An Interview with Cheryl Ou, co-founder of The Nail Social
Within a year of its inception in 2015, The Nail Social was awarded the Social Enterprise Start-up of the Year (Commendation) by President Tony Tan. This annual award recognizes the best in Singapore’s growing social enterprise sector.
We go behind to the scenes to speak with Cheryl, the petite, soft-spoken yet dynamic co-founder, to find out more about her personal motivation and the business which has been making waves in the local scene.
1. Singapore was already saturated with nail salons when you decided to set up The Nail Social last year. What inspired you to go ahead with this business?
Back in 2005, I was running another nail salon called Polished Divas Nail Lounge and we offered a more lifestyle experience with massage chairs and portable DVD players for in-seat entertainment. The concept was very well-received but after a few years, I decided to move on to another industry.
Fast forward to 2015, I was surprised that this lifestyle concept was still lacking in the existing nail salons and decided to give it another go. We emulated what worked and learned from our past experiences, so we were able to improve on our concept and service offerings. To be honest, I have been thinking about re-entering the nail industry for quite a number of years already. It was only after I started thinking about entering the social enterprise scene after a bad experience with a past business venture, that I realized my past experiences and skills could be put to good use and make a difference in the lives of other women.
2. What sets The Nail Social apart from your competitors?
The Nail Social is a lifestyle nail salon that offers manicure, pedicure and foot massage services, enjoyed with a personal iPad pre-loaded with movies, games, magazines and books. We are also the first socially-conscious salon that was established with the aim of training and employing local underprivileged women with a higher barrier to employment, so as to help them progress from a position of vulnerability to security and self-sufficiency.
3. Are there really organic, non-toxic nail polishes available in the market?
Technically, there is no such thing as ‘organic’ polish. In order to create a formula that actually works, there has to be synthetic ingredients involved. Having said that, the nail polish industry is slowly beginning to clean up its act, and some brands have started to create non-toxic formulas that are cruelty free and free of harmful chemicals such as dibutyl phthalate, toluene, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin and camphor.
4. How about for expectant women – is it really safe for them to continue with manicures and pedicures throughout their pregnancy? Should they do it during the first trimester?
Some harmful chemicals found in traditional nail polish have been known to cause side effects, so it is important that pregnant women and children (or everyone, really) should use only non-toxic nail polishes. Also, consumers should always make sure that the salon they go to have proper ventilation or air purification machines, and that the instruments used are sterilized in between customers.
5: For consumers who are keen to switch to safer alternatives, what’s the one piece of advice you would like to give them?
Do your research and educate yourself to tell the difference between the genuinely conscientious brands and marketing jargon. There are so many beauty brands that make responsible decisions, and those are the businesses we should be supporting. Always remember that every dollar you spend is a vote for the company, so choose wisely.
6. Any interesting snippets that you would like to share about your team?
The Nail Social team is a made up of a special bunch of women who have bonded over their life experiences and formed a network of support for each other.
7. How has the entire journey of starting up The Nail Social changed you as a person?
I have been running my own business since I was 22 years old, but ever since my venture into the world of social entrepreneurship, my motivations have changed and my pursuit for profit, while still important, have taken a backseat. My previous experience made me realise that business owners and employers have an even greater opportunity to make a positive difference, whether it is to the environment, society or to a single person’s life.
8. You’ve been reported as quite a serial entrepreneur. So what’s next for you ?
I’m more personally invested into The Nail Social than any other business I have run because I feel I get to make a real difference in the world. Hence, bringing this business to new heights will be my focus for a long time to come. Our dream is to open more outlets to increase our capacity so as to be able to bring in more beneficiaries to our vocational training and employment program.
Keen to try out The Nail Social? Participate in the #30DaysLiveGreen campaign this month and you’ll get to enjoy a complimentary Quickie Manicure (worth S$16) with purchase of a Signature Pedicure at S$42!
To redeem this offer, all you need to do is post 1 picture of how you are living green, on Instagram or Facebook. Remember to tag us @loveorganicsg and #30dayslivegreen.
Do a minimum of 1 post per week this month, and you’ll also stand a chance to win attractive prizes from The Nail Social and other partners! Click here for more campaign details!