A few days ago, I chatted with Tanya, stay-at-home mom and owner of four online businesses including Indie Polish (100 per cent handmade polishes) and Me and the Boy (vegan home goods). We focused on her ever-growing polish-making business founded in October 2012, and talked about how she got started and what she’s doing now.
Steph Lau: How about you begin by telling me how you decided to start your business? What were you doing before and how did you get to where you are now?
Tanya: I graduated high school and then studied to be a Paramedic. I had anxiety, so that didn’t work out. I had a kid and got on with life and never looked back. Then, I was the manager of a Starbucks working 44 to 50 hours a week. When my son was diagnosed with ADHD, autism, and ODD, I had to quit my job to stay home. I didn’t know what to do. It scared me.
One day, a good friend of mine told me “There’s this huge thing called ‘Indie Polish’ right now. I thought to myself, “okay, whatever”. I went on Etsy to look it up and was amazed by what I saw – glitter, sparkles and stars, polish that changes when hot or cold. [My mind] was blown. Like most people, I was the kind of person that bought my polish at Shoppers or Loblaws, but with indie polish, there [were] so many possibilities. It wasn’t until a year later that I started, but there wasn’t a lot of Canadian indie polish representation at the time.
I was terrified when I invested. I sold a bottle a week and must have thrown out 5 gallons [of polish]. There are no rules and no handbook. You just have to mix one bottle and let it sit for 60 days to see if it stays the same. Gold polish can turn blue. It’s a huge learning curve.
I started my business out of necessity and now I love it. I would love to go back and train for a “career” but I don’t regret not doing so.
S: Speaking of learning…if I wanted to make polishes, are there any resources for me to learn?
T: Sure there are, but I’m not the kind of person to seek out how-to’s. I just played with it. Now, I ask other polish makers. I’m still learning. It’s a shame if you’re not still learning in life.
S: I’ve followed your polishes since you opened your store and you’ve grown to be so successful. How did you get your name out there?
T: I think it comes down to good product at a reasonable price. An article in Metro News really helped. I’ve come from 400 to 1,000 views a day. Now, I’ve done the three celebrity gifting and we were in the MTV Movie Awards gift bags. Before it was a hobby, now it’s a job. I’m shipping 300 bottles to Hong Kong. It’s intimidating, but it’s fun. I don’t see it slowing down anytime soon.
S: How do you keep yourself motivated?
T: I have a very hard time with packaging and shipping. I remind myself that I buy indie polish too and bad shipping makes me aggravated. If this person spent $15, I better get out of bed and ship that polish. There are tons of other sellers on Etsy and they chose me. That, and my mortgage is also horribly motivating.
S: What’s your favourite polish that you’ve created?
T: The first polish I made – Joni, a deep blue with blue glitter. It doesn’t sell well, but I love it. Everybody would love a nice holographic pink glitter, but tons of other Etsy sellers make that. I like the things that don’t sell well. For example, our Fundraiser polish didn’t sell well, but it has gained a little army of people that like it. My inspiration for polishes is random things that pop into my brain. A lot of the time it’s things that you can’t buy or are not available. My son also gives me lots of ideas.
S: What are you most proud of?
T: I’m proud I can stay at home and support my family. There’s something to be said about those who choose to stay home and are successful at it. It’s an honour to not to go to work every day. It’s hard to stay home and not be a flop.
S: What’s one piece of advice that you’d give someone who wants to start their own polish business?
T: Buy extra [of] everything because things won’t turn out the way you want them to. Don’t think it’s a quick twenty dollar start up like I did. Do your research, but don’t be afraid to fail at something. Sounds hokey, but have fun with it!
– lil steph