NAME Sara Alter
LOCATION New York City
EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND B.S. in Apparel Design from The University of Delaware
COMPANY Pretty Please Nail Polish
Tell me a little bit about your wonderfully original (made in the USA!) company & how you first conceived the idea. The idea for Pretty Please came to me when I was looking for a unique gift for my mom. I came up with the idea to name a nail polish in her favorite color, picked out the name and assumed I could find it online. When I went to order the gift, I couldn’t find personalized nail polish anywhere! After a lot of research and planning, I decided to create the nail polish myself. Once I got the idea in my head, I knew I had to make it happen.
Is there a story behind the company name? Naming this company felt as hard as naming a first born! It was a long process. It took making many lists with friends, 5 days of brainstorming during a rainy trip to Mexico, and a lot of failed attempts, but finally, it felt right. I decided on the name “Notable Nails” and sent it off to my graphic designer, Bri Emery of designlovefest, to start designing the logo. She and her BFF, Jen Gotch, of Ban.do fame, were helping me out at the time and came back to me with a resounding, “NO”. I went back to the drawing board one last time and Pretty Please was the last name to be added to the list. It felt like the perfect fit and when everyone cheered, a brand name was born. I owe them for being so candid (thanks ladies!).
Once you had the idea, what happened next? How long did it take before everything came together and www.prettypleasenailpolish.com went live? I came up with the idea in December of 2010 and by January of 2011 I had incorporated the company. The next steps involved researching patents and trademarks, finding a nail polish manufacturer, a printer, designing a logo, labels, and boxes, picking out the first set of colors, creating an interactive website from scratch and gearing up to pitch to the media. About 9 months later the website launched with 6 shades.
As you well know, there are a lot of things to tackle before launching a business. How did you learn the ins and outs of running your own company? I don’t have a background in business so I was going in blind. Like most entrepreneurs I learned a lot about the ins and outs as they came up. To prepare, I did I lot of research, got advice from everyone and anyone who would listen, and I made sure I worked and partnered with people who I trusted and who I felt believed in my idea. No personalized nail polish company with this model existed before Pretty Please so I had no road map to follow. I created it as I went. It was a learning experience from the start and continues to be every day.
In a world where there might actually be a Pantone color for every shade of nail polish, how did you go about selecting your twenty five colors? When I first started Pretty Please I focused on the colors that I thought would stay relevant from season to season. Now that the classics are taken care of, I can have a lot more fun. I pull inspiration from photography, fashion, fabrics, and street style but at the end of the day I try to stay away from trends and just pick colors I think my customers will love. For me it’s about trusting my own taste and hoping my customers are on the same page.
How did you get the word out about Pretty Please nail polish when you first launched? How have you approached the marketing for your company since? First I made a Facebook business page to start to generate interest. Instagram didn’t exist yet and Pretty Please is a very visual brand so Facebook was my main social media focus. Then I made a media kit detailing my product while creating a visual feel for the brand aesthetic. I got to work building a media list by researching LinkedIn profiles and magazine websites and then I took a leap of faith and emailed out the press release with a tentative launch date hoping to get the media buzzing. I also sent an email out to all my friends and asked that they share it with every human being they knew. Since then, Instagram has become a main focus. Through Instagram I have made great business contacts, collaborated with fun brands and have gained access to potential customers. It’s amazing what social media has done for small businesses!
What does a day in the life of Sara Alter look like? Most days start with a social media scan, post, and reading the latest nail polish and beauty news. Then, after Starbucks, I move on to package fulfillment. Once packages are out the door I focus on customer and press inquiries. Then comes marketing and PR, which depending on the time of year, involves sending out pitch materials with a focus on anything from holiday gift guides to fashion week pop up events. Business development is also getting a big push as I am starting to focus on B2B sales. On special days there are photo shoots, interviews and events but most days you can find me behind my desk or stuffing boxes. Oh, the glamorous life!
What one pearl of wisdom would you share with those considering starting their own business? From the moment you decide to start your own business it will be hard to (read: you will never) completely shut off from work. Your business will be as much a part of your life as your significant other, your children, your pet, etc. You will think about your business first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Your business needs to be a great love of your life. It’s that intense and time consuming.
I’m fairly certain I’m singlehandedly keeping my local nail salon in business. Any tips for at-home manicures? I have watched my friends do their own nails and I notice that they either go right down to the cuticle or cover the cuticle completely. For me, that’s a no-no! I recommend polishing to just above the cuticle and you will create a clean line and less noticeable re-growth.
Guilty pleasure? Watching Pretty Little Liars while eating Chipotle
Signature nail color? Any shade of pink but I lean towards color #5!
Song you can’t help but dance to? We Found Love by Rihanna. It’s my happy song!
Dream collaborator? Edie Parker. Her bespoke handbags would be a perfect fit.
Favorite NYC eatery? The Grey Dog (any location!)