I realize I've never come up on here and formally introduced myself and why I have a small business! I am Ourielle, serially online art-nerd and quit my teaching career to chase my dreams! I used to write in all my copy and taglines that I was a teacher by day and artist by heart, but after the COVID crisis, decided to take it as an opportunity to try something new.
Unfortunately, there were a ton of challenges in the early stages of starting the business! (None of which were the actual technical skills involved with soft gels, because I have been painting and doing nail art since I was 9!) The first hurdle was actually trying to do the logistic pivot from teaching full time (and you know how public school teachers are chronically overworked and stressed!) to developing a sustainable business. And this is during a global economic crisis (and continues to prove a challenge) while my husband was laid off from his "stable" engineering job and also had to pursue a career change.
Milestones & Successes (yay!):
Along the way, I learned so many things. I got certified and took lots of courses to learn nails, down to the actual science of salon extensions. You're getting nails from someone who seriously took the time to study the cosmetic chemistry, biochemistry, and day to day operations of a high-end nail salon. But then there were issues of budget! And product! Scaling and expansion! Content creation!! And of course, I had no time in a day to do all those things and it's been wildly stressful as a neurodivergent and chronically ill person just doing everyday life things. That being said, there have been some incredible milestones and successes along the way:
- October 2020: began preparations for formally opening up the shop after a *traumatizing* experience at a nail salon for my bday :')
- Nov 2020: opened salonourielle on Etsy! small following from YT helped me get started! I ended up accruing something like 400 5-star reviews. In the entire time there, I only had 1 4-star review, and after following up, the client said there was nothing wrong w the order and she just never really gives 5 stars :')
- Dec 2020-Jan 2022: lots of 'firsts' that were SO cool! First time working with a musician, doing content collaborations, being asked to make bridal manicures, creating nail-oriented content, getting started with graphic design...
- Feb 2022: opened independent by.ourielle site! More people were finding my shop from MY own word of mouth than Etsy's advertising, and I saw it as a sign I could keep going and do something big! I changed name to reflect a desire to increase range of products offered because I always knew I wanted it to be a lifestyle brand.
- Apr 2022: started subscription boxes!
- May 2022: started candle making workshop and began producing food-look candles. So far, scrapped the idea because shipping /was/ a concern... but they might return!
- Jun 2022: started gashapon nails! (now I call myself home of the gacha nails)
- Feb 2023: released wax seal stickers, eyelashes, and quickly expanding into more...
Tips for PROGRESS, not PERFECTION:
These are tips that I think apply for lots of situations, and not just small business contexts. I am not unaware that as a person I have a lot of privilege, but I have also gone through some unspeakably difficult things in my life. These tips are learnings I have come to terms with on an accelerated timeline, SPECIFICALLY because a small business really tests your ability to optimize your life (and I don't think we really talk about it enough!)
1. be GENTLE with yourself.
After speaking to my therapist for a few months, I realized that one of the most important things that I've come to terms with is being SOFT with myself. This might depend on each individual person, but I think there's a kind of person who feels punishment and suffering are virtuous feelings. Burnout, overwork, and chronic stress are glorified and hailed as signs of progress and success. But I've since learned that being KIND and GENTLE to myself does not compromise anything about the amount of work I do!
2. follow your intuition and your feelings.
This may be because I'm neurodivergent, but if there's something I feel is wrong or needs to be done immediately, there's literally nothing that I can focus on or achieve until the task is addressed. following my gut and just doing what my emotions are indicating for me to do would have saved me SO much time had I done it from the beginning. For instance, if I didn't shove my dreams to be an artist down for a decade, maybe I would have started this sooner! But the still, small voice inside (and make sure it's your wise voice and not the paranoia one) knows what you want and when you want it. I found that as I let things happen by following little hunches here and there, they turned into incredible opportunities.
When I look back on the business accomplishments I am most excited by and proud of, they were all tiny ideas that blossomed into beautiful outcomes.
3. stop setting hard goals.
when I stopped putting really big harsh goals on myself, I stopped feeling inadequate and pathetic. the truth is, when running a small business by yourself with NO degree, NO experience, NO loans, NO backup plan, there's honestly enough work to keep an entire team busy. The problem with this kind of job is that it's gaseous; the more space you give it to breathe, the more it will encroach on every and any space. That is to say, for ME, running my small business has been and continues to be demanding enough. I don't need to put extraneous goals on myself because I get up and do the work regardless of the emotional burden I put on the labor. If I am to run the business, it's going to smash some goals, whether I beat myself up about it or not, does that make sense? Is your emotional stress and degrading self-talk going to help you achieve more? If yes, we don't relate! You do you, but after I stopped having 3 month, 6 month, and 12 month goals WITH deadlines, I got a lot happier and actually achieved more.
4. your work is what you decide it is
First of all, I think there's a lot of jaded attitudes around work culture right now. Which trust me, I understand: I left the teaching industry at a time when the gaps and flagrant disrespect, corruption, and absolute foolishness was at a level that was intolerable to me. But, I've decided that since I AM the work culture, that I get to decide how things run around here.
