How We Started
Mr. Robert Upshaw and Mr. Kito Ochi founded KUPA in 1984 to meet the needs of the young — and growing — nail industry. They named their company KUPA, an acronym combining the names Kito, Upshaw, and Associates.
The first revolutionary products for KUPA grew from Mr. Upshaw and Mr. Ochi's knowledge of dental products, which they had a long history of working with.
Mr. Upshaw had been working in the dental industry since the 1940s when he became a Certified Dental Technician in U.S. Naval hospitals. After owning and managing dental laboratories and supply companies, Mr. Upshaw became acquainted with the nail industry in the early 1980s. At that time, the industry was in its infancy, and nail technicians were forced to adopt products from the dental profession because few "nail products" actually existed. The lack of products spurred Mr. Upshaw to attend a beauty trade show. There, he witnessed nail technicians demonstrating the application of what appeared to be the same product he had previously used in the manufacture of dental implants. As he watched the nail technicians work with the acrylic, he was reminded of how difficult it could be to shape and file. Mr. Upshaw knew that the dental industry had recently begun using electric files to successfully shape this material and realized that it could be adopted for the nail industry as well.
Following the show, he reached out to Mr. Ochi, an American dental technician, he had known since the 1950s. After beginning a collaboration with Mr. Ochi, the two contacted a Japanese manufacturer that had supplied electric filing equipment to dental technicians and dentists. That was the beginning of KUPA Inc.
After just two years, Urawa Corp., a Japanese manufacturer of high-quality electric filing equipment, approached KUPA and proposed developing a new filing product specifically for the nail industry. Mr. Upshaw and Mr. Ochi quickly agreed to the partnership, knowing that the nail industry would benefit from such a specialized product.
Over the course of several months, Urawa and KUPA designed an electric filing machine that would meet the needs of nail technicians while maintaining the quality dental technicians had come to expect. The resulting product, the UP-200 set the standard for quality electric files in the nail industry. More than 20 years later, Urawa Corp. continues to manufacture the UP-200 exclusively for KUPA. (Urawa Corp. also manufactures the Super Upower and cordless G3 for KUPA.)
The UP-200 became a quick success, and rapid expansion of KUPA followed over the next few years. Products were introduced at trade shows across the country, and dealers quickly signed on as product awareness increased and they learned of KUPA's personalized service.
Where We Are at Now
The KUPA name is now synonymous with high-quality electric nail filing equipment. Many technicians refer to their machines simply as "The KUPA".
When Mr. Ochi passed away in 1994, Mr. Upshaw became the sole leader of the company. Since that time, Mr. Upshaw has led the company to explosive growth - more than a 200% until his retirement in 2010, when he was succeeded by Richard Hurter.
Over the past few years, KUPA has implemented a four-point plan to develop several proprietary products:
1. Middle-Market Electric Nail File Machine. The Mani-pro was developed to be a middle-market product in the KUPA product line. It brings to manicure tables the basic features expected from a KUPA product without additional costs.
2. Superior-Grade Carbide Bits. When the nail industry needed high-quality and competitively-priced bits to use with electric nail files, KUPA initiated the use of Precision Carbide Bits. Many of the industry's current carbide designs were developed by KUPA. To ensure customer satisfaction, KUPA purchased six state-of-the-art six-axis CNC grinding machines in 1998. These machines enable KUPA to manufacture a superior-grade carbide bit.
3. Exclusive Machine with Advanced Features. In July 2000, KUPA began development of the KP-3000, an exclusive electric nail filing machine that would be manufactured in the U.S. The KP-3000 delivers superior performance with advanced features at a greatly reduced cost and is evidence that KUPA remains the leader in high-quality electric nail filing equipment.
4. Professional Enhancement Line. A complete collection of nail enhancement products, Beautiful Nails is KUPA's exciting newly created product line. It aims to fill the void left by dealers that are not authorized retailers of Creative Nail Design or OPI products.
Where We’re Going
KUPA will continue to create and launch proprietary products that meet the needs of nail technicians. Future products will incorporate technology from within and outside of the nail industry to make the nail technician’s life more convenient, portable, and cost-effective.
Over the next few years, KUPA will also be developing electronic articles and guides to help nail technicians improve their business as well as their nail-filing skills.