Welcome to Indie Insight, the weekly series where I interview an awesome indie nail polish maker! This week we are chatting with Adrienne and Sarah of Fair Maiden Polish. Fair Maiden Polish is a fairly (pun not intended) new brand who burst onto the scene to pretty much immediate popularity. They make a variet of shades and are particularly well known for their holos and shimmers. Let’s get started!
How did you get into nail polish in the first place?
• I’ve always been obsessed with having beautiful nails. I think I blame the cold Minnesota winters for this. Something about having beautifully manicured hands just makes me feel pretty year round. For many many years, it was just mainstream brands of nail polish I would buy. Then Sarah started introducing me to nail polishes I had never even heard of and they were gorgeous. (Adrienne)
• I’ve been a nail biter since before I can remember – still am on occasion. But I have always loved nail polish. I was always looking for new ‘motivations’ to quit – an expensive Chanel polish, trying out something new and different from Sephora, and then tumbled into the world of indies. (Sarah)
When and why did you decide to start your own brand?
• Sarah sent me a text message out of the blue in late 2013 asking me if I wanted to make nail polish. Although I had no idea what that would entail, nor had I ever even considered the idea, my immediate response of course was YES. Living on the opposite side of town from Sarah, this would be a great way to hang out more with my bestie. After our first session of attempts, it was quickly evident we could make this into a small hobby business. It is not in my nature to spend time doing anything, unless I can make it worth my while. To me, the thrill of building a business is almost as exciting as making the nail polish itself. (Adrienne)
• I, honestly, was only looking for something fun to do with my best friend when Adrienne and I started playing around with making polishes. But it quickly turned into something magical. We realized we were kind of good at what we were doing! Ideas stated coming together so seamlessly and soon our first collection was born! (Sarah)
Tell me how and why you chose your brand name.
• We wanted something that sounded like a fantasy that would appeal to everyone. We wanted the product to be about our customers, not us. Too many products exclude target market by using personal identifiers in their brand (name, location, hobby, passion, etc). We knew we wanted something everyone could relate to in a sense. Using this concept we just started making lists. We’d talk it over and read our lists to each other every day until the name Fair Maiden stood out above the rest.
What is your favorite collection you’ve released so far?
• The New Year’s trio and our group customs for our Facebook Fan Group, Fierce and Fabulous. (Adrienne)
• The Garden Party collection (Sarah)
What is your favorite individual polish you’ve released so far?
• So many favorites…but the one I always come back to is Fairest of Them All. (Adrienne)
• Merry Plum Berry and Bright (Sarah)
What’s your favorite polish ‘season’?
• Q4, I love the fall, Halloween, Christmas polishes that come out Oct – Dec. (Adrienne)
• I love Spring! I love going from the dark to lighter polishes. (Sarah)
Where do you draw your inspiration from for your polishes?
• Lame generic response: Pinterest. Garden Party was really fun to essentially create a flower in a bottle. Also the fan group. We like to listen to what people want. Although we can’t necessarily do them all, our goal is to make a product that appeals to our customers. (Adrienne)
• I love taking a color palette and expanding upon it with other coordinating colors. Pinterest is amazing in that you can essentially make virtual vision boards. I get inspired by pop culture as well. (Sarah)
Do you tend to keep your collections seasonal, or do you make what you want, when you want to make it?
• I would say a little of both. Seasonal seems to work well for us because it provides a nice rhythm and allows us time to breath before the next collection releases.
Are there any types of polish that you don’t make yourself but buy a lot of from others?
• Yes, a good old fashioned generic cream with no special effects! (Adrienne)
• Similar answer! I buy a lot of the bright creams from Zoya for toe polish as staples in my collection! (Sarah)
How many bottles do you own in your personal collection?
• Not so impressive considering the audience reading this…maybe 300ish not including my Fair Maidens. (Adrienne)
• About 500 not including Fair Maiden Polishes (Sarah)
Other than your own brand, which brand do you have the most of in your collection?
• Julep because they just show up in my mailbox every month, followed by Zoya. (Adrienne)
• Zoya for non-indie and Glam Polish for indie. (Sarah)
Do you do polish work full-time or do you also have a day job?
• I work in the 2 other companies my husband and I own, but I’m trying to weasel my way out of these responsibilities so I can spend all my time in Fair Maiden ;-). (Adrienne)
• My day job is an energetic, 3 year old demanding little boss. He keeps me quite busy! (Sarah)
What has been your biggest struggle in polish making?
