Welcome to Indie Insight, the weekly series where I interview an awesome indie nail polish maker! This week we are chatting with Ashley of Spellbound Nails. This interview was requested by the lovely Painted Nubbs, who features a lot of her polishes on her blog (and is generally awesome, definitely go check her out). Let’s get started!
When and why did you decide to start your own brand?
I started out as a nail art blogger. I noticed indie polish popping up around other blogs and on Facebook, and I was lucky enough to win two giveaways from different indie brands. I fell in love with the idea instantly! It was like taking everything to the next step. I immediately set out to research and quickly got into testing and haven’t looked back since!
Tell me how and why you chose your brand name.
I was a blogger of the same name, and honestly … I had enough trouble choosing that name that I didn’t look much further lol. But it did seem to fit my brand and the direction I wanted to go. I wanted my nail polish to be something that enchanted and left my customers spellbound. I recently took that one step further and redid my brand logo to a broom flying witch.
What is your favorite collection you’ve released so far?
This is a hard one. I keep coming up with a tie between my Down the Rabbit Hole collection inspired by Alice in Wonderland and my Book 1 collection that was inspired by the first book of Harry Potter. Down the Rabbit Hole was one of my very first collections and I really put my heart and soul into every polish. As for the Harry Potter collection … I’m a huge Harry Potter fan and can probably quote the books and movies word for word but this collection just seemed to take on a life of its own and it pulled me along for the ride.
What is your favorite individual polish you’ve released so far?
This is an odd one for me. Anyone who knows me knows I don’t really like blue … but my favorite polish has to be Leave the Brakes On. It was inspired by Doctor Who and was created for the Doctor Who 50th anniversary. It’s a Tardis blue holographic that is absolute perfection in my humble fangirl opinion! I actually wore it to a local sci-fi convention as part of a galaxy/Tardis nail art … the only thing that got more love at the con was my fez headband.
What’s your favorite polish ‘season’?
Halloween! No thoughts or doubts or hesitation here. This is my favorite holiday, and I LOVE making Halloween polishes. I love where my Halloween inspirations take me, and I’m super excited about the direction I’m going this year!
Where do you draw your inspiration from for your polishes?
I love finding inspiration in fandoms. Books, movies, tv … I get very attached to characters and I love finding ways to bring them to life in my polishes. In other words I’m just a great big fangirl.
Do you tend to keep your collections seasonal, or do you make what you want, when you want to make it?
I do a little of everything. I try to release seasonal and holiday polishes regularly, but I also enjoy mixing everyday polishes.
How many bottles do you own in your personal collection?
My polish collection was hundreds of bottles huge BEFORE I started making my own polish. Now I have not only the hundreds of bottles of mainstream polishes but samples and full size bottles of my own polishes and other indies. I store in plastic towers, boxes, and on every available free surface so I’d say I’m probably nearing 1000s of bottles if not already over …. I’m really scared to count.
Do you do polish work full-time or do you also have a day job?
Polish is it for me. I honestly don’t know how other makers have day jobs. I find myself swamped on a good day and am so very impressed by them! I couldn’t imagine having to keep up with orders and mixing new polishes and still have to get up in the morning and go do something else!
What has been your biggest struggle in polish making?
Definitely time management. Being an indie brand is hard, a lot harder than many probably think especially since we’re doing this all on our own. And honestly I was never good with time management to begin with. Between taking orders, mixing orders, packing and shipping orders, being customer service, getting ideas for new polishes, mixing new polishes, swatching and testing, sending out samples, taking pictures, typing up listings, and promoting my brand as well as the hundred and one things I do daily to keep my brand running … yeah, I don’t have a lot of (if any) free time.
What is your favorite thing about making or selling polish?
My favorite part of mixing is seeing an idea come together and being something that takes my breath away. My favorite part of selling is definitely my customers. I love seeing the pictures on social media and reading about their excitement in reviews. A picture or a few words of love makes this all worth it! It means so much to me!!!
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?
I use Really Useful Boxes to store all my glitter and powder pigments. They are amazing little storage systems that are the perfect size for glitter and pigment and amazing for sorting. I saw a picture on Instagram a while ago showing a polish maker’s glitter storage using them. I sent a message and asked about them and then went right out and charged over $200 worth of them lol. I’ve since ordered more, and I don’t think I’ll stop until my walls are covered with them and all my glitter is sorted. As for the rest … it’s a bit willy nilly right now. Liquid pigments and tools pretty much just sit on my desk right now and extra pigments for refilling are in drawers. I’m planning on moving next year so why find storage for everything here when I’ll need to create a whole new storage system for a new office next year?
Tell me about your creating process- from first idea through to finished product.
I start with ideas. It usually just randomly hits me and I’m like ‘hey, that’s a good idea. That’d make a really awesome collection.’ I’ll jot it down in a notebook and when I have time I’ll come back and think of ideas. I spend a lot of time just scribbling. I’ll think of names, color ideas, glitter combos. Once I have pages and pages of ideas I’ll go through and pick a few to create a collection and then the mixing begins. I mix in mini bottles to conserve supplies in case ideas don’t work out. Usually they don’t lol. I’ll go through 3-5 bottles per polish usually just mixing ideas and tweaking them and then remixing until I come up with something I really like. And then that bottle goes away for a while, put into storage, to make sure nothing bleeds or thickens or anything weird. I’ll pull it out a few months later and do testing and swatches, last minute looks. If things still look okay and the consistency is good I’ll mix up samples for bloggers!
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 few bloggers who get every new collection because they’re the ladies who have been with me from the start. I know them and their turn-around time and I trust them to provide me with quality swatches. After that, I have a sign-up form for bloggers that I choose from. With the sign up form I ask for turnaround times, follower count, sample swatches and things like that … so sometimes I’ll pick based on whether I need quick swatches or if I can wait longer … if a collection needs a bit of a push I’ll pick based on higher follower counts … and if I need some rocking swatches I’ll go through and find bloggers with amazing nails and pictures. Overall though, as long as the blogger has quality pictures and takes good care of their nails they’ll definitely get samples quickly. 🙂
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?
I had a lot of trouble getting my name out there. I was a blogger but I didn’t really have a name for myself in the indie world. I jumped and then suddenly realized I was in the deep end with the sharks and no life vest. I did a bit of promotion on my blog but didn’t really have the money to swamp the blogging world with samples like some indies have done so I just kind of treaded water. My big break was my Hocus Pocus inspired Halloween collection almost a year after I started my brand. I went from having a few sales a month to being swamped and I totally admit to dropping the ball. I wasn’t prepared for such an increase in sales so I ran out of supplies quick and realized I couldn’t mix fast enough, but I got orders out as well as I could and then picked myself up, dusted myself off, and continued on with a real idea of what polish making could be. I ordered squeeze bottles immediately and started mixing in larger batches and I did a MAJOR restock of supplies. It was a learning experience, but one I really needed.
Let’s talk a little about the person behind the brand- what hobbies do you have outside of nail polish?
Oh jeez … none? Lol, remember that part where I said I