By Aswan Magumbe
I’m at our factory and it’s freezing here,” announces Gina Farran, founder of Glaize, as she pops up on the screen ahead of our call. It’s not long before I’m able to gather that Gina is all hands on deck, quite literally dipping her nails in countless buckets. As it stands, she has spent the past three weeks in-house at their London-based factory, working alongside her small team of seven to help with demand after the launch of their pre-orders a few weeks ago, as well as everyday logistics.
Glaize began to materialise in 2020, nine months after she left her job as an investment banking associate at Goldman Sachs. With such a high-demanding job, it left little time for self-care - “my hours were ridiculous”. When she found herself unable to do the simplest of pleasures like making beauty appointments or even finding the time to paint her nails at home, she sought out a solution only to find there wasn’t one - until Glaize.
Two weeks before the pandemic, Gina joined a 10-week accelerator programme called Antler, ‘a global early-stage VC that builds and invests in groundbreaking technology companies’ while allowing you to foster relationships with people in similar positions. It was during this journey that Gina would build a friendship and eventually, a business relationship with her co-founder Chris Mosedale, who “was excited about potentially disrupting industries that hadn't changed for a while” such as the nail care industry.
By June 2020, Glaize had secured its first investment. She has since raised two more rounds of funding, securing her last one in February 2021. Tackling this as a woman, let alone an Arab woman, she admitted the process was intimidating at times. “I couldn’t even find the statistic for the number of Arab female founders,” she said, which sparked a fire for her to attain her spot as one.
This leads to a discussion on her rejection of #girlbosses and women founders, identifying “an invisible tax” on them as a result of these labels. “It's like attacks on women founders that we not only have to build a business, despite it being harder, but we also need to be good and look good while we do it,” she said.
Rather, Gina credits her top skills that have aided the successful start (and sustaining) of Glaize to her background in investment banking. Firstly, the ability to fundraise. “When you’re investment banking, you're either advising companies on the sale or acquisition of a certain company so you're constantly exposed to okay, how do you pitch something? What is the investment thesis? And how do you structure it in the form of a presentation that then goes to a C-suite of a very big company?”, all questions she now has to confront as a founder.
She has also had to adapt quickly, becoming accustomed to working under great pressure in short spaces of time. Though there’s a lot of toxicity and unsustainability in work approaches in the finance sector, especially at top banks, Gina recognises that “it builds stamina because you just have to keep going.” And so far, that resilience has been integral to the growth of her own business.
“They teach you to be super meticulous, and do things properly because there's no other way,” she said about how she developed her attention to detail. I’m reminded of a revelation she made earlier in our conversation; Glaize had developed more than 500 nail formula iterations to ensure they get it right alongside a team of in-house scientists - and even now, they’re not done. It’s this intimate care and approach to the business which plasters Gina at the forefront of pioneers within the nail care industry especially.
Glaize has become the perfect medium between nail and tech. It’s simple: you choose your gel, snap a photo of your nails and receive your custom-measured stick-ons within a full week. Despite the ease of application to the nail, the product ensures maximum luxury to give that salon finish at half the cost, but minus the drills. However, behind the gloss is the bubble, and Gina and her team are making that a focal point.
“Very early on, we had a big goal to make our gels fully biobased,” she said. “As we started iterating, we realised it was going to be harder than expected so we try and make it clear that we're on a sustainability journey.” Currently, they stand at roughly 20% biobased and are continuously pushing the boundary and testing new ingredients to cross the 50% threshold.
The next steps require more hours spent in the factory but an opportunity to collaborate with nail artists to offer more designs and variety. “That's the most exciting thing because I think that's going to open up a new market for Glaize that we don't play in yet,” she said. The nail art is expected to launch this month.
So there’s lots more work to do, and Gina’s job is far from done but everything is aligning. In addition to running a six-figure company, she’s also planning a summer wedding which she needs to find more time for, as well as self-care time. “I haven't had time for basic needs and obviously, that's not sustainable,” she said. “I'm probably doing something wrong, but I feel like it's necessary at this stage.”
To both established and aspiring women founders, Gina offers two pieces of advice and here they are:
Be very honest with yourself about why you want to start a business before you start, and make sure you're doing it for the right reasons
Ignore the noise and don’t get distracted; your real business is your product
From Goldman Sachs to running a nail-tech startup, Gina Farran is the founder and CEO of Glaize committed to finding ‘the cure to the manicure’. And in just under three years, she’s found the solution
By Aswan Magumbe
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