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Entrepreneur of the Day: Nailgirls' Joanna Burrell

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Jane Fitz-Gerald Jane Fitz-Gerald | 15:00 UK time, Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Joanna Burrell and her sister Lynda-Louise are the Nailgirls. On returning to the UK from her former New York base, ex-fashion editor and stylist Lynda noticed with her sister the lack of proper clean and affordable nail spas. So they set up their own and also set about developing their own chemical-free ethical nail polish too. They are now launching a new limited edition range of nail polish to match the fashion catwalk collections each season.

Business: Nailgirls spa and the Nailgirls chemical-free nail polish product. My sister, Lynda is the creative director and I handle the sales, marketing and financials.


Age you started your business: Lynda is 34 and I am 37. We started the business about three years ago.

How I spotted the gap in the market for my business: I lived in London and Lynda was in New York and the one thing I noticed when I visited her was that were really nice clean nail spas. And for her and her friends it was a very normal event to go for a manipedi [manicure and pedicure]. In England, there were only nail spas in hairdressers and nothing that was stand alone.

Your USP: Our nail polish is chemical-free, which is great for mothers who are breastfeeding and women who are pregnant. Also, Nailgirls is a British company and one of us is always at the spa at all times.

How many hours you work a day/week: When I was employed I used to work 8am to 8pm, so I would say now it's those hours or more. You put in more hours than actual employment and for me it's been the biggest shock. Everyone I have spoken to has put in more hours running their own business. But I am passionate about what I do and I love nail polish.

What have you sacrificed for business? You sacrifice your social life to an extent. You can go out but you have to be up in the morning. You can't really take a holiday. Although you're not able to go out or have a holiday it's not necessarily a bad thing. Even when we're not in store we're still working. Also the wages are not as good as being employed by someone else, but there is fulfilment in other ways. When I was in my job I used to get jealous of the people that were doing what they loved.

What's the biggest surprise about being your own boss? That there are never enough hours in the day. There's never a good time to stop working

My school report said: It always said something along the lines of that I always loved people, that I was ambitious and that I just got on with it. In my business, it's helped, because I am required to communicate with people and develop relationships with clients. If things need to get done, I get them done. I think when schools look at your qualities they are usually right, but you have to know how to channel those qualities. I think schools always put more emphasis on the academic, but there are other jobs. I think it's important for young people to think about what they enjoy and make a career out of it.

I wish they'd taught me in school: There are a lot of sexy careers. I didn't know about being a music producer. We were never encouraged about these careers. We were never told that you could be a business development management in music or fashion. You think in order to be in these industries you have to be creative but there are other possibilities.

What advice would I give about this job? I think you've got to have a plan. You can lose focus, because you'll always have people telling you how to go about doing things. But you need to stick to your plans and keep focussing on your goal. Also you should keep an eye on your figures.

What advice would I give about going it alone? It's hard not to get distracted with people so you should always try to stay focussed.

What one skill/talent has helped you? Not being scared to try new things. It might be the wrong thing but at least you've tried it. You need to follow your gut.

Best thing about my job is: The diversity.

The worst thing about my job is: I can never really switch off. Some people can, but I am always thinking.

If you want to be like me/work in this industry: You need to be a people person and have to have some business acumen - you need to understand the commercial process.

Business hero: My parents because they have always said we should try everything. My sister, because if she hadn't said just do it, I would have never left my career. I know some people who have started internet companies from scratch, and then have gone on to sell them. For me those sorts of women are my business heroes.

If you could go back in time and do one thing differently in your business, what would it be? I would have pushed. I would have gone back and started some projects earlier. I would have taken more risks - you ponder on some decisions because you are so nervous and worried.

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Jane Fitz-Gerald is part of the Up for Hire Interactive Team.

- Tips and advice - Up For Hire on Facebook
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- Up for Hire website
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