Jan Stuart, 28, laughed when his mother read an article about opportunities in the men’s skin-care field three years ago and suggested that he get into the business. But the more Jan thought, the better it sounded. He moved to a $31-a-week room in New York City’s 92nd Street Y, supplemented his $2,500 savings with nearly $50,000 borrowed from friends, and teamed up with nutritionist Herbert Feldman. Together they created a line of moisturizers, skin creams and face masks made from such natural ingredients as corn flour, avocado and almond meal. Now Jan Stuart’s skin-care program for men is sold in 75 stores including Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s, where he is shown at right applying a facial scrub to a customer.
Stuart has sold products to such stars as Kenny Loggins, Gabe Kaplan and O.J. Simpson, and his success has put him into a swank apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. He looks forward to a $1 million gross this year. A Brooklyn native whose father sells office supplies and whose mother is a former bookkeeper, Jan graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 1975 and worked his way up from garment sales manager to ad executive before moving into the skin game. A bachelor, Stuart claims he is married to his growing business—one that he plans to make “bigger than Estée Lauder or Revlon.”
Vicki Birdwell, 27, has been confined to a wheelchair for eight years, but she gets around almost as well as her fellow students at California State University’s Northridge campus. A victim of Friedreich’s ataxia, a rare neurological disease that attacks the spinal cord and is often fatal, Birdwell has set up an attendant care service on campus, pairing volunteers with 20 severely disabled students. The purpose is to help the handicapped move through cafeteria lines, library stacks and the like. Such programs are unusual in this country, but Vicki’s, which is financed by school grants, has flourished for almost three years. The daughter of an insurance agent and his secretary-wife, she was first diagnosed as suffering from ataxia at age 10. Her condition has gradually worsened. Nevertheless, Vicki, who originally went to California for acupuncture treatment, is studying for a master’s in special education. She looks forward to returning to her native Oklahoma City to work in rehabilitation after graduation this spring. She plans to battle what she calls the “condescending attitude” toward the disabled at most rehab centers. “What we need,” argues Vicki, who writes poetry and short stories in her spare time, “is help to help ourselves. That’s independent living.”