The other day on Facebook, I cracked a Sharmadean Reid joke, and nobody seemed to get it. So I thought it was time to spread the word further about one of the coolest and most inspirational business women in the world.
Despite being only 27, and having a one year old son, the stylist, brand consultant and entrepreneur has an enviable career history. Having moved to London to study at Central St Martins, she assisted Nichola Formachetti (then Fashion Director of Dazed and Confused, currently better known as Lady Gaga’s stylist) and worked for Levi’s and Nike as a stylist and brand consultant. I’d be jealous of her for living my dream life if she wasn’t so genuine and endlessly inspiring.
As the owner and founder of WAH Nails, I believe she is the catalyst for the current worldwide popularity of nail art. I’m always interested to watch a trend trickle down from the trendsetters to the mass market, and over the last few years watching more and more conservative women bring bling to their fingers has made me really happy. There’s a lot of nastiness to deal with day to day, and seeing someone’s tuxedo nails on the train or matching polkadot nails and dress really brightens my day.
Most people would be quick to dismiss nail art as frivolous and irrelevant, however it becomes far less frivolous from a business perspective when you see the growth of the nail industry through the recession. Neilson reports that sales of nail products now take up 15% of the beauty market, while also being the fastest growing sector having grown almost 23% last year. The fact that Reid not only grew her business with this trend, and predicted it early enough to start her business before it took hold, but also provided a service and product exciting enough to feed the trend and spur it on, is only one reason I’m so interested in her. If those figures haven’t convinced you, she was also chosen as one of only six women in Forbes’ list of 70 most powerful people.
Far more inspiring to me than the numbers, is her reasoning behind WAH and her perspective on starting a small business. From an interview with Dazed and Confused from 3 years ago, just before she opened the WAH salon, she makes it clear that her intention with the salon is to support female youth culture, and nurture other talented business women who may not find the support elsewhere.
I want the nail bar to be a WAH HQ, I want it to be responsible to the local community too – I just wanna provide a space to hang out. And I want it to be the dopest nail art place in town! Basically I want the satisfaction of giving something back to Hackney – a place I’ve robbed so much inspiration from.
In a more recent interview, she again explains her intentions.
I can do nails, and I love them, but it’s everything else that’s interesting to me. The nails are a creative outlet and an excuse to bring girls together. I’m interested in youth and girls, and I think inspiring and educating young women is the most valuable and precious thing I can do.
Her attitude to business strikes a chord with me. I find it hard not to get bogged down and depressed by the waste and excess of the fashion industry, but if we can think of our creative pursuits as a contribution as well as an income, and keep our intentions and creations true and pure, then the outcome will not only feel more satisfying but the product will become more covetable. I know that finding out more about Reid has made me desperately want to support WAH, and since I haven’t moved to London (yet) maybe I’ll have to do that by buying the new WAH book.
The method I’ve applied – keeping it unique and pure – can be applied to any business, so if I decided I wanted to open a bakery, it would be the coolest bakery.
But until I get the book, I’m pretty happy with practising my tuxedo nails for the upcoming Janelle Monae concert in Sydney (the devil’s in the details) and alternating those with my Sally Hansen salon effects polish strips – which even make my To Do lists look more fun.
All images from Wah Nails or my own.