By Hope Belli Tinney, Washington SBDC
Ana and her husband, Cory Seidel, are owners of Finely Finished LLC, which includes an online store for nail and skin care products, a quarterly nail care magazine, a blog focused on nail art and another blog for nail care advice. Business is booming, largely because of Ana’s adept use of social media and her “get naked” challenge.
Adept might be an understatement. Their Facebook page for Simple Nail Art Tips (https://www.facebook.com/
SimpleNailArtTips) has more than 95,000 “likes” with increases of more than 1,000 per week, sometimes 1,000 per day, over the past eight months. Their Instagram account has more than 18,000 followers and is also growing daily.
In the “Let’s get naked” challenge, Ana uses multiple social media platforms to invite women with dry, cracked or yellow nails to remove their polish and apply her original jojoba-based oil for three days. The before and after photos and glowing reviews of Bliss Kiss Simply Pure Nail Oil (http://www.MyBlissKiss.com ) have helped catapult the Seidels from business hobbyists to all-in entrepreneurs who recently leased a 2,000 square-foot warehouse and hired their first two employees.
Layoff prompts focus on family business
Ana’s interest in nail care research and development started in 2010, but things got serious after Cory was laid off from his job in software testing and development in late 2012.
“We’d been playing at business for 20 years with the goal of me being able to work at home,” Cory said, so they decided to view his termination as an opportunity. Instead of spending his time looking for a new job, they doubled down on their efforts to create a viable business that could support their family.
Fortunately, they had some mentors along the way. The first was Daryl Murrow, director of the Thurston Economic Development Council Business Resource Center. He is an approved training provider for Washington’s Self-Employment Assistance Program (SEAP).
The SEAP curriculum helped with early-stage development, Cory said, and Murrow helped them get set up to sell their nail oil on Amazon.
Free help from small business advisor
With their business up and running, Murrow introduced them to Ron Nielsen, a certified business advisor with the Small Business Development Center in Lacey.
The Washington SBDC, http://www.wsbdc.org, is a network of more than two dozen business advisors located in communities across the state who provide free, one-to-one, confidential business advising to small business owners who want to start, grow or transition their businesses.
The Washington SBDC is supported by Washington State University, the U.S. Small Business Administration and other institutions of economic development and higher education. The SBDC office in Lacey receives additional support from South Puget Sound Community College and is located at 665 Woodland Square Loop SE.
Know your numbers, grow your business
The Seidels had had other start-up ideas that never gained momentum, so they knew that developing their business plan, pushing their brand and building their customer base would require both patience and persistence.
“Ron is just a wizard with numbers,” Cory said. “He helped us understand how knowing your numbers can help you plan and grow your business.”
At the time Cory’s position was eliminated, Ana was a stay-at-home mom and they had four children ages 14, 11, 9 and 6. They were living off unemployment and retirement savings, and they weren’t sure how long they could manage.
Despite their belief in each other and in their business plan, 2013 was difficult. They were averaging about $3,000 in sales each month, which wasn’t enough to meet expenses.
30 years of business experience
Nielsen, who started meeting with them in early 2013, didn’t sugarcoat anything, Ana said, but his ability to review the financial statements and point out promising trajectories or healthy ratios helped them stay positive and motivated.
Nielsen, who owned and operated three different companies during his 30 years of business experience, is a certified NxLevel business instructor, a Profit Mastery facilitator, an International Certified Global Business Professional and an Economic Development Finance Profes-sional.
“The kind of advice he gives us would cost $500 an hour if we had to pay for it,” Ana said.
By early 2014, average monthly revenues had quadrupled. In the first three months of 2014, Cory said, their revenue equaled what they had made in all of 2013. With Nielsen’s help, sales increased 500 percent over 2013 and profits improved by 700 percent.
Finding a nail-oil niche
The Seidels’ promise to readers of their Nail Care HQ blog (http://www.NailCareHQ.com) is “no lies, no hype…only the truth” and that’s what Ana was looking for when she started down the path that eventually led to Bliss Kiss Simply Pure Nail Oil and Finely Finished LLC.
Ana had long enjoyed a nicely painted set of nails, but she stumbled into the intense subculture of nail art enthusiasts about four years ago when she was frustrated by her inability to take a shower without chipping her nail polish.
She thought a simple Google search would turn up a simple answer, but no. Instead she learned that many people take their nails very, very seriously and that accurate, science-based information was hard to find. She learned a lot more of the science behind why nail oil is so important, but she also discovered that she was allergic to the oils on the market.
Being a do-it-yourself kind of person, Ana developed her own recipe. When friends and family members reported great results, she thought maybe she’d hit on a viable business opportunity.
Good match for their talents
Not that there hadn’t been others. While Cory was holding down a full-time job in software testing and development, Ana did much of the legwork on projects as varied as self-publishing a parenting book and creating high-end scrapbook design templates.
This endeavor is different for several reasons, they said. One is that Cory is on board full time, so the business has their full attention. The business is a good match for their individual talents: Ana has a degree in advertising and expertise in writing and design; Cory’s IT skills have been critical in creating and maintaining user-friendly websites, and his management skills have been a huge help in setting up and maintaining their financial and business systems.
Building business together
Another difference is that this time they have an independent, expert advisor who is available to talk through decisions and help them find the resources they need to take the next step forward.
“I can say without a doubt that if we didn’t have the SBDC, both Cory and I would have gone back to working for other people,” Ana said.
Eventually she did figure out the secret to protecting her nails in the shower – wrap the base coat and top coat around the fingernail so that the underside of the nail tip is coated as well. But more important, she found a viable business opportunity that she and her husband can build together.
Ana Seidel, Finely Finished LLC, firstname.lastname@example.org, 360-464-7415
Cory Seidel, Finely Finished LLC, email@example.com, 360-709-0602
Ron Nielsen, Washington SBDC, firstname.lastname@example.org, 360-407-0014