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Q&A with Founder of Australian Nail Brand Hello Darling

Q&A with Founder of Australian Nail Brand Hello Darling

04.08.13

By Andrew Smith

I am so excited to be sharing with you one of my favorite new nail brands, Hello Darling. This homegrown Australian business has made waves amongst nail aficionados with its unique nail concepts and high performing nail lacquers. Despite my love for the brand, there isn’t much I knew about it, so I sat down with Heather Snodgrass-Brine, Hello Darling’s Founder and Creative Director, to get all the juicy details. –Kimberly Nissen, The Plastic Diaries

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Kimberly: Tell me about Hello Darling. Who are you, why did you create a nail brand and do you just sit around all day painting your nails?

Heather: For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with color, and more specifically, nail polish. There’s something really magical to me about wearing color on your body  – in a temporary sense – that doesn’t wash off in the shower.

By trade, I am a digital and editorial strategist, with a particular focus on brand and marketing within social media. In 2008, I moved back to Australia after seven years in the US – split between San Diego and New York – and the mani-pedi culture there is huge. Fairly shortly after I moved to Sydney, I met my business partner Kim McKay who runs Klick Communications. We bonded first over Twitter, then in person. We did some work together and we became fast friends. A lot of our meetings and catch-ups were over nail appointments, and we often lamented that there wasn’t the same kind of spa experience here in Australia like you get in the States. It was a common theme of our conversations. We also noted that there wasn’t a true Australian challenger brand of nail polish – like Essie or BUTTER London – and that so many women here were willing to settle for what’s on the shelf of their local salon and not question the quality or ingredients of their polish choices.

I researched relentlessly in my spare time to see if creating nail products was even a viable idea. The more I learned, the more I wanted to make this business work and to bring a product to market that was not only different, but really special. Hello Darling started with the goal to make the world beautiful one nail at a time, but we also believe that beauty doesn’t have to come at a price to your health or other living beings.

The opportunity arose out of my quest for knowledge about the product development process. For Kim and I to start our business based on our company ideals, we found a manufacturer who adhered to our strict guidelines and requirements. We invested equally out of our own pockets to commission our first collections and buy our first retail stock, which sold out two weeks after we put up our website. The response ever since has been overwhelmingly positive.

Six months after we launched Hello Darling as a side project, I resigned from my full-time job as head of communications at a mobile startup. I have always had a strong, independent entrepreneurial spirit, and I knew if I wanted to go and do my own thing. I needed to be doing something I was deeply passionate, and borderline obsessive about. Hello Darling gave me the courage to plunge into full-time entrepreneurship, and we’ve been going full-steam ahead ever since.

Do we sit around painting our nails all day? I wish I could say yes. On weeks where we are testing batches of new shades and products, there’s a lot of lacquering going on, and I might change my nails every day. Other weeks where we are on the road or super-focused on sales, my nails are painted (perfectly) but I don’t even have time to think about a repaint.

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Kimberly: What is unique about Hello Darling? What does Hello Darling do better than any other nail polish brand?

Heather: All our nail lacquers are 5-free (meaning absolutely NO toluene, formaldehyde or formaldehyde resin, DBP or camphor) and are animal testing & cruelty free. We are also focused on innovation, bringing products like Rockcandy and ArtClass nail decals to market which have generated amazing press coverage and even greater consumer interest. The most common pieces of feedback we receive from our customers and salons is that Hello Darling lacquer is one of the longest wearing polishes, a dream to use, fast-drying and has the best selection of trend colors available anywhere.

I think our point of difference has always been giving our customers the access to the creative side of our business – I still manage our social media channels, answer emails and leave notes for customers in their packages. Customer service and the ability to surprise and delight the lovely people who buy our products is of the utmost important to us.

We are also now offering a service and retail concept allowing anyone to submit a brief or request for a color that they absolutely cannot live without. Whether it’s a bride whose mother doesn’t understand the difference between Blush and Bashful, a couture designer wanting to match the delicate embroidery in her latest collection with crystal-encrusted nail wraps, or a jeweler wanting to infuse precious gems into a lacquer, no request is out of the question. BESPOKE is already being tested and is proving to be a much in-demand local and international service. We plan to launch officially in July with a pop-up retail concept in Sydney, Melbourne and have the opportunity to host retail concepts in New York and London, also. So that’s pretty exciting for us.

Kimberly: Do you think being an Australian nail brand has any extra benefits or pitfalls over other brands produced internationally?

Heather: I think being based in Australia has both benefits and drawbacks. On one hand, we have maximum visibility on chain of custody as far as our manufacturing process goes, and we know where everything that goes into our product comes from. If we needed to sort out a problem, we could go to the factory and find out precisely what’s going on, why and hatch a plan to remedy it. Mind you, this is not something we’ve ever had to do. That access, though, also gives us the ability to turn around products in a really small window of time.

Being in Australia means it’s harder to access overseas markets as far as PR, press and blogs go. That said, we have a huge customer base in the US, Canada and Europe. I think if you’re into nails, you seek out products worth trying, wherever in the world they are. The interest we’ve had from overseas customers, salons and distributors proves that.

Kimberly: If you could do the nails of a celebrity, who would it be and what would you create?

Heather: There are so many. Kelly Osbourne. Jessie J. Katy Perry. Miley Cyrus. Rihanna. The girls who love to have fun with their nails, don’t take it too seriously and are really into trying new things. I’d design ArtClass decals inspired by their red carpet dresses and set them with real gemstones, on custom-mixed Hello Darling polish.

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Kimberly: What will be the hottest nail trend in 2013?

Heather: Texture is going to continue being huge, as is nude and oxblood. I think we’ll see things like half-moons and modernized French become a mainstay. But personally, I see super individualized nails – an anti-trend, if you will – being the biggest thing this year. Not necessarily in a crazy kawaii-style loaded-up-with-pearls-and-crystals way, but in a custom-mixed shade, specially-designed nail art sort of way. It’s less about what everyone else is wearing and more about wearing something no one else in the world has. That’s really interesting to me.

Kimberly: What is your golden rule or advice for beautiful nails?

Heather: Nail health starts from the inside – you can’t expect to have great nails if you have a poor diet, don’t get the adequate vitamins and minerals and don’t drink enough water. No biting anything on your hands – not your nails, cuticles or the sides of your fingers. File them in one direction, and protect them from the sun with polish and top coat – or at least a UV-safe strengthener. And, in the very wise words of Essie Weingarten: nails are jewels, not tools.

Kimberly: What would you say to someone who is thinking of starting their own nail polish brand or are reading this while they franken their own nail polish creations?

Heather: Research it until you go cross-eyed. Know what goes into it, why, how and where it comes from because when you bring it to market, you’re doing it with the most savvy, informed consumers who have ever existed. Knowing your product inside out will help answer questions not only from those customers, but the misinformed ones as well.

And if you’re mixing your own, do it in a well-ventilated area – and not on your parent’s antique coffee table (I learned that one when I was twelve. I don’t recommend it.)

Kimberly: Thank you to Heather and Hello Darling for sharing such interesting and insightful information. If you are keen to get the Hello Darling experience visit http://hellodarling.com.au/ (They ship globally).

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