Spray your headaches away
Whoever would have imagined that a burst of pepper spray up your nose would eliminate headaches and allergies? Certainly not Wayne Perry, who would have tried that technique years ago while suffering from debilitating “cluster headaches” that produced one-sided nasal congestion and excruciating pain behind his eyes and temple.
For seven years Perry, a former marshal arts instructor, toured the country teaching women self-defense classes (he even appeared on Oprah) and teaching police officers how to use self-defense pepper spray. In fact, he also played a part in legalizing pepper spray in New York State.
Perhaps you recognize his name from the local media. Prior to his current career as president of SiCap Industries, Perry, 41, was a cameraman and reporter for Fox23 News and a reporter for radio stations 94.5 and 93.7. During a television segment about how to use pepper spray, Perry got a shot of the spray up his nose, which caused horrible pain. In an instant, however, his cluster headache, which had come on furiously minutes before airtime, was gone. His sinus passage was wide open and he could breathe like never before.
“It was just for me at first,” Perry said of his discovery. He still had to learn more about the science of oleoresin capsicum, a natural chemical that makes peppers hot, and figure out how to make it work without causing too much discomfort for the average person. After more than a year of research, he discovered an all-natural formula and launched Sinus Buster.
Even his doctor, who had given him just about everything for his headaches, was surprised at his findings.
“Once my doctor saw that it worked, he was intrigued and started sending it to other doctors so they could try it on their patients.”
In 2005, Perry started selling his product on eBay, averaging about 10 orders a week. But, it’s radio personality Howard Stern whom Perry credits for his big break. During a phone interview about Perry’s previous firing from Clear Channel, Stern asked how his career was going and Perry was given a 10-second plug for Sinus Buster. Soon after, he received 20,000 Internet orders.
“The rest is history,” said Perry, who started SiCap Industries in January 2004, with his two partners—his mother Joyce and friend Rob Sasso, who had worked with him at Fox23 News.
Together, Perry and Sasso make the formula in their lab, located in Clark Industrial Park in Albany and their crew of six employees bottles and labels it. Perry also handles the ordering, marketing and accounting.
Thanks to a feature article in First for Women magazine a month ago, Perry surpassed the 100,000 mark and was able to purchase an automatic filling machine. His product has also been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Prevention Magazine and on NBC News.
For many, Sinus Buster is nothing short of a miracle, especially for those suffering from severe allergies who have had little to no relief from other products. One woman in California claims she can smell again, after losing that sense nearly 10 years ago.
Use of the product will prevent headaches and ease menstrual headaches and hangovers. That is, if you can take the few seconds of stinging.
“It wakes you up and leaves nasal passages feeling soothed,” said Perry.
The Sinus Buster metered dose retails for $15.99; the original bottle for $12.99 and is sold in 1,000 stores across the US and Canada, as well as in Europe, Iraq, and “every country you can imagine except Mexico.”
“There are a ton of soldiers in Iraq who order from us,” said Perry.
Locally, it can be found in 70 Price Chopper supermarkets, the Center for Natural Wellness in 20 Mall in Guilderland, Green Grocer in Clifton Park, Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany and Fallon Wellness Pharmacy in Latham.
“They [Price Chopper] really gave us a shot and believed in the product,” said Perry, adding that half of the maintenance department uses his product.
With so many big pharmaceutical companies, it’s hard to believe that one hasn’t come out with a similar product, but Perry is confident his product will be a household name before that happens.
“Not even a top chemist can figure out the kinds of peppers we use, how we get capsicum to become water soluble, the temperatures we use and the way we mix them.”
Incidentally, Perry has been told from insiders working for pharmaceutical companies, that his inexpensive product is “ruining the price structure” for others.
“Now there’s no incentive for a prescription drug.”
In his years of researching peppers, Perry has found that capsicum is effective in other areas and has since come up with other products including a skin cream with a shea butter base and 14 other active herbs that relieves itchy dry skin, two weight loss supplements, a lime-based spray that can be used in beer, on salads or right on the tongue to take away a sore throat, a liquid face/body wash, an arthritis roll-on and a prostate syrup.
From a self-defense guru to a stint in the local media to producing his own all-natural products, Perry is proof that things happen when you least expect them.
“You never know where life will take you. Everyone thought this was an insane idea.”
