Static Nails wants to revolutionize the manicure, and the mission is well-timed: The nail polish market is in the midst of a boom, after years of dwindling sales.
Alexis Irene, Static Nails’ 24-year-old founder, plans to capitalize on this with her brand of reusable nail appliqués, meant to mimic a professional manicure, which launched early last year. In its first six months, Static generated $500,000, the brand reports, and it currently has a year-over-year growth rate of 89 percent. Its online conversion rate is said to be roughly 7 percent, with 57 percent of those purchases coming from repeat customers. Currently self-funded, the company will begin courting investors in January, said Irene.
Image from the Static Nails website
Much of the brand’s growth so far has come from its wholesale strategy, which has resulted in partnerships with top beauty retailers, including Sephora, HSN, Urban Outfitters and Forever 21’s new Riley Rose beauty boutique. Expanding beyond today’s popular direct-to-consumer model has allowed Irene to garner a larger audience, she said.
“I didn’t stalk buyers online, write emails or send products, hoping someone would try them,” she explained. “Instead, I created my brand with the mentality that if they want you, they’ll reach you.”
Irene launched Static Nails at an old-school trade show, The Makeup Show in Chicago. Don’t write them off, she said: “They are a fantastic way to test new products, get feedback from consumers, network, get press coverage and make sales.” As long as you don’t waste time and money decorating your booth, they can be affordable, too, she said. Her booth was sparse, consisting of only an $89 banner, a product table and four volunteers.
Nevertheless, Irene’s unique product — an elevated, damage-free version of the stick-on nails available at drugstores, got people at the show talking. She developed relationships with executives at brands like Smashbox and Kat Von D, and received an e-mail from Kendo — LVMH’s beauty incubator — inquiring about the brand, after someone at the show had passed along her card.
A few weeks later, Irene received a call from a blocked number. It was Sephora’s PR agent, who had bought the nails at the show and introduced them to her team. Within months, Static Nails was rolling into Sephora’s U.S. stores.
Application instructions on the Static Nails website
“The key to capturing attention from buyers is to actually be innovative and to solve a problem,” said Irene. Although cheaper renditions of her product had been made before, they were known to be damaging to the nail bed and unreliable, and did not appear realistic. Real manicures, conversely, can require lots of time and money, and often chip days later.
Static Nails, which sells its nail sets for $14-$38, markets its nails as non-damaging; sturdy, but removable; natural-looking and customizable. They take five minutes, maximum, to apply, which is still faster than your average 30- to 60-minute gel manicure (the longer-lasting manicure, which has risen in popularity of late).
Alongside a variety of appliqués in solid colors, with glossy to matte finishes, Static sells styles featuring black leather, 3D chrome spikes, mirror finishes, embedded flowers, Swarovski crystals and intricate prints. They can all be filed down from their long, oval shape, if the wearer prefers.
“To market your product, you have to find bold ways to quickly capture someone’s interest,” said Irene. “If it’s something unique, people will want to talk about it. Word-of-mouth is how I first grew my brand.” After it launched, Static’s customers quickly began posting and tagging their nails on Instagram, she said, which is how a few other retailers initially discovered her.
Another key to Irene’s success was creating an entirely new category. To avoid what she saw as the negative drugstore association, she referred to her products as “pop-on nails” and “reusable manicures,” avoiding any mention of the oft-used “acrylic.”
“You’ll have a much stronger shot at success if you enhance or create a new category,” she said, adding that brands like Kat Von D were big inspirations. “Your brand’s DNA needs to be distinct, and going extremely niche is one of the best ways to succeed.”