"What made you get into the nail business? "
Without fail, this is how every interview I have ever done has started (second to questions about my business name, 'Colvon', which is a story for another time).
Why the nail industry? I had no experience in the industry when I started. I didn't do nails, nor did I have any inside knowledge of how nail salons worked outside of visiting them to get my nails done every few weeks. Yet when I thought of an industry to build in, I had no doubt in my mind that this was the one for me. Let me explain why.
First, my love for nails goes way back. I went to middle school in Northern Virginia in an area right outside of Washington DC called McLean. My school was a melting pot, filled with students from all over the world. I met a girl from Tokyo named Mai and we became the best of friends (heyyy girl!). Every summer she would go back to Tokyo, and we would prepare by gathering around her computer and shopping online for everything she would bring back for us. Poop-shaped erasers, pins with all of our favorite Japanese characters, pencil bags with bunnies on them...you name it, we wanted it. My favorite part of it all were the press on nails. That was really my first introduction to the magical world of nail art. There was a nail set for purchase with any design you could imagine. I opted for the pink, Hello Kitty, glitter, 3-D set. When she brought the masterpieces home, they did NOT disappoint. I had never seen nails so beautiful, and they screamed Emily. I guarded them with my life (but somehow still managed to lose both pinky nails). While they lasted, they were to die for. They were everything I dreamed of--a true reflection of who I was and what I was into at the time. I wore them so proudly. I got my nails done religiously from that point on. Though none were as cool as my Hello Kitty nails, I made due with what was available to me.
Surprisingly, when I went to college, my love for getting my nails done started to seem unimportant. I felt swamped with schoolwork and extra curricular activities and it simply wasn't the most important thing to me at the time. I wasn't alone either. There were lots of girls like me that would rather spend their free time doing other things. This may sound a little crazy, but looking back I think we were unconsciously rebelling. My whole life, I pictured myself developing into the "put-together woman" society tells us we should aspire to be: hair always straightened, nails always perfectly polished, wearing a Chanel Bag and heels as we hop out of our luxury convertible cars. But somehow, as I grew into my womanhood and into my purpose, I naturally let all of those ideologies go and started making decisions that made sense to me. It's like something just clicked and I didn't even know it. Spending hours in a salon didn't make sense to me at the time. I had things to learn and people to meet. I rocked my natural hair and my unpolished nails without a second thought. I knew it was a change, but I saw it as a positive one. I was learning to be comfortable in my own skin. While I wasn't really bothered by what people thought (focus can do that to you), it did make me more sensitive to criticism against women about our appearances. I remember someone telling me I looked like I "let myself go." It made me self conscious for a quick second, until I realized that they were wrong. I did not let myself go, I just carried myself differently than the way they were used to. It wasn't until then that I started to really realize and understand the pressure that's put on women to look a certain way...as if our minds, hearts and beautiful natural selves aren't enough. It really pissed me off, and I told myself that whatever I choose to do with my life I would not settle for any career that valued my appearance more than my mind. It would have to be something in which I could be myself and encourage other women to do the same.
In an entrepreneurship course I took my junior year, my teacher requested that we pick an industry to focus on for our classwork. As I thought of my interests, I was reminded of my embedded love for nails. I thought about my love hate relationship with getting my nails done, but eventually decided to pursue my studies in the nail salon industry. The more time I spent researching, learning, and analyzing the industry, the more I fell back in love with the art of nails. It wasn't because I felt any pressure to be constantly polished, it was because I was reminded of the way those Hello Kitty nails made me feel when I was a little girl. That's when I came up with the idea that changed my life: I wanted to create a brand that allowed women to reclaim our relationships with getting our nails done.
My hope was to build something that encouraged women to get our nails done because we enjoy treating ourselves, not because it makes us more desirable. In my mind, every woman deserves Hello Kitty moments and new chances and ways express ourselves. Why not through our manicures? On top of that, it had to fit into our busy lifestyles. Because as much as we love getting our nails done, let's just face it--it will never be the most important thing in our lives. Take THAT, patriarchy!
But seriously, if you think about it, nails are like canvases that we carry with us everywhere we go that allow us to share parts of who we are and what we believe in. We choose our own colors, designs, shapes and styles...all dependent on how we feel. That right there is why I chose the nail industry. Because it needed a little change, and the people that we serve are the ones using their hands and their minds to make the world a better and less ignorant place. Our nails can actually speak on our behalf. How magical is that? It may have been my Hello Kitty nails that gave me the chance to experience that for the first time, but it was becoming a woman that helped me realize that I had a lot to say.
Originally published on emilychristina.com