She said, “Yes.” I said, “Do you remember me?” She said, “No.” I felt like ugh, you know, revenge. But then you know what? At that point in time I reflected on my, on that present moment, on what I had become and what I was surrounded with and I actually thanked her and forgave her and moved forward and put that part of my life behind me and I always look at it in a very positive way.
JT: That’s inspiring. Wow, and the fact that you could thank her to her face to really forgive her is amazing. Wow! Especially to hold that for 20 years and then do it. Excellent. So let’s talk about – how old were you when you started working on Nad’s, the product in general?
SI: I was in my early 30s. I had three young daughters. My middle daughter, Natalie, was 6 years of age and she unfortunately inherited the worst part of her father – his thick dark hair – and it was quite noticeable on her arms and she would go to school obviously feeling embarrassed and that really just didn’t sit right with me. I never wanted my daughter to feel embarrassed in any way at all. So I decided to solve her probably obviously starting by using all the products that were available on the supermarket shelf and not being happy with them.
And then I, as I said, I became this mad scientist and I just knew that there was a solution but lacking scientific knowledge and experience, you know, dragged the process for 12 months and at the end of the 12 months I came up with this magic green goo that I was so proud of I started telling the whole world about it.
JT: Wow. So first, you created it in your kitchen without any scientific anything. How did you know that the things, household things in your kitchen would produce this? It could have been a sort of a fool’s errand of just doing that for months and months and months and never coming up with anything. How did you know that it was possible?
SI: Sure, look I was purchasing waxes and creams and so on and obviously I was looking deeply into what they were made of and also what really helped me was this remedy or this recipe that has been passed down from generation to generation in the Middle Eastern world and it this sticky dough, if you like, where my mother held it between her arms and kneaded it and traveled with it around her body, around her skin to remove hair. It was torture to pull off for poor Natalie and I knew what went in that particular recipe and I also knew what went into other products so it was a matter of trial and error.
I don’t want wax in the product because it sits and it’s hot and it burns her so I removed that and replaced it with another gooey and sticky substance. It was trial and error and by the end of the day I’d think to myself, “Oh gosh I’m crazy. What am I doing?” You know, what am I doing? But then the following morning, the very first thought that came to my head, what am I going to try next? It was like an obsession.
JT: Wow, that’s so interesting. I mean the fact, you said you spent just about 12 months working on this?
SI: Yes. I mean watching my daughter, Natalie, in her laboratory wearing that white coat and sitting there and measuring mason and recording this and I think to myself, “How did I do it?”
JT: That’s what we want to know! How did you do it? Nobody knows I guess, right? I mean it’s funny. It sounds like you’re talking about obsession and really just needing to find the solution for your daughter. Did you have just this huge reason why? Is that what it was or were you just curious? What do you think the reason was?
SI: I think the driving force for me back then was just to find a solution for my daughter. There was no other reason other than solve her problem. Then when I got so excited and everyone loved this formula, the thought of starting a business entered my head and, of course, there are business skills, financial back up and I had nothing. All I had was this idea and an enthusiasm that was like a giant ball of fire that just burned every obstacle in its path. That’s how my business started.
I remember when I developed this formula, I thought well what am I going to do with it next? So I started knocking on the doors of the manufacturers. I went to Revlon. I went to Avon. I went to many, many manufacturers trying to convince them of what a great idea this would be and I could almost hear this big guy and his suit sitting across the desk from me thinking why would I want to do anything with your product? My energy was well back at you, I’m going to make it with or without your help.
So I headed back to my kitchen again and then I started small, back to the stove, a small pot. As I kept growing over the years and today, it is two-story high.
JT: That’s great.
SI: I guess hadn’t I known how to sell the product, well that was, you know, I didn’t know it, but in the back of my mind I just knew I was going to find a way to sell this product. I’ve never sold anything in my life. When the girls brought raffle tickets home I had no idea how to sell them so I’d end up buying them myself.