For more information about Sinus Buster or SiCap Industries contact 869.1165 or visit www.sinusbuster.com.
Ursula Garreau describes her personal style as simple and elegant. It’s a style that is reflected in her own line of clothing, Ursula of Switzerland.
“The line is soft, flowy and very feminine,” said Garreau, whose clothing, made in the USA, has been sold in over 5,000 specialty and major department stores across the country, including Macy’s, Nordstrom’s, and Lord & Taylor, and internationally in Canada, Europe, Australia and Mexico.
Born and raised in a small town in Switzerland, Garreau came to America 40 years ago, in search of adventure and the opportunity to get ahead. She discovered her talent for sewing as an apprentice in her native country. But, in order to foster that talent, she needed to move to the garment district of Manhattan.
“I needed to be in a bigger city; I needed to be in New York,” she said.
Arriving in 1961, with just a suitcase and her experience as an apprentice, Garreau took an office position and started making hats on the side.
“I didn’t have the financial means to work on my clothing line, so I sold hats,” she said.
Her first hat cost $.48 cents to make and she sold it for $5. Eventually, stores such as Henri Bendel and Saks Fifth Avenue sold them. With her profits, she began working on her clothing collection.
She peddled her line to the boutiques along Madison Avenue, but the buyers all told her the same thing—it was too hip for the 1960s.
Finally, her big break came around 1966 when Women’s Wear Daily published a photo of a Yves Saint Laurent pantsuit consisting of a tight top, wide pants and wide belt—similar to one Garreau had designed and shown to a buyer in a small boutique a few weeks earlier, but was turned down. This time, the buyer was interested. Garreau brought it over, it sold within a week and her career had begun.
Married in 1965, Garreau’s husband wanted to leave the city a few years later and head up north to Schenectady, a name, she jokes, that she couldn’t even pronounce. For 25 years, she and her husband ran four dress shops, called Ursula of Switzerland, in Schenectady, Albany, Troy and Saratoga.
Originally, her line was strictly sportswear, but she changed over to special occasion dresses.
“You have to go with what’s sellable,” she said.
In 1969, the basement of the retail shop in Schenectady became too small to produce clothes, so she purchased a building on Yates Street, also in Schenectady. In three short years, she outgrew that spot and moved into her current building, a 30,000 square foot former 19th century ribbon factory located on Mohawk Avenue in Waterford, on the banks of the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers.
“I am very proud to be here,” she said. “The community is absolutely great.”
After parting ways with her husband, Garreau sold her retails shops in 1994 because the work became too much for her.
Throughout her career, Garreau attended fashion shows in Paris and Manhattan. Today, she keeps abreast of the latest fashions through the Internet.
In for spring 2006 are low cut dresses, jackets and shawls, as well as pencil and bias cut skirts and clothes embellished with beadwork.
Her favorite year for fashion? “The late 1970s, and early 1980s because everything sold. It was a fashion crazy time.”
Up until a few years ago, the design, pattern making, cutting and creating was done in Waterford, but due to expenses, Garreau decided to outsource the latter two to cutting and sewing contractors in Manhattan.
“A quality assurance person works alongside the contractors to ensure the clothes are made to my standards,” said Garreau.
Her line of clothing retails for $220-$400 and includes Mother-of-the Bride and guest of the wedding dresses, dinner dresses, pantsuits and separates. She carries missy, plus, petite and petite plus sizes.
“I like that everyone can wear my stuff,” she said.
Ursula of Switzerland clothing is sold in specialty shops across the country and locally at Bridal Gallery by Yvonne in Latham, De Anna’s in West Sand Lake and Lily Saratoga in Saratoga Springs, to name a few.
Running a successful business takes “hiring very talented people,” and Garreau is quick to credit her 22 employees for her success.
“I have wonderful people,” she said, obviously proud of the contributions they each make.
Garreau, who won’t disclose her age, isn’t planning to retire from the business any time soon.
“Oh no, I have no intention of retiring,” she said. “As long as I can make the stairs two at a time, I’ll be here. Even if get very old, I would still like to come in, check on things and advise.”
Full of energy, she’s up at 4am, out the door by 6am and works at least an eight-hour workday. Just this year, however, she resolved to scale back her workload a bit, depending on the demands of the business.
On weekends, this self-described “quiet person” enjoys reading, planning, listening to classical music and visiting with friends.
