After having her second daughter, Glosslab founder Rachel Glass left the world of finance and made the leap into entrepreneurship. Her innovative nail salon concept, Glosslab, scaled more quickly than even she could have anticipated. Read on to discover what she’s learned in the process.
We’d love to hear about what inspired you to start Glosslab. How did this all begin?
I worked in hedge fund fundraising for 10 years and was always in search of a quick, clean manicure as part of my busy lifestyle. I always felt like manicures were errands; a very joyless and inefficient experience. I talked about recreating the nail space for years. After having my second daughter and ultimately leaving the world of finance, I decided to make it happen! Motherhood definitely played a role in my decision to leave finance and to start my own business. During my career in finance, I got to a point where I was traveling to multiple cities every month, working full time, and there just wasn’t enough face time with my daughters. I was only home with them for one hour a day, and most of the time it wasn’t the best hour of the day for any of us.
What was it like to scale from a pop-up concept to a growing chain with four locations?
We opened as a pop-up initially, which was a great way to learn (and to make a lot of mistakes!) very quickly. We were able to learn what worked and what didn’t in order to scale into our own spaces. We are growing very quickly which can be scary at times, but it’s also very exciting.
What is your best advice for other mama entrepreneurs looking to scale?
There is never the right “aha” moment of when to scale. Things don’t always go as planned. Along with opening our first location, we had a temporary pop-up location, and suddenly we had an opportunity to make that pop-up permanent. So it wasn’t necessarily intentional, but we ended up opening two stores at once. In some ways it was really difficult growing multiple locations simultaneously, but we have found so many synergies through scaling that quickly. I feel like we’re learning at twice the speed. It’s almost like having twins. Having multiple locations in different environments with different customers has taught us a lot about how to most effectively run our business. We’ve learned and adapted to the subtle nuances between our Flatiron and West Village customers. In Flatiron we have people that come during work, before work, and after work. The West Village has more of a residential vibe, with a crowd that comes in on weekends and wants a lot of natural polish.
How did you come to the decision to offer a monthly membership?
A monthly membership structure was always part of my vision in creating Glosslab. Our main goal is to make the manicure experience as efficient as possible. To that end, our monthly membership covers manicures and pedicures (both gel and regular) for the full month. Members can book and pay online — including gratuity — so the in-store experience is as simple as possible, and nobody has to ruin their new nails getting cash or cards from their bags! Our founding concept was for Glosslab to work within our customers’ existing routines, and the membership model enables us to do that.
What did you learn about the membership model as you implemented it? Was there anything that surprised you?
We started with several different membership options and found that this strategy caused information overload for our customers. Once we simplified our model to a single unlimited monthly membership, we saw immediate interest and understanding. This was an unexpected but huge teachable moment for us.
Glosslab services are unique in other ways, like the fact that all manis and pedis are waterless. How do you determine what offerings and differentiators your target market is looking for?
Our customers tend to crave the cleanliness and efficiency that differentiates Glosslab. Our manicures and pedicures are completely waterless — if you don’t believe it, try it! It’s a full pedicure with all the scrubbing, just no water. I’ve converted so many people to waterless pedis! We believe in this very strongly. Water can be a breeding ground for germs and bacteria, not to mention the fact that wasting such an important natural resource on pedicures is bad for the environment. We are also cashless and tech-enabled in order to resolve certain pain points in regard to efficiency. To determine what we offer, we respond to our customers’ values.
How does the vibe at Glosslab give mamas space to connect meaningfully with one another?
I like to call Glosslab an “efficient oasis” — we often see business colleagues host meetings at Glosslab with partners and clients. What’s better than doing a same-time meeting + mani?! We have several members who work at the same office and plan their weekly meetings at Glosslab, which is really cool to see. Instead of suggesting “Let’s get a drink” every time, we have coworkers and friends saying, “Let’s get a manicure!” We just opened pop-ups in the offices of a large corporate bank as well as several co-working spaces who will offer Glosslab as an amenity to their employees When I worked in finance, companies would often have a shoeshine guy go around and shine employees’ shoes. My question was, “Why can’t we have a nail technician go around?” Within the new wave of feminism that’s risen up in the past few years, we’ve seen that companies are focusing more and more on doing right by their female employees. We at Glosslab are happy to take part in that culture shift.
Now for a few questions around mama life. As the mom of two young girls, how do you talk to your kids about your work life? If we asked them “what does mama do?” how might they answer?
I love having something that my girls can see me do — it’s a lot easier to show and explain than when I worked in finance! My six year old just made a book about Glosslab in her kindergarten class. They take pride in seeing their mama lead something. That, in and of itself, makes all of this worthwhile.
Running a growing business takes time. Motherhood takes time. And of course, we need time to take care of ourselves, too. How do you manage the juggle?
This has been the hardest question so far because I never feel that I’m truly managing the juggle. And yet, somehow, I’m juggling! I have never worked harder in my life, including when I was traveling to several cities a month raising money for hedge funds. However, my time is my own now. I’m able to be home most days for bedtime with my girls, even if that means running back out to an event or a dinner. I’ve tried to erase the word “guilt” from my vocabulary — I truly believe it’s the quality not the quantity of time with my girls that’s most important. And if I’m happy while running this business, I’m also being my best version of mama.
Create your own happiness — I believe this for myself and other mamas, but have also been teaching this to my girls.
Lose the guilt.
It’s so important to maintain yourself despite the juggle, so take your me time and your girl time.