Welcome to Indie Insight, the weekly series where I interview an awesome indie nail polish maker! This week we are chatting with Victoria of Serum No. 5. Victoria creates polish in nearly every finish but is known for her Glow In The Dark polish! She also makes awesome nail vinyls and is expanding in to bath & body type products and planner supplies. Let’s get started!
How did you get into nail polish in the first place?
I have been around polishes all of my life, a couple of my relatives own nail salons. It’s in the blood! I’ve actually been playing with polishes since I was a little kid, around 7 or 8, I think? I used to take cremes or shimmers and mix them with top coat to make my own sheer coats, OPI and their sheer tints had nothing on me. I started getting back into nail art and making my own polishes while I was in law school and studying for the bar exam, it was something I could do to take my mind off of all the boring legalese I had to remember day in and day out. So I gave out a lot of polishes to friends and family. I would often give my friends custom mixes and frankens as random presents.
When and why did you decide to start your own brand?
I didn’t start Serum until 2012; I wished I had started sooner, but school got in the way. I was in a pretty bad job situation with my employer who just happened to be a friend at the time (nepotism does not make the world go round, avoid it at all costs), and pretty much I wasn’t getting paid for a few months so I needed to find another source of income while I looked for another job while still being unpaid at my current one. I showed my boyfriend those nail blogs and reviews of Lynnderella from way back when and he’s like you’ve been doing that already, why not try to sell it as a hobby income? So I thought why not and just went for it.
Tell me how and why you chose your brand name.
The name actually came from my boyfriend and a thesaurus. I wanted a name that had to do with beauty but wasn’t necessarily polish related just in case I decided to expand. I also knew that I wanted to have a charitable aspect to my brand so after looking up a couple of words, we went for “serum” which can be seen as an elixir or potion for a cure or ailment. For No. 5, it really just came down to our names. V in Roman numerals means 5 and there just so happens to be five letters in my boyfriend’s name, so Serum No. 5.
What is your favorite collection you’ve released so far?
I’ve really loved all of my collections, even the ones that were more unloved by others 🙂 But I think overall any of my glow in the dark cremes and shimmers. I love being able to use them in nail art, how simple they can be and that surprise that you get when you’re in the dark. It’s nice to know that I can produce glow in the dark colors that you haven’t seen before.
What is your favorite individual polish you’ve released so far?
I love them all, even the unloved ones that don’t glow and are often overlooked haha. If I had to pick one, I’d say Day Glow. I didn’t really know if a pastel yellow (not many are fond of yellows) would do well plus it took me lots of trial and error to get it right. It wasn’t love at first sight, but the first time I wore it after walking around in the sun and went inside and saw it glowing in shade, I fell in love. Next thing you know, I post a picture of it glowing in the shade (http://serumno5.tumblr.com/…/
What’s your favorite polish ‘season’?
I tend to go through color phases, so I genuinely adore them all and that season just happens to be my favorite. But my all time favorite has to be spring. It’s the perfect transition between cool and soft neutrals and brighter pastels.
Where do you draw your inspiration from for your polishes?
I’m pretty heavily inspired by nature and fashion. The boyfriend is in the streetwear fashion industry, I’ve got some fashion blogger friends, my interest in fashion law, and the fact that I’m poor due to my need to shop, so it’s pretty natural for me to be inspired by fashion. I’m always looking at magazines, color theory, designer collections and runway trends.
Do you tend to keep your collections seasonal, or do you make what you want, when you want to make it?
In general, I tend to make colors that I want, but release them in seasonal collections such as SS, FW and Holiday. I’ll often split them up if there tends to be a lot of colors. Like SS is usually split into Part One and Part Two.
Are there any types of polish that you don’t make yourself but buy a lot of from others?
I haven’t bought many lately, I’m trying to be good. I make a lot of different types, but the one that I don’t make myself are thermals so I like to buy those and see how much creativity and ingenuity a maker can put into those.