“I’m never bored,” said Garreau, who resides in Troy.
Back when she was a child, it was a dream for many to move to America for greater opportunity and Garreau is a perfect example of turning a dream into a reality. As an American citizen, she is grateful for the opportunities. Hard work, persistence and having ideas pays off, “she said.”
For those future fashion designers, Garreau has some advice: “Learn pattern making. You can’t be a designer unless you learn pattern making.”
Ursula of Switzerland is headquartered at 31 Mohawk Avenue in Waterford. For more information call 800.826.4041 or visit www.ursula.com.
Say it with stones
“I’ve never taken a business class. I’ve always operated on commonsense.”
Those are the words of Katherine DeLong, new owner of Signature Stones, a West Sand Lake company that has been producing etched stones and stone products since 1996.
DeLong, 31, and her brother John, 27, purchased the company just six months ago. They relocated to the Capital District from Dallas and New Mexico (respectively) and have been working non-stop to turn the once floundering company around.
If you’re not familiar with the company, take a walk along the Hudson River Way in Albany, which connects Broadway to Corning Park. Signature Stones provided the nearly 12,000 fundraising bricks. Two other projects currently in the works are granite walkways for local fundraising projects—one for WMHT’s Capital Campaign, the other for Colonie Youth Center’s new recreation center.
Other products the company produces includes garden rocks with phrases such as “Garden of Weedin’” or “Shhh! Flowers Sleeping”, word stones with inspirational messages such as “Dream”, “Believe”, or “Courage”, magnets, coasters, paper weights, nightlights and more.
But, it’s their Totem Power Stones, which are stones engraved with different animals (150 designs available) that are their biggest sellers, and one of the original products the previous owners developed.
“They’re sold as tourist gift novelties,” said DeLong, explaining that they’re quite popular in Hawaii, Arizona and Alaska. In New York, you can find the stones at many Thruway rest stops in the concession areas.
The brother and sister team are still producing the previously existing products, but have added a line of affordable memorial stones. Typically, they range in price from $2,000-$3,000. Theirs will run between $600-$1,000.
“Ours are extremely affordable comparatively,” she said.
Out of the 1,140 wholesale customers, DeLong estimates that 40 of them are customers she’s brought on since taking over the business. Her typical customers are businesses that purchase the stones for fundraising programs or corporate promotional items. All products can also be made using corporate or other types of logos. Signature Stones will produce anywhere from 100 to 10,000 stones in any given week and they ship nationally and internationally, with many customers in Europe.
DeLong, who works on developing new business, has previous experience running successful wholesale businesses. John, a former electrician, runs the day-to-day operations.
How did two people, who knew nothing about the stone business, learn so much in such a short time?
“We really just dug into it and followed the employees around,” DeLong said. “We’ve learned every aspect of production, from creating and working with the designs to getting the designs on the rocks.”
Their products are made from a wide variety of materials including semi-precious stone to marble, granite, slate, glass and ceramic titles, which come from India, South Africa, Brazil and China. Garden stones are purchased locally.
The stones all go through the same process— they’re stenciled by hand, sandblasted, painted and cleaned. But before the process even begins, workers have to sift through the stones to find ones that will even work.
“I have a great deal of respect for our employees who sit there and work for hours on end,” said DeLong, adding that work areas are ergonomically correct.
Turn around time is generally one week, but depends on the size and type of order. A recent last minute “emergency” order of 70 coasters that were being used as awards for a 5K race was completed in one day.
“We usually sandblast only once or twice a week because of high fuel costs.”
In time, DeLong hopes to upgrade from their current 5,000 square foot building to a larger one so they can start laser engraving the products, in addition to the sandblasting.
“We would be able to increase product line, increase productivity because it’s a faster process and be able to offer customers items at a lower cost.”
The biggest challenge the business faces is competition from the many imitations, which are produced in China. Though Signature Stones is a registered trademark, DeLong said it’s been “quite an adventure” trying to enforce it.
“Ours are unique. The copies almost look machine made.”
As far as competition with the fundraising bricks, DeLong isn’t worried.
“We’re the only company that can produce at the level we do,” she said. “I don’t think that anyone can compete with us as far as quality, turn around time and customer service.”
Signature Stones is located in West Sand Lake. For more information, or to purchase products, call 674.1548 or visit www.signaturestones.com.