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How to disrupt the beauty industry

Glaize’s Gina Farran on creating a new model for at-home manicures

gina farran
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“It’s humbling building a start-up,” says Gina Farran, “because everything you think you know gets destroyed in the first month!”

Farran is talking about her whirlwind journey over the past two years co-founding Glaize, a new beauty brand that produces made-to-measure stick-on gel nails for at-home manicures (customers send in photographs of their hands and receive a laser-cut sheet of peel-off gel nails, tailored to their size and in the colour of their choice). Originally from Lebanon, she came up with the idea for the business while working at Goldman Sachs in Dubai and then London, following a master’s degree in France. “In my home country, beauty is a very important part of women’s lives – I think it’s a form of escapism,” she reflects. “Glaize came from the fact that I love manicures, but while I was working as an investment banker, I never really had the time or ability to plan for a visit to a salon.”

To get the business off the ground, she took part in an accelerator programme for entrepreneurs called Antler, which puts participants through a 10-week process in which they receive coaching, networking opportunities and the chance to receive venture-capital investment. This secured Farran a round of pre-seed funding in June 2020, but, she says, “we quickly realised we needed a lot more just to bring the product to market – I think it’s very common for entrepreneurs to underestimate how much things cost”. She has since closed two further rounds of funding, raising about £750,000 in total, and opened the business for pre-orders in March this year. Here, Farran shares some of the lessons she has learnt from launching a start-up in the highly competitive beauty industry…

glaize manicure
Courtesy

1/ Do yourself justice

“Men are very good at selling you a dream when they only have half a dream built, whereas women tend to give themselves a bit less credit than they deserve. If I had to give one piece of advice to other female entrepreneurs, it would be to be more assertive when pitching – it’s a cliché, but we do generally undersell ourselves. I think my background in banking helped because I’ve been trained to understand what investors want and what they’re looking for – I’m lucky to have found people who believe in our vision.”

2/ Build a diverse team

“Our target market is quite broad – basically, it’s anyone who likes nails, aged between 20 and 55. We’re trying to be inclusive in terms of our customers, so it makes sense to take the same approach when it comes to recruitment. Our team come from lots of different countries – Kenya, Lebanon, Portugal, the UK – and we put a very conscious effort into making sure we’re diverse in every sense of the word.”

3/ Don’t stop experimenting

“I found there was a real lack of awareness about sustainability in the manicure industry – most varnishes are plastic, and no one has cracked the idea of a ‘green’ UV gel. Re-formulating a product when you have limited resources is no easy task, so we’re on a bit of a journey in terms of our environmental credentials, but we’re getting there. Today, our gel nails are between 20 and 25 per cent plant-based (compared with zero per cent for other UV gels), and we’re iterating on a weekly basis to try to push that up.”

4/ Organic growth can be powerful

“We’ve spent very little on advertising and marketing so far, because when we launched earlier this year, we already had a waiting list of about 4,000 people, built up through social media such as LinkedIn. We’re being quite careful about our growth trajectory: we wanted to limit the quantity of product at first in case there were things we need to fix, and we’ll scale up incrementally.”

5/ Stay close to your customer

“A week after customers receive the product, they’ll receive an email asking for their feedback; we’ll also be organising focus groups to get people’s honest responses to the product so that we can keep tweaking it – that’s one of the reasons why we wanted to make everything ourselves.”

6/ Expect to have your illusions shattered

“I try to have timelines, but everything always takes so much longer than you expect, especially when you’re experimenting with a physical product, waiting for deliveries and dealing with delays in your supply chain. I’m still overly optimistic – some might say delusional – but I’ve made it this far!”

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