Wojtek Inglot started his cosmetics brand and retail business after he saw how colorful it was outside his home country of Poland. “That was a time when Eastern Europe was sort of a grey world,” said the former pharmaceutical chemist. Immediately he began working on a lively makeup line. Fast forward 20 years and now Inglotoperates stores globally and sells products everywhere from Macy’s in New York to Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Here’s how Wojtek took a homemade brand and turned it into a multi-country powerhouse that’s sparking comparisons to M.A.C.

BI: What is Inglot’s footprint?

WI: In Poland we have around 170 stores, and we have another 170 stores or points of sale across 46 countries. Some of those are franchised, and there is some department store distribution. In the U.S. there are eight Inglot corporate stores and nine Macy’s counters. In addition to three spots in New York, other prime locations include The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, the Aventura Mall in North Miami Beach and the Garden State Plaza in Paramus, N.J. By yearend, we are working on adding five to 10 more corporate stores, and another six Macy’s doors.

BI: How is your business structured?

WI: The company is privately owned and debt free. My sister, who was the first employee after me, is head of manufacturing. My brother, a nuclear physicist, also helps so we have a strong scientific background, and that actually is the whole idea of the company. We give customers as many tools and toys – what we like to call them – as we can and let them be creative. The makeup artists, they are all the stars.

BI: What offerings are you quite proud of?

WI: We offer a nail polish – O2M – with a breathable formula that is unique and expensive to produce. (It costs $14 at Macy’s versus $10 for Inglot’s core polish line.) The technology is used in contact lenses and enables oxygen and moisture to transfer in and out. We are introducing a new cosmetics mattifying line with new Japanese technology that absorbs oil without leaving an ashy effect. It includes a makeup base, a translucent pressed powder and loose powder. Also coming is Extra Triple S (Sports, Stage and Screen) a makeup line that includes foundation, eyeshadow and blush that stays on under difficult conditions.

BI: Explain Inglot’s “Freedom System”, a type of merchandising I presume?

WI: This is a relatively new concept. The idea came to me when I was trying on my favorite R.M. Williams shoes at a mall in Sydney. The Freedom System allows people to select shades and create customized pallets. There are duos, three, five or 10-count sizes, or the Super Pro sizes in 20 and 40 shades. In eyeshadow alone we have 300 shades. The inserts are magnetic and stick in the compact. [At the Inglot Studio in Chelsea Market shoppers can even mix their own shades.]

BI: How is Inglot able to turn on a dime?

WI: We manufacture 95% of the product, except for the wooden pencils. Most brands contract out—nobody wants to play with cosmetics. It is very sensitive. Products come in contact with eyes and so requirements are almost like the pharmaceutical industry. We also produce all store testers, fixtures, furniture and some packaging. Manufacturing yourself gives enormous advantages. We can have a new color to market in two weeks, and also tailor counters to fit into awkward spaces.