JT: That’s the story what we want to hear though. A lot of people are like well I’m not a salesman, you know, getting into business at first and that’s a hard thing to get past. But apparently, you don’t even have to be a salesman in order to sell a product.
SI: I’m sorry to interrupt you.
JT: No, no, I was going to say tell me more about how you very first started. Like did you get it in a couple grocery stores? What was your first steps on trying to actually get people to pay you money for it?
SI: Sure. Well the only way I knew how to sell anything was the setting up a store at the local market, if you’d like. I think in America they call them flea markets. Here they’re much bigger than that. So my sister and I decided to go and set up a store at the local markets and we stood there for three frustrating hours. We had our Nad’s units displayed. We had our pink tablecloths. We went there hoping that we would make a killing.
We stood there for three frustrating hours and not even one person approached me, approached us. So I was almost ready to pack up and go home. But then I thought, these people have no idea who we are or what we’re doing here so I had better get closer and tell them who we are. So then I started interacting with them and I just walked up to the passerbyers and I said, “Hey, come over and have a look at what we have here.” Some people thought we were crazy and ignored us and others came forward.
Then when people started coming forward, people became curious so then all of a sudden, there was a crowd, a big crowd. I had people around me. I started telling them about why I invented the product. Then I started demonstrating on their arms. People wanted to try it on their face. I was shaping eyebrows in the middle of this flea market and before I knew it, I had sold out. I had sold out in less than an hour. I had never seen so much cash in my life. It was the most exciting moment in my life. So I knew that this was a winner. I just could not wait to get back to that spot again.
Then from one demonstration site to another and then I upgraded to shopping centers, Westfield Shopping Centers around the country and then I thought, I took a leap of faith and advertised on television and that was really the turning point for my business.
JT: Wow, so how many things of product were you selling sort of at the malls and how did it change from when you went to advertising?
SI: Well there was only really one product that I was selling, the product that I invented in my kitchen at that point in time. That is the product that I took and advertised on television.
JT: I’m just wondering on like volume. Was it just you sort of going to the local shopping malls and you doing your thing at the shopping malls or did you have employees at that point doing that?
SI: Well what happened, I started with just myself and then I had sales reps scattered in shopping centers around the country. At one point I had about 50 sales reps. I had a sales coordinator and that meant I had to travel from one state to another and obviously that brought along its own struggles as a mother and as a woman who was away from her young family and all that. So you start thinking negatively. Hence, you know, the decision to take that leap of faith and knock on the doors at Channel 10 and demonstrate live on TV. I just thought that there had to be an easier way of selling this product and I’ve never looked back.
JT: So to go back a little bit, aren’t there regulations or something like that to let you know whether or not you can put something on your skin? Did you have to go through like a regulations process before you could even sell it or something like that?
SI: Oh absolutely. Absolutely. I had to do everything by the letter. I’m the type of person that ticks all the boxes so yes, Department of Health had to approve the formulation of the product. So I did receive approval from Department of Health. I also had to receive approval from the local council to start producing this formula from my backyard garage. That was an amazing moment for me.
I mean I didn’t want to incur significant costs and I’ll never forget the day that I picked up the phone and I phoned my dad and I said, “Look your efforts as a lab rat haven’t been wasted, Dad. I’m on my way to becoming a millionaire.” My dad’s response was, “Ah well, I’d love to live to see that day.” I can tell you that my dad is alive and proud and watching Nad’s go from strength to strength.
JT: Wow, that’s excellent. A lot of entrepreneurs in general, especially when they get into sort of the product thing like this sort of have this fear of dealing with Department of Health and I know it’s different, of course, in Australia than it is in America, but how did you get past that? Were you worried about the approval process? Had you already been selling it a little bit beforehand and worried that it was going to be taken away?
SI: To be honest, I was never worried about anything and I think that is the positive. That’s what sort of made the journey so exciting and thrilling. I had this business plan in my head but the business plan only saw positives and opportunities. It really never, never had any negatives or threats highlighted. But to answer your question, the Department of Health here in Australia, when we are dealing with cosmetic range, which is not a therapeutic act obligation, it is much simpler to be authorized than say, for instance, if I was making horrendous claims like involved in a product that would help acne or any other.
