Dal LaMagna

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Dal LaMagna was born on July 4, 1946, in Brooklyn, N.Y.[1] His father was a firefighter who also worked as a longshoreman, and his mother managed a bowling alley. The pair had five children and Dal was the eldest son.[2]

Early life[edit]

LaMagana holds a bachelor of arts in political science from Providence College, a master’s in business administration from the Harvard Business School, and a master’s in public policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.[1]

Entrepreneurial beginnings[edit]

At an early age, LaMagna tried his hand at making money. His lengthy list of failed business startups included a computer dating service, a waterbed store, a drive-in disco,[3] a special lasagna pan,[4] and an ice cream parlor.[5] Perhaps the one that most influenced him, though, was his idea to turn a quick buck the first day he entered Harvard Business School when he overheard a hot stock tip. LaMagana decided to take his entire student-tuition loan and buy call options on 5,000 shares of that stock. However, the tip turned out to be a bust, and LaMagna was out the money.[2] So now, he’s become the only student in Harvard history “to owe twice what it cost to attend the school.”[6]

The founding of Tweezerman[edit]

After years of starting failed businesses, Dal founded Tweezerman in 1980, a personal care-products company.[7] “ ‘I failed so many times that by the process of elimination, I made every mistake I could make and finally eliminated all the problems I could have. Finally, I succeeded.’ “ [2]

By the late 1990s, Tweezerman was doing well, and LaMagna had to decide whether he could grow the company to the next level, or if doing so would cause the company to come “crashing down.”[6] LaMagna knew he wanted to do it, but didn’t want to add another failure to his already-long list.

LaMagna, known for his occasional impatience, had recognized that about himself and had created an executive committee at Tweezerman. The idea of the committee was to offer honest ideas and criticisms and keep the company on track.[6]

“The collective judgment they called upon was built and embedded in the entrepreneurial soul of this company, enabling what ultimately became a multimillion-dollar enterprise… Of particular note is the context for better judgment that LaMagna built around him: the cultural values and sense of mutual accountability within this company that he, as founder, encouraged and reinforced steadily….Though he had operated largely as a solo entrepreneur, he had overseen employees in a few of his earlier jobs and ventures, and had developed some appreciation of the difference that good people—or bad people—could make to a company.”:[6]

Corporate social responsibility[edit]

The company continued to do well and LaMagna sold it for $50 million[8] in 2004, walking away with millions.[9]

LaMagna credits much of the company’s success to his belief in responsible capitalism and corporate social responsibility – a concept he understood intuitively, even though he’d never heard the term until 1994.[10] He instituted a profit sharing arrangement at Tweezerman; employees were offered health care; the company gave 5% of its profits to community nonprofits; and its manufacturer in India was paid a “living wage.”[11]

“Building Tweezerman as a company that practices what I call 'responsible capitalism' resulted in a team of competent, happy employees, loyal customers, satisfied vendors, and a community that supported the company as much as the company supported the community,” said LaMagna in an interview.[11]

Outside activities[edit]

Dal has served on numerous boards, including Yes! Magazine[12] Bainbridge Graduate Institute[13] and others. He also had two unsuccessful runs for Congress, one in 1996[14] and the other in 2000.[15] He also made an attempt at running for the presidency in 2007 as a Democratic candidate in New Hampshire.[16] “Maybe Dal LaMagna was destined to run for president,” wrote Peter Carlson. “After all, he was born on the Fourth of July, and he's a real American go-getter, a can-do guy, an entrepreneur, a hustler, a self-made man, a -- what's the term we're looking for here? ‘He's a ball of fire,’ says his friend Jim McDermott, a Democratic congressman from Washington.”[16]

LaMagna also penned his memoirs, with the help of Wally Carbone and Carla Reuben. Raising Eyebrows: A Failed Entrepreneur Finally Gets it Right[5] chronicles LaMagna’s entrepreneurial adventures and discusses the lessons he learned that he “wants to impart to would-be entrepreneurs. Samples of this good advice:

  • Instead of spending your time raising money, why don’t you go find something you can do with the money you already have?
  • A small company is not going to thrive if the founder tries to do everything. For me the art of delegating work was very simple. I did the job first, and when I understood the job from the inside, I then found someone else to do it.
  • In business, as in life, we are a bit too quick to come up with explanations for things that we really have no explanation for at all."[12]


