WHEN IT COMES TO CORPORATE strategy, Dineh Mohajer, 23, chairman and president of Hard Candy nail polish, has but one goal: “I want to take Hard Candy to where it rules!” Then there’s her approach to product development. “I chill out and come up with concepts,” she says. “Me and my friends go out and party to come up with the names.”
Okay, Lee Iacocca she’s not. But Mohajer is in the driver’s seat. With her 35 garish hues a must-have—at $12 a bottle—among hipsters like Alicia Silverstone (she’s partial to Sky), Pamela Lee (Bubble Gum) and Janeane Garofolo (Sunshine), Mohajer steered her company to $10 million in sales this past year, her first in business.
A native of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Mohajer had planned to be a doctor like her father, Reza (her mother, Shahnaz, is his office director). But unimpressed by other premeds at the University of Southern California (“hard-core nerds,” she says), the style-mad Mohajer soon began using her chemistry skills to mix her own polish. “I couldn’t find the funky shades I wanted,” she says. Neither could others. When her four sample bottles were instant hits at Santa Monica’s Fred Segal boutique, where she worked her summer break in 1992, she quit school, borrowed $50,000 from her parents and set up shop with sister Pooneh, 31, a lawyer, and beau Benjamin Einstein, 23, then a musician. Says fan Shirley Manson, lead singer of Garbage: “They were ahead of everybody with their fabulous colors.” Now, with 21 employees and a line of lip colors, Mohajer, who lives in Beverly Hills, is floored. “I can’t comprehend being chairman of a cosmetics empire,” she says. “It freaks me out!”