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How To Start Your Indie Nail Polish Brand

How To Start Your Indie Nail Polish Brand

12.14.13

By James

Have you ever wanted to invent your own color of polish? Whether you want to make your own custom shades for fun, share them with friends and family, make a little money on the side selling lacquer, or all three, check out these tips from four real at-home creators of indie brands. 

Indigo Bananas

Andrea of Indigo Bananas

Nail It!: How much would you recommend someone expect to spend to get started making their own polish from scratch?
Andrea: Most of the successful brands that sell professional looking (labeled, consistent batches) products started with somewhere north of $4k, and that was my experience as well. Supplies to experiment with and test, materials for sufficient stock, promotional items, licenses and insurance all adds up quickly.

Did you ever consider doing private labeling (which is simply putting your name on an existing product and marketing it)?
I looked into private labeling as something I didn’t consider for my brand, but as a curiosity or to see what was out there. Stock product without modifications from the private labels I checked was very limited in terms of creativity, and a contract with a lab to create more interesting colors required larger startup funds, especially if exclusive colors were worked on.

Indigo Bananas Quote

Tell us about the process of finding the right bottle to put your polish in.
There are just two major glass companies in the world that make nail polish bottles, and a handful of smaller companies in Asia, and most resellers sell from these two companies. So I found a couple of catalogues to flip through, requested samples, measured contents and checked the quality of the glass mostly.

How many new colors do you put out a year?
I’ve averaged a bit over 50 colors in my first year, with a few months of downtime in between sets. I aim at collections of 5-8 colors every month or two.

Who are some good suppliers to turn to for someone who wants to get started?
The starting point for nearly everyone, and supplier for a good amount of materials for most brands even long-term is TKB trading. They have great prices and lots of selection and options.

Are you glad you chose to start your own indie line?
Yes, it’s a great creative outlet and I can basically identify a large majority of commercial (and other indie) nail polish components – so it really trains your eye. Running an indie brand is a lot of work, and customer service is a big part of it – and a lot of time is taken up with customer service and paperwork and restocks and quality control (hopefully things everyone is doing!). It’s a lot more work than it sounds like it will be initially!

Delush Polish

Adrianna of Delush Polish

Nail It!: What are the components/ingredients that go into indie polish?
Adrianna: With any polish, the crucial ingredient is the suspension base. Without the suspension base, other key components such as color additives and glitters will sink to the base of your bottle.

How much would you recommend someone expect to spend to get started making their own polish from scratch?
You will initially have to spend hundreds to gather all the components and core ingredients that you will need to create the colors you envision. Testing is a huge part of this process and you have to be prepared to test ingredients that may not pass the testing phase. Ultimately you can be spending anywhere between $1k-2k to get yourself up and running.

Tell us about the process of finding the right bottle to put your polish in.
Finding the right bottle supplier is all about trial and error in addition to the look you want your brand to embody. I ordered several bottle samples before settling on what I have now. As time moves on, new supplies and styles become available and brands automatically evolve during this process. I am always looking at ways to improve Delush, which is a never-ending process.

Delush Quote

How did your first start promoting your products?
I began promoting Delush Polish through social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Although these platforms are predominantly free, each requires a significant time commitment and effort. Just like anything in life you get back what you put in to something. As I began to promote on social media, customers began recognizing Delush as a distinctive brand, one that they wanted to try and share with their friends.

Do you get your family and friends involved when testing new color?
It is important to test your colors for wear time, longevity and consistency over a prolonged period of time. Testing is a crucial step in creating a successful brand. I test every single color personally and when family is in town, they do too!

Are you glad you chose to start your own indie line?
Absolutely! I’m thrilled and proud of the brand I’ve built. Delush Polish has achieved so much in such a short period of time and I’m really excited about the future.

Pipe Dream Polish

April of Pipe Dream Polish

Nail It!: How much would you recommend someone expect to spend to get started making their own polish from scratch?
April: It just depends on your budget. You can start out with a few simple ingredients and a few bottles for under $200 but I would recommend having at least $500 to start out with.

Tell us about the process of finding the right bottle to put your polish in.
There aren’t a lot of options as far as bottle suppliers for the average indie maker wanting to purchase less than a few thousand bottles at a time. Most of us have to rely on what third party suppliers have available to us until we are able to afford to purchase in large quantities. I personally prefer round bottles and that’s what I use, however, it just depends on one’s individual tastes.

Pipe Dream Polish

How did your first start promoting your products?
I started out with a Facebook page and my Etsy shop, later I joined Instagram and it is still pretty much the only promotion I do.

How many new colors do you put out a year?
Quite a few. I put out a new collection approximately every two months and sometimes a new polish or two in between collections.

Are you glad you chose to start your own indie line? Yes, definitely. It has been a wonderful creative outlet for me and I love to see people loving using something I created!

Comet Vomit Polish

Tiffany of Comet Vomit
Nail It!: What are the components/ingredients that go into indie polish?

Tiffany: Liquid base(s): there are several different kinds. I use “suspension base” which is a must have for suspending glitters, “luster base” which is for solid colors without glitter, though it can suspend very fine glitter, and matte base which dries matte. I have not found a matte base that suspends larger glitter.

Glitters: These must be solvent resistant so that they will not break down or bleed in the polish.

Pigments: These come in several form as powders, liquids and micro fine glitter. 
You will, of course, also need empty bottles, mixing balls and tools like funnels, scoops and swatch wheels.

How much would you recommend someone expect to spend to get started making their own polish from scratch?
When I first started, I believe ordered about 30 bottles, a bottle of suspension base, mixing balls, and a few pre-packaged assortment of pigments and glitters — since I didn’t know yet what I was going to want and need. My start up cost was about $150 and was enough to get things moving.


Tell us about the process of finding the right bottle to put your polish in.

I really just wanted a classic polish bottle. I wanted something that didn’t distract from the polish itself. I went with the classic, round barrel and black cap and I’ve been very happy with that choice. There are a lot of bottles available in all shapes and sizes and I have considered the possibility of releasing some limited edition polishes in other bottles, eventually.

 

Comet Vomit quote

How did your first start promoting your products?

I was a member of a nail art community online and went to them with my products. I gave a few bottles away promotionally and showed off my swatches and asked for feedback. I was given a lot of constructive criticism, which was very helpful.


How did you first get customers to buy your polish?

Talking about my polish online in the nail art community was very successful for me. I started with pretty low prices and sold quite a bit right away. I listened to their feedback and made adjustments to my photos and polishes. I found that people really want to see a full manicure of each polish (not just swatches!) and lighting is key! Once I acquired a light box, my photos improved ten fold and people knew exactly what the polish looked like. I would say self-promotion across every social media platform you can use and high quality photos are your best weapons.


Who are some good suppliers to turn to for someone who wants to get started?

TKBtrading.com is wonderful and they have just about everything you need to get started. Wonderful, personable customer service also. I also can’t say enough nice things about glitterunique.com! I swear they bend over backwards to get me what I need. Once again, truly amazing customer service.

Are you glad you chose to start your own indie line?

Every single day, I am grateful for being able to do something I love and share it with people around the world.
**To see the steps involved in making your own polish see our article here.

[Images courtesy of respective indie brands]

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