How many bottles do you own in your personal collection?
Please don’t make me count. If I know the actual number, I’d have to cut myself off and really, that’s just more harm than good. I think my last count was over 300, but I’ve added a lot to it and I’m quickly approaching Helmer number 4.
Other than your own brand, which brand do you have the most of in your collection?
For mainstream it’d have to be either OPI, but Essie and Zoya are pretty neck and neck. For indies, I think it’s between ILNP, Lacquer Lust and Polished by KPT.
Do you do polish work full-time or do you also have a day job?
I have a day job, but often dream that I can just do something fun and creative full time. I’m an attorney, I have Serum, I started a sticker shop (Plan with Polish) and as if I wasn’t busy enough, I’m working towards setting up my own law practice.
What has been your biggest struggle in polish making?
My biggest struggle has to be marketing. I’ve got a wonderful customer base, but I know I’m not as known or at least recommended as many others. There are so many great brands out there and more and more new ones popping up that competition has been getting stiff. Although last year I had a tough time when two of my pigments ended up fading. I test everything for 3-6 months and my samples turned out perfect. But, it came to my attention that the polishes I made with my bulk pigment order faded after a month or so (even though my original sample testing still looks perfect). I had issued an email, blasted this a couple of times on Facebook and Instagram and offered a couple of different solutions to my customers that were affected. It was hard financially, but I owned up to it, took responsibility for my supplier and my customers know that I will stand behind my products. It was hard, but in times like this, it shows what kind of person you are and the faith you have in your products. Any makers, prospective or otherwise, one thing you need to know and do: test everything!
Mercurial magpie note: THIS is one of the reasons I highly recommend checking out Serum No. 5 if you haven’t already! It’s so respectable for a maker to stand behind their product and be proactive about any issues that arise.
What is your favorite thing about making or selling polish?
I get to be creative and try new things. It’s fun and pretty cool to be able to have some say and influence in an industry. Also, through Serum, I’ve been able to do a lot of good through monthly charitable donations as well as curating a charity shopping event a couple of years ago that helped highlight small businesses.
You’re the go-to name when people think about Glow In The Dark polish these days. Did you always want to have a wide variety of glow polishes when you started creating or was it just something you kind of stumbled into and people loved?
Back when I first started, glitter bombs and crellies were at its peak, so I thought that was where I should go. But after Day Glow came out and I would sell out within minutes, I knew I had found my niche. 20+ glow shades later and I’ve got a pretty nice rainbow, in the day, shade and dark 🙂
A big part of your brand has been your donation of some of your proceeds to charity and I’ve always found that really respectable. What has been your favorite donation or moment when it comes to charity & your brand?
Isn’t it great to do something you love and be able to do something positive as well? I think my favorite charitable moment was when I decided to take on a charity event. I created Love, Preview, a curated charity shopping and fashion event with profits from donations and ticket sales going to No Kid Hungry. I took on the whole thing by myself and was able to highlight a lot of women-owned small businesses and dontate over $2,000. It was so much fun and I’m currently figuring out how to do another event this year!
I’ve noticed lately you’ve been really into planners and have created a second brand for planner supplies. For those of us not in the know, tell us about the planner craze!
Let’s just say that I’ve always been a nerd. I’m a classic stereotype: I did very well in school. Back to school time was my favorite! I got to go school supply shopping! Happy dance all day. But I’ve always loved having a planner and being organized and if it was pretty? Even better. Sometime last year I started using my planner as an organizer and a scrapbook/journal and sharing my weeks online. It’s something fun to do that just happens to be practical. If you’re ever interested, I can totally enable you.
We all know glitter can be really messy and stick to everything- how do you keep all of your glitter, pigments and mixing tools organized?
A lot of tape/lint rollers. Glitter although pretty and oooh shinies, will not give up without a fight. I try to keep everything clean by rinsing them out, drying and using tape to pick up any survivors. I tend to store my supplies in jars, baggies and plastic bins. It works for me.