This was a cosmetic product. It was all natural. Your claim was verified by this vision. Here’s your hair now and gone. There it is. The before and the after effect is proof of your claim. So it was very, very easy for me to obtain the approval.
JT: That’s really good to know. Excellent. So let’s talk a little bit about your positive attitude because is that just something you inherited? Have you always sort of looked on the brighter side or is it something that you have been cultivating?
SI: That’s a very, very good question. I’m the type of person that thrives on challenges. If someone tells me that something can’t be done, I have to prove them wrong. I remember, even as a child, I think it was expected of me as I was growing up. I was the older child. My mother always dressed me up immaculately.
My book work was always of the highest standards. I was always showcased as a role model, you know, student. So people had high expectations of me and I had high expectations of myself. I always wanted to become someone and achieve something worthwhile and I think that’s helped me on this journey.
JT: How do you do it thought? Okay, so I have two small children and how did you do it way back when, when your kids were small and you were working so hard trying to get this product out?
SI: Well, you can’t do it on your own and that’s a fact. I think your enthusiasm helps but if there are people standing in your way and not helping you or supporting you then it becomes really difficult. I’m fortunate that I have my family. You know, my family is very supportive. When my daughters were young both my husband and I gave up our perspective employments. I took on the marketing side of the business and Sam took on the manufacturing side of the business.
I sort of made them feel part of the journey. This wasn’t just about me. It’s about everybody so when the girls came home they would help their father pack the product and get it ready for me to sell at shopping centers or the market or whatever. It has been like a team effort and when my daughters had to be picked up from school or dropped off to school, well that was a priority in our lives. We had to make that happen because we were working from home. That was the greatest thing for me, working from home and being flexible with our time and the support of the family.
JT: Excellent. When you created Nad’s it was 1992, right?
JT: Okay, excellent. So from 1992, how long did it take before you set up the TV commercial and everything like you were talking about before? Do you know about that time span?
SI: Yes, definitely. In 1993, in October 1993, our very first commercial went to air here in.
JT: Wow that was, okay, wow, that’s excellent.
SI: It’s fast.
SI: Yes. Then what happened, you know, the phenomenal response was astonishing to be honest. I think I shocked myself and everyone around me because what happened was all I did was, I just repeated what I was saying at the shopping centers so there was no script as such. There was no, I didn’t invest tens of thousands of dollars creating an ad. I just went on this television show and I just told it the way it is. Here’s a product, this is why I invented it and here’s how it works.
Let me tell you, the call center was inundated. Everyone around Australia wanted to get through and order this product. The lines were jammed and because people in Australia got frustrated, they started calling the television station saying we can’t get through. Then the television station telephone lines became jammed and the producer called me and she said, “What have you done, Sue? You’ve created a monster.” So that gave me the confidence to go back and advertise Nad’s again and again on national television. Build equity in the brand and then that’s when the thought of going abroad, going to America entered my head.
And again, we replicated the same winning strategy. We came up with a half-hour infomercial that took America by storm. We were non-existent and in less than two months we were rated in the top 100 infomercials in America back in 1998. In 1999, our infomercial climbed from the top 50 to number one. I received this phone call about holding this number one position in the United States. I didn’t know what to think. I mean where else? Where do you go from here? It was an unbelievable achievement.
JT: That sounds like the perfect story though. Like you go and you get your first TV commercial out there and everybody loves you and it’s wonderful and everything is perfect. Was there any issues that you came up? Were you able to produce that much product? I mean it must have been kind of crazy trying to scramble. As good as it is to try and get all those orders, it must have been kind of crazy in the months after that first TV commercial.
SI: Oh my God, you know, we were still producing from that backyard garage and then when America took off we enlarged or upgraded our equipment and at one point in time, and because this is a secret formula and there are only two people well, at that point in time, there were only two people who knew the formula and the process.
JT: A bottleneck, that’s hard!