After LaMagna sold Tweezerman, he became a private investor. One of his investments was in a New York company called IceStone, which makes sustainable countertops from recycled cement and glass.[7] However, the company struggled with what LaMagna called a big-company mentality instead of a startup mentality,[7] and reached the verge of closing.[17] So, In October, 2011, LaMagna stepped in and became the company’s chief executive officer, upping employees’ salaries and cutting managers’ salaries.[17] Last June, he made employees 10% owners of the company’s stock and charged them with figuring out how to make the company more sustainable.[17]

IceStone, a B-corporation,[18] started to make progress and was almost in the black. Then Hurricane Sandy came along, flooding the manufacturing plant on Long Island, N.Y.[19] LaMagna and the employees immediately went to work to clean up the plant, and the company applied for a loan from the Small Business Administration to help it get back on track and replace some equipment.[19]

“ ‘We are rising from the depths of the swamp,’ he says. ‘Empowered employees do make a difference and the [Social Venture Network] principles of responsible capitalism are proving that it does make a difference … Most companies would have given up … [but] the employees are determined, resilient and selfless in response to this brutal blow. They’re taking care of each other and they’re taking care of the company at the same time.’ “[20]

And now[edit]

LaMagna is still on a quest. “The way you get your business to the next level is to empower your employees,” he told Lou Dobbs in an interview. “You delegate.” Dobbs replied, “You’re the first person I’ve heard use the word empower in years.” [8]


  1. ^ a b "Dal Anthony LaMagna's Biography". Project Vote Smart. 
  2. ^ a b c Liberman, Gail; Lavine, Alan (2003). Rags to Riches: Motivating Stories of How Ordinary People Achieved Extraordinary Wealth. Bloomington, Ind.: iUniverse. p. 100. ISBN 978-1-4502-7686-3. 
  3. ^ Wilson, David (Jan 6, 2011). "How to risk it all, fail, and bounce back stronger". The Age. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  4. ^ Cameron, Micaela (March 3, 2011). "Alum Advises How to Beat the Business World". The Cowl. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  5. ^ a b LaMagna, Dal (2010). Raising Eyebrows: A Failed Entrepreneur Finally Gets it Right. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 155–170. ISBN 978-0-470-87437-0. 
  6. ^ a b c d Thomas H. Davenport and Brook Manville (2012). Book Excerpt: Judgment Calls. Harvard Business Review Press. pp. 1–2. ISBN 978-1422158111. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  7. ^ a b c Anselm Doering; Franz Wisner (Jan 19, 2012). "Beyond the Fence: ‘Tweezerman’ Now Running Navy Yard Countertop Firm". New York Times. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  8. ^ a b Dobbs, Lou (May 27, 2011). "Overcoming Fear to Start Your Own Business". Fox Business Video. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  9. ^ Meoli, Daria (Feb 1, 2011). "5 Minutes with...Tweezerman Dal LaMagna". NY Report. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  10. ^ Hicks, Jennifer (April 16, 2010). "Can We Trust CSR Checklists? Where is the Transparency?". Triple Pundit. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  11. ^ a b James, Scott (Sep 28, 2011). "How A Serial Entrepreneur Found Success By Practicing Responsible Capitalism". Forbes. 
  12. ^ a b Bamburg, Jill (Nov 9, 2010). "In Review: Raising Eyebrows". Yes! Magazine. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  13. ^ "Bainbridge Graduate Institute". Board Member Dal LaMagna in the Huffington Post. Dec 30, 2010. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  14. ^ Applegate, Jane (Sep 1, 1996). "Government Shutdown Prompts 'Tweezerman' To Run For Office". Orlando Sentinel/Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  15. ^ "THE 2000 ELECTIONS: NEW YORK - RESULTS; New York's Congressional Race". New York Times. Nov 8, 2000. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  16. ^ a b Carlson, Peter (May 30, 2008). "A Little Bit of Pluck". Washington Post. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  17. ^ a b c Croghan, Lore (June 20, 2012). "Tweezerman to the rescue: Former tweezer titan helms Brooklyn Navy Yard factory, gives workers stock". New York Daily News. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  18. ^ "Benefit Corporations Aim to Make a Profit -- and a Positive Impact". PBS News Hour. Feb 29, 2012. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  19. ^ a b Anslem Doering; Franz Wisner (Nov 15, 2012). "Beyond The Fence: Sandy Soaks Green Business". New York Times. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  20. ^ Partington, Kristian. "SVN Community Stepping Up in Sandy’s Wake". Social Venture Network. Retrieved 14 March 2013.