Because I work on the internet and I'm highly paranoid of being even weirder than I already am, I had the impression that online is "not" real and that people who work online or have online jobs are not living in "real life" and need to get a taste of "real jobs" etc etc. But who is saying those things? Probably people who have 0 clue what it's actually like to work an online job!
I treated it as 'not' real, and my persona online as 'not' real because I felt like it was just how you were supposed to be online and that's what was taught day in and day out. But honestly that couldn't be further from the truth! Looking back, it was a tremendous waste of time to not build connections and start being authentic and treating everything with gusto immediately. I decided that my pursuit of nail art and pretty things and spending time connecting w people on social media was actually worth it and vey real and since then, have REALLY benefited more from it.
I try to put 200% into what I do: writing the copy with extra love even if no one ever reads instructions, DMing people to see how they are doing and asking about their weekends and pets, studying the underground trends happening in NYC like it's my sworn duty. I think in some ways it can be seen as comical, how seriously I take this little retail thing, but personally, it's been so fulfilling. I think I've become a much more experienced, learned, and inter-connected person after giving it my all. Doing what I do now is rewarding, and I feel like my customers and clients return the patience and love to me in kind.
6. find a way to stay grounded/connected
The biggest problem with running a small business (or doing any kind of highly demanding work) is that it really can grow out of proportion and take away all balance you have in your life. Unfortunately, that means I reached out to all my friends and family and literally told them that I was probably going to be MIA for the next 3-4 years while aggressively scaling this. You can only imagine the kind of psychological distress was involved in trying to balance everything, right?
What has helped the most is staying grounded and feeling a sense of real connection to the rest of the world. Feeling like you're a real person, an individual. That can be super hard for me! Keeping a meditative, spiritual, and attainable self-care practice going has gone leaps and bounds in preventing my mental health conditions from getting really, catastrophically bad (but we had quite a handful of very close calls!)
Ugh, this blog post has gotten so long I bet no one is even reading at this point. But that means we can divulge some fun secrets! and I can secretly hold myself accountable for these goals
Let's talk about some business projects and opportunities I am looking into for the rest of 2023! Lots of exciting things heading your way:
- comprehensive bodycare line: scrubs, oils, shimmer jellies, and butters are coming! I'm so excited to finally be able to offer more personal care products, because they are SUPER important to my self care routine. self care is more than body products, but sometimes having a physical reminder of a grooming indulgence is nice.
- cosmetics: we've already released eyelashes and they have been such a hit!! Thank you, everyone, for all of your continued support on the lashes. I've been developing a gloss line for awhile but it's taking ...well, months. But likely lippies, blushes, and eyeshadows can be expected this year!
- teas and herbal incense: another long love of mine. actually, one of my dreams in life has always been to open up a traditional tea house, and this is my first teensy tiny step in that direction! if you're aware of my spiritual practice, then you know I burn incense daily as well. these are parts of my identity that are crucial to include in the brand because otherwise, they wouldn't be authentic!
- stationery: ditto to the authenticity thing, if I didn't include stationery, I would be a LIAR to myself.
- jewelry: ok not to overpromise and underdeliver but I may have secured a manufacturing agreement with the same people who make the *iconic* Pandora jewelry. Yes, that jewelry. Just leaving that here.
- candles, waxes, and home fragrance: candles are making a return!! I didn't have space for a candle workshop despite the fact that I literally LOVED doing the candle and home fragrance stuff. I literally jumped for joy when finding out I have a new setup location and can get started soon. It will require me to travel back and forth so they might be slow going in the beginning, but I'm so excited to finally bring this to the market!
- markets and conventions: it hasn't happened yet, but by the end of 2023 I would have liked to actually applied to vend at a convention of some kind! I'd love to be at an anime convention because hello, who am I? but also because I think there's a certain romantic magic about physical vending at an event I desperately want to be a part of.
- visual rebrand: it's been piecemeal so far and I reckon I've done a decent job as someone with 0 graphic design experience but I'm dying for a redo. I'm looking forward to working with a professional studio to get everything tiptop before...
- physical storefront/studio: OMG you made it here! I'm looking to lease a studio space that will also serve as a retail environment :) It's going to be a huge commitment and it'll take a lot of loans to get there, but I'm confident we'll see this happen sometime in 2023 because I am busting out of my seams in my little childhood bedroom here!
Conclusion (after 5 million years of writing)
IN CONCLUSION, I wanted to say thank you for being a part of this incredibly harrowing and sometimes unbelievable journey as a small business owner. Small businesses are super important for the economy but MORE importantly, for individual people's self-actualization. At least for me, this is a distillation of my very soul and passion. To look at this business is to see me as I am, with all of my aspirations, passions, interests, and failures. There are holes and problems with my business, because I'm just a person doing my best, but I'm proud of that too.
If you're working towards some kind of difficult goal, I encourage you to keep pursuing progress over perfection and reaching for your goals. Progress is the name of the game here, and will naturally happen if you take the next one step ahead of you. What are you working on? I'd love to hear it!