SI: These were my husband and his nephew and they were both working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 12 hours a day shift each and equipment were running 7 days a week nonstop. We were put in a position where we had to air freight one 40 foot container of Nad’s to the United States every single day.
JT: That’s a lot of product. Wow!
SI: That’s 40,000 units a day and then we thought, “Oh my God, no!” We are not manufacturers. We are not doing this right. So I had to go and contact manufacturers and we have contract manufacturers now who can supply whatever demand is required.
JT: You don’t have to worry about your garage in the backyard. That’s excellent. So what do you think really separates a successful entrepreneur from entrepreneurs that don’t succeed. It seems like you had such a not easy but very, I don’t know if you’d say textbook. You had a product that was great and everybody wanted it, right? But do you think there was more to it that made you a successful entrepreneur from others that don’t? Is it just the product or is it more than just that?
SI: Look, I think as entrepreneurs we always find a way to succeed. The thought of not being able to achieve whatever it might be just doesn’t enter into the entrepreneur’s mind. We truly believe that the world is our oyster. We can invent. We can imagine. We can explore, we can create and we can inspire people. To make things happen we’ve got to be strategic obviously and tactical when thinking creatively. But you know, what is really known for entrepreneurs is that we have absolutely no respect for the status quo.
We can be crazy enough to even think that we can change the world. We aim to do just that. These are the characteristics of entrepreneurs and I’ve won the entrepreneur of the year award and I don’t know if you know that. Back in 2002 I think it is. Out of 40 men in their black suit, I was the only woman who snatched this trophy on a national level. It was an amazing, amazing feeling, that your hard work is validated and recognized. So yeah!
JT: That’s excellent. Did you always know that you were an entrepreneur? I know you didn’t start with Nad’s until you said your early 30s, so did you always have sort of this entrepreneurial spirit since you were younger or did it just cultivate when you were in your 30s?
SI: You know, I hadn’t even heard of the term entrepreneur to be honest until we were actually producing our U.S. infomercial and as I was going over the awards that I had won to communicating this half hour infomercial, the host made a mistake and called one of my awards an entrepreneur of the year award and I thought, hmm, that sounds good. I wonder what it means. So I looked it up.
JT: Wow, okay! Tell me more, yeah. That’s great.
SI: So I looked it up and a few years later I was nominated for this award and let me tell you, I knew that I was going to win because I wanted it so much. I was interviewed by ten judges and by the end of the interview session, I had lost my voice and sure enough, I got the award. To answer your question, did I always know that I was an entrepreneur, no. But if I go back and reflect on some of my childhood memories, I remember back in the 60s, back in that tiny village that I grew up in, we had no TVs and I would actually listen to the radio.
I really enjoyed listening to the radio and listening to the news and I remember when I heard about the assassination of Robert Kennedy. I just learned every word. I recited every word and I pretended that I was the announcer and I gathered my friends and I started telling them, as if I was the announcer. So in the back of my mind I was just so excited to be more than just an average student or child. But obviously, you know, we were limited because we didn’t have the opportunities that we have in this country to help us achieve our dreams and aspirations.
JT: Wow, yeah, to think if your parents never immigrated to Australia. It’s kind of funny what could have happened. I’m sure you would still be successful but you might have had to have bumped up against some different things, more cultural things. Wow. Excellent.
SI: This is a land of opportunity and I am forever grateful for that decision and for this country that has given me the opportunity to see my dreams and aspirations become reality. What can I say?
JT: Exactly, right. That’s excellent. So what advice would you have for people who want to create like a product based company like you?
SI: Look, I’d have to say have a go. You have absolutely nothing to lose and so much to gain. When an opportunity presents itself and knocks on your door, embrace it. Make the most of who you are. Make the most of where you are. For me, I just spoke earlier about Australia and the land of opportunity. America is equally as significant as Australia when opportunities can be explored and turned into realities.
