Welcome to Indie Insight, the weekly series where I interview an awesome indie nail polish maker! This week we are chatting with Laura of Ellagee. Laura creates polish in a variety of finishes but is especially known for her unique shaped glitter polishes and her lovely holos. Let’s get started!
How did you get into nail polish in the first place?
I’ve always loved nail polish. I remember saving up my allowance to buy it when I was little. I wanted rainbow colors back then but there weren’t any so I used to color my nails with markers, which didn’t turn out so well but it was the only way I could get them anything but pink or red!
When and why did you decide to start your own brand?
I was so impressed with indie polish when I first discovered it, I thought the people who created their own brands were so creative but I was just a collector for a long time. I would always mix polishes to make new ones when I wanted something I couldn’t find though, and I learned a lot about formulas that way, which led me to want to learn how to start from scratch. Once I saw the variety of things I could buy to make my own polishes I was hooked. I bought a tiny bit of everything and spent a lot of time learning by trial and error (lots of error) and once I had a few polishes that I was really proud of I took the plunge and started ellagee in March of 2013. At first it was just a creative outlet and I was thrilled that it was making enough to support itself but it’s grown so much that it’s my full time job now.
Tell me how and why you chose your brand name.
It’s just my initials, LLG. I wish I had an interesting story but that’s it.
What is your favorite collection you’ve released so far?
My favorite has also been my most popular over time, the A Good Man collection inspired by Doctor Who. I spent a lot of time choosing my favorite moments from the show and interpreting them as nail polish. It was my best selling collection on release and has continued to do well even though it’s been in the shop for almost a year now.
What is your favorite individual polish you’ve released so far?
That’s a hard question! I’m pretty fickle so that changes all the time, but I’m really loving WHAM! right now, it’s a blend of gold and silver holo microglitter that sparkles like it has lights in it. It’s very distracting in the sun.
What’s your favorite polish ‘season’?
I love all kinds of colors but I’m mostly all about sparkle and deep jewel tones, so probably winter/holiday polishes would be my favorites.
Where do you draw your inspiration from for your polishes?
Oh my, everywhere! Ideas are always popping into my head from things I read, shows I watch, characters I love, my favorite music, flowers, holidays. It might be easier to list what doesn’t inspire ideas.
Do you tend to keep your collections seasonal, or do you make what you want, when you want to make it?
A little of both, I know people like seasonal colors, but if an idea is bugging me to be made, I make it even if it’s out of season.
Are there any types of polish that you don’t make yourself but buy a lot of from others?
I still love to collect other brands, especially indies. No particular type though, I just buy what strikes me.
How many bottles do you own in your personal collection?
I haven’t counted exactly but I think it’s around 1000.
Other than your own brand, which brand do you have the most of in your collection?
Indies, I have a lot of Digital Nails, Girly Bits, and ILNP. Store brands, I have a lot of OPI and China Glaze, and I’m a sucker for a Sinful Colors sale or anything in a uniquely shaped bottle.
Do you do polish work full-time or do you also have a day job?
ellagee is my full time job, some days I only work 3-4 hours but other days I work 12 hours or more. I have a BSN in nursing and worked as an RN for years, but in recent years a chronic health issue has kept me from working a regular job. I loved nursing and might go back someday, but for now I’m loving being my own boss, working in a creative field, and getting to be home with my family.
What has been your biggest struggle in polish making?
Neon pigments give me grey hair. Clumps, clumps, and more clumps. Also bookkeeping, I tend to put off paperwork because it’s boring and I’d rather play with colors.
What is your favorite thing about making or selling polish?
I love having such a fun creative outlet and I absolutely adore the people I’ve met in this business. I’ve found some treasured friends in other brand owners, bloggers, and customers. I can’t believe I get to chat with lovely people and play with glitter all day and people actually buy it.
You have gained a reputation for great customer service- how are you able to keep everyone so happy?
Awww thank you! That means the world to me. I’m just another nail polish lover, just like my customers, and I treat them like I’d want to be treated. It’s important to me that shopping at ellagee leaves people with a smile and I stand behind what I make because it’s just the right thing to do. I know there’s 50 bajillion choices of nail polish out there and if somebody chooses mine, I’m gonna let them know how much I appreciate it by taking good care of them.
You also seem to have a large group of dedicated fans that you interact with a lot in your fan group- it feels like a little family and you perfectly walk the line between being approachable yet still professional. Any tips for other makers who struggle with that line?
