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Find out about the two-hour train test Thea Green uses when hiring

She’s built a nail brand which now sells over five million units a year, but Thea Green still doesn’t think she’s made it. Real Business caught up with the entrepreneur to break down her story.
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After spotting a gap in the market for a US model of walk-in, well-priced manicure nail bars, Thea Green raised $300,000 from investors to fill this void. Some 18 years later and her business has become the brand of choice for the likes of Victoria Beckham and Alex Chung.

Nails Inc in detail

  • Founded: 1999
  • Nail bars: 60
  • Unit sales: 5.4m per year
  • Retailers: Sephora, Selfriges, QVC, Boots

Thea Green, what gave you the confidence to give up a job with a prominent magazine?

I always wanted to set up my own business and Nails inc is a much a fashion business as it is a a cosmetic company. I see nail colour as a great fashion accessory, the perfect way to finish a look and accessorise and stay on trend.

I am not one of these lucky people who can build a business by cruising, but I also have very high standards – Thea Green

What was your pitch to those first investors – what made it win them over?

It’s a long time ago now. But passion in what you are trying to do goes along way and investors recognise it.

There was an obvious gap in the market – it made good sense to bring speedy nail services and products to the Uk as was already an established, albeit different model, in the US. Women are so busy, and yet we want to look good in seconds. Anything that can help this gets my vote and it appears others agreed. Then it’s about showing, and proving, the growth model.

How did you win over the naysayers who said it would never work in the UK?

I actually really like it when people say we can’t – as it forces you to really consider what you are doing and how you are doing it. I encourage the challenge and the probing questions as it makes us all better at what we have to do and stops us repeating mistakes.

You don’t need everyone to love what you are doing, just stay focused on the target.

How much did you lean on your fashion background to make it all happen?

Shot_03_096Fashion runs through every thread of Nails Inc from the colour choices, naming, formulation to the packaging. We bottle fashion and make it easy and fun to wear. I am still a fashion editor, just one that edits cosmetics.

Was there a moment you stepped back and thought, I’ve actually done it?

Never. I would never allow myself to become complacent, as the best is yet to come.

How have you picked the right physical destinations and retail partners to go with?

We have so many great partners globally and we all look to work with on brand partners who share our passion for this fun industry. There are also so many exciting new digital partners that we now are working with.

Your husband, Nick Green, is an entrepreneur – how much has it helped both being on a similar journey?

Shot_04-062It’s great, we both get it, we keep it real and we advise each other all the time but we also allow ourselves to also say “I can’t talk about my day, let’s just have a glass of wine and move on”.

What are your three secrets to ongoing business success?

Hard work – all day long. I am not one of these lucky people who can build a business by cruising, but I also have very high standards – good isn’t great. You also need to innovate and reinvent. Don’t sit still, keep on moving

What’s the most interesting mistake you’ve learnt from during the Nails inc journey?

There are thousands, but the best advice is not to dwell on it. Fix it and move on.

What has been crucial when it comes to assembling a great team around you – what tips can you share?

Hire slowly. My father-in-law has a train test which basically means if you don’t want to be on a train with this person for more than two hours you might not work well together.

It’s important to genuinely employ brilliant people that share your goals and work ethic and who you also like to be with. They are important relationships and we spend most of our day at work so make it great.


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Since deciding to abandon her corporate finance career in 2014, Rebekah Hall’s cold-press juice business Botanic Lab reached the 500 stockist mark and is approaching the illusive £1m turnover mark.


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About Author

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter Ruthven is the editor of Real Business. He is also the editor of Business Advice, a title focused solely on a section of the business community currently underserved – micro companies. Alongside this, he is part of the team that hosts the Growing Business Awards, First Women Awards and Future 50 initiative.

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