• There are so so so many things that go into making that little bottle of nail polish come together in time for a launch. Base, colorants, mica’s, spectraflair, bottles, caps, brushes, mixing balls, labels, bottom sticker labels, blogger packs out (in time for reviews), boxes, bubble bags, washi tape, business cards, packing tape and shipping labels. Every one of these items must be ordered, most take a minimum of a week to arrive. Running out of just 1 of these things can kill your launch or turnaround time after a launch. Planning must be impeccable. I’d say this is a stuggle that for the most part we have overcome, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being caught in a bind more than once!
What is your favorite thing about making or selling polish?
• The customers! Seeing people so excited for our creations just makes us happy, simply put.
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?
• We are lucky enough to be able to set up shop in my unfinished basement that mostly remains unseen by the rest of the world. We have 2 large cabinets and drawer system where we store our micas, colorants and mixed batches. We go through acetone like water to keep everything clean. Every session starts with a fresh plastic table cloth. We have a pouring station on a separate table, away from where the mixing happens. And truth be told, we haven’t done a whole lot with actual glitter yet. From my small experience with it…that stuff can haunt you! (Adrienne)
Tell me about your creating process- from first idea through to finished product.
• We have creation sessions where this is all we work on. Usually by the time we get to this part, we already have so many ideas we are ready to burst! After creating a line, making huge batches and doing restocks, you start to get bored with it and fantasize about new colors. Nearly a hundred “cupcake liner” attempts are made in a creation session, and only a small few make it to the “Dixie cup” stage. We can knock out 3-4 new colors each over an 8 hour session. We then pour 2 of each of these colors, one for each of us, and we each play with the set over the next week. We critique our creations and they basically evolve from there. It is rare that the first attempt also becomes the prototype for the final product. Often at least 1-2 of the colors are scrapped entirely. We always have a theme prior to creation sessions, however the naming tends to be the last thing that happens.
How many prototypes do you typically have for every polish that actually makes it into a collection?
• 3-4, they evolve.
The maker/blogger relationship is one that is pretty important in the indie world. How do you decide which bloggers to work with?
• Hands down it’s the photos that initially draw me to any blogger/swatcher. From there it’s professionalism, someone that lives up to their word of turnaround time, and sets proper expectations from the get go. Of course exceeding those expectations is acceptable and a welcome surprise as well (ahem, that Mercurial Magpie lady). I also really like working with bloggers and swatchers that are customers. If I feel that someone genuinely has a passion for Fair Maiden, it makes it really fun to work with them.
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?
• We were lucky enough to somehow gain traction from the get-go. Kirby, you helped us by promoting us in your blogger group. Partnering with some of these bloggers helped get us noticed. A month after we launched we had a generous Black Friday sale and before we knew it, we were busy ladies. By the end of the year, our dear fan, Rebecca Hill created a fan group for us. We didn’t even know this was a thing! This has really helped us create a relationship and culture with our loyal customers.
Ultimately, rather than trying to “get our name out there,” we simply focus on a good product and excellent customer service. If you can offer this, you don’t need to try to get noticed…your customers will do that work for you.
What’s your favorite polish not made by you?
• Octopus Party Nail Lacquer & Cupcake Polish (Adrienne)
• Glam Polish, OPNL, Different Dimmension & Cupcake (Sarah)
With so many indies on the market now, what do you think sets your brand apart?
• A brand name that is compelling to everyone, a pretty logo, and beautiful nail polish with unique finishes topped off with superior customer support.
Let’s talk a little about the person behind the brand- what hobbies do you have outside of nail polish?
• Hobbies? What are those??? I’m a mom of 2 and a wife to a very busy man! Truth be told, I consider Fair Maiden my “me” time. I wouldn’t have it any other way! (Adrienne)
• Fair Maiden was my ‘hobby’! But I’m glad it has gone the way it has! It is something I enjoy doing so very much 🙂 (Sarah)
Do you have any pets? Tell me about them!
• Not yet…but my 8 yr old daughter is starting to wear us down for a dog… (Adrienne)
• I have a kitty! Her name is Sophitia (Sophie for short) she’s 15 years old and a medium haired gray tabby. (Sarah)
Is there anything about you that would surprise people to know?
• I made my husband answer this question for me: He says, “yes, that you are a smart ass…and you can walk through your arms.” (Adrienne)
• I’m a smart ass too! And I still bite my nails! 🙂 (Sarah)
• Mexican…and buttercream frosting. (Adrienne)
• Is candy a food? Thin crust pizza and candy. (Sarah)
Thanks again for chatting with us, Adrienne + Sarah! 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!