Thank you again! The people in the facebook group and customers I’ve gotten to talk with have all been so great, and I love that I get to interact so much. I guess my only tip would be what I said in the last question, treat people the way you’d like to be treated.
You’re often the first to put out polish with new glitter shapes- if you could create your dream glitter shape, what would it be?
Oh my goodness I want so many. Realistically I’d love to have tiny x shapes for a kisses and hugs polish, tiny little mini hearts that are the size of the mini stars, and pointy petaled flowers to name a few. In my wildest dreams I’d love to have tiny unicorns.
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?
Everything in my house has glitter on it, my family has just accepted it. My daughter found a butterfly glitter in her soup today. I clean off my work surface and tools after each polish so I don’t get the wrong glitter in the wrong polish though.
My glitter and pigments are stored in little screw top jars which are much easier to deal with than baggies. I only open one jar at a time so they don’t get mixed up. Everything is in Alex drawers and as I continue to hoard all the types and supplies I have to keep buying more Alex units. I just added a fifth one this week.
Tell me about your creating process- from first idea through to finished product.
Sometimes it starts with the inspiration and how it makes me feel, and then what that feeling looks like. Sometimes I’m just struck by a certain pigment or glitter and make something from it and then decide what it should be called. I usually go through 5-10 versions of a formula over days or weeks before I decide on the final product, but sometimes it comes out just like I pictured on the first time around. My best seller ever, Jewel Encrusted, popped into my mind and I made it in about 5 minutes.
The maker/blogger relationship is one that is pretty important in the indie world. How do you decide which bloggers to work with?
I have a sort of open call on my website with a form that anyone is welcome to fill out. I keep everyone’s info and when I need someone new I refer to the list. I wish I could work with all of them but there are just so many and they’re all amazing! I like to rotate between multiple bloggers because I enjoy seeing different perspectives and photography styles. The bloggers I’ve worked with repeatedly are ones that I felt a good connection with, have been easy to work with, and write interesting posts with good info about the polishes. Also being able to put up with my scatterbrained self helps! There’s lots that I’ve only worked with once or twice that I’m looking forward to working with again too, I can count the bad experiences I’ve had with bloggers on one hand.
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?
Hmmm, that’s hard. I still feel like a little fish in a big pond so I’ll let you know when I take off! When I first started, and still, I like to let word spread organically. I share news on social media but I’m not a big advertiser, I figure if you’re interested in my product you’ll hang around for the news and if you like what you buy from me you’ll tell your friends.
What’s your favorite polish not made by you?
I’ll never get tired of OPI I’m Not Really A Waitress. I think it’s the only polish I’ve gone through an entire bottle of and bought another.
With so many indies on the market now, what do you think sets your brand apart?
I hope that my interaction with people sets my brand apart. It’s so important to me to make sure my customers are happy and even though I’d like ellagee to grow, I want to keep it small enough that I can keep that connection with people personally.
Let’s talk a little about the person behind the brand- what hobbies do you have outside of nail polish?
I completely adore my family, they are the greatest people ever. My house is full and loud and chaotic and wonderful. I’m an absolute fanatic for Disney. We love to visit Walt Disney World and Disneyland and we have all of the movies memorized. I also just recently started collecting unique and fun fabric so I can take up sewing again. There’s a whole community of small indie fabric companies that make limited edition prints, it’s a lot like the nail polish world! My friend Raphaelle of Digital Nails introduced me to it and is teaching me how to sew knits so I can make all the fabulous tee shirts.
Do you have any pets? Tell me about them!
I have six dogs! All rescues, all fabulous. Two black Labradoodle sisters who are the absolute sweetest animals on the planet, one black Schipperke mix who guards us and keeps us safe from the mailman, one wonky faced black and white mutt who gets so happy she cries, one elderly toy poodle whose favorite place is my lap, and my daughter’s fluffy kissy wiggly brown chow mix mutt. Also my son has a reptile of some sort that I pretend isn’t in his room. It’s probably going to eat us all one of these days.
Is there anything about you that would surprise people to know?
Hmmm I’m kinda boring. I do have purple hair though! I have three tattoos and many more planned, I got a late start on them, I got my first one when I turned 45. I have peace, love, mickey symbols on my arm, a starfish that my daughter drew on my foot, and a sun surrounded by purple swirls like the designs in the movie Tangled on my shoulder blade.
What’s your favorite kind of food?
Ice cream, hands down.
Thanks again for chatting with us, Laura! 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!