Tell me about your creating process- from first idea through to finished product.
The first thing I do is I test everything in these adorable little glass vials so that I can see how it holds up. When creating a color or collection it kind of depends, sometimes I already have colors set in my mind and other times I look at the current or upcoming color trends and just see what combinations I can put together that would work but still be unique and different. Like Work Hard Play Hard. I used a lot of colors that were trending for Fall 2014 and although you wouldn’t put them together (brown, red, purple, blue, gold) it worked.
How many prototypes do you typically have for every polish that actually makes it into a collection?
It kind of depends on the color, but usually I’d say one. I take a “go for broke” approach and it works for me. I’ve been lucky enough that so far every concept I’ve had has translated well so that after the vial testing, I formulate for a big batch and it works.
The maker/blogger relationship is one that is pretty important in the indie world. How do you decide which bloggers to work with?
First, I just want to thank any and all bloggers out there. You put so much time and effort into what you do, that many of us indies wouldn’t be able to have the reach we do, if it weren’t for you. I tend to troll Instagram and see which swatches catch my eye, their following, their level of involvement with their followers and the quality of their images. I’ll then contact them and see where it goes from there. I’ve also worked with bloggers that have approached me but I try to stay within my budget and take a look at the above qualities. I also have a blogger page on my site listing how bloggers can help Serum and a sign up form so that I can check them out.
What was the moment that your brand really started to take off and be noticed? When you first started, what did you do to get your name out there?
It definitely has to be when NailBlog.net did this amazing review of Day Glow, poor girl, she got so many emails and comments that she had to include a disclosure that she wasn’t the maker. I definitely think that she helped me get those sold out in minutes rush. I knew from the beginning that marketing and bloggers would be what could make or break Serum No. 5, so I contacted bloggers and threw myself on their mercy to swatch for this no name brand.
What’s your favorite polish not made by you?
I have way too many. But my favorite will have to Chanel Peridot. It was one of my first multichrome polishes and the packaging and overall presentation… swoon.
With so many indies on the market now, what do you think sets your brand apart?
What sets Serum No. 5 apart has to be our niche product: glow in the dark lacquers. But, coming up next would have to be the charitable donation aspect, our classification by PETA as being a kind product (cruelty-free and vegan) and the packaging, presentation and care I take to make you feel special when you get your order. It’s not every day you get a wax sealed envelope thanking you for your order.
Let’s talk a little about the person behind the brand- what hobbies do you have outside of nail polish?
I like to draw and paint. I’m rusty, so I’m not as good as I used to be. I can replicate Van Gogh’s Starry Night pretty well and got to paint it on a wall in my high school for a class project. When I had the time, I was an avid reader. I read everything from the classics to romance to science fiction. So if you have any suggestions, please share! I’ve also picked up modern calligraphy and I’m thinking of organizing a workshop for this too if I can get enough interest.
Do you have any pets? Tell me about them!
Sadly, no pets at the moment. I used to have two dogs though that I loved: a white toy poodle and a white maltese. I definitely want another dog and a Netherland dwarf bunny. Have you seen those? So cute, I die.
Is there anything about you that would surprise people to know?
Let’s see, I’m an attorney. I entered college as a sophomore. When I was 7, I was held at gunpoint in a home invasion. I went to a party with the Golden State Warrior’s Stephen Curry at an All Stars party, I learned that I reach LeBron James’s elbow, that man is freakishly tall. Oh and I’ve got an 80-90% chance of predicting the sex of your babies and the order in which they come. All I’d need is a necklace with a pendant and your left hand.
What’s your favorite kind of food?
Any and all. I love to eat.
Thanks again for chatting with us, Victoria! We are also currently running a nail art contest with two $50 prizes in the fan group so feel free to join! Talk to me in the comments and let me know what you think of this brand- have you tried them out before? What other brands would you like to see interviewed in the future? Let me know!
If you liked this interview, make sure to check out the other ones in the indie insight tag!