By do so, by starting a business, you get a chance to make a real difference in people’s lives. Now for me, I may have been so excited about the thought of becoming a millionaire but you know once you get there you know that there’s a more profound reason for your resilience, for your ability to bounce back. For me, that is giving back and making a difference. I’ve been involved with so many charity organizations and if I didn’t really pursue my dream and had a go, I wouldn’t be able to touch other people’s lives. So I would have to encourage you to honor this gift and make the most of it and believe that you will succeed and achieve.
JT: Great advice. Yeah, it’s funny, I just put a post on the Facebook page for Eventual Millionaire and I asked everyone what was the reason why they want to become millionaires because I know it’s more than just the money. Most of the responses were to give back, which was amazing. I’m also well you can give back now too, is what I mentioned on the Facebook page.
But in general, that makes me feel warmhearted the fact that people want to give back. It’s not all about I want money and travel and everything material I want. It’s that I want to help other people that maybe can’t help themselves right now and that’s really inspiring. Even the people that aren’t millionaires yet really want to become that and deal with all the struggles just so that they can. That’s huge.
SI: It absolutely is. Before I started my business, I had one child in Ethiopia. When the business took off I picked up the phone and I said, “Oh my God, I can help more than one child.” So I asked for 100 more. You know, I’ve been supporting them and receiving hundreds of letters on a monthly basis and just communicating with them and connecting with them. Two years ago, my youngest daughter and I decided to visit them. Wow, what an amazing experience that was.
What it really does is it helps you put everything into perspective. These people who think that they are lucky because they receive a dollar a day from someone like me, you know, Western world, you sit back and you think to yourself, when do I consider myself lucky then. All these greatness that we have, it just puts everything into perspective and you know that you’ve got to do what you do, continue doing what you do because when you thrive, you are helping people to survive.
JT: I loved how you said that you had already sponsored a child in Ethiopia. So it’s not as though you hadn’t already started trying to give back before, you know, before all these riches came your way. You could just do more now.
SI: Absolutely. Absolutely.
JT: Excellent. So what is one action, this is sort of the last question I usually end with, so we can get more people to be millionaires so they can all give back too. What’s one action that everyone can take this week to help move them forward towards their goal of a million?
SI: Well as of today, start taking your daily multivitamins and these are Vitamin A for attitude. If your attitude is rotten, fix it now. Vitamin for belief. Believe in yourself. Stay away from the knockers and the doubters because there’s plenty of them in the world. Vitamin C for courage. Have the courage to get started, even if it’s in a small way. One thing will lead to another and before you know it, you’re on a roll. Vitamin D for discipline. Discipline yourself to continue. Have empathy. Vitamin E for empathy. Step in someone else’s shoes and see the situation from their perspective. And Vitamin F for fun. Have fun. Life is too short.
JT: Perfect. So where can we find more information about Nad’s and you? Do you have a Facebook page? Where can we connect with you guys online?
SI: Okay, Nads.com is our website. Nad’s has also a Facebook that you can connect with. So just go online. We’re there. We’re everywhere.
JT: Great. What I’ll do is I’ll put links to your Facebook page and your specific site on the show notes so everybody can take a look. I’m pretty sure a lot of people in America have already heard of you because of all the infomercials. I remember them from way back when too. Excellent. So I’ll definitely put all the information so everyone can follow up with you guys and see what’s going on with you.
You know what’s funny? I have one more question for you that came up that my husband asked me a long time ago. He’s like, “Does it work for facial hair for men?” He’s so sick of shaving and doesn’t want to shave anymore. He’s like I would buy truckloads of that stuff if I could get that.
SI: You know what, a lot of men ask that question and I always say, “Stick to shaving because it’s not an easy process.” It does hurt. It’s not like shaving and I know from experience guys are wus when it comes, they cannot tolerate pain. So I wouldn’t want to encourage your husband.
JT: Maybe that would be good though. Well you wanted it, you have to deal with the pain. That’s excellent. Thank you so much for answering my random question and thank you so much for coming on today. I really appreciate it. Everybody will get a lot from your story. So thank you so much.
SI: Thank you, Jaime. Nice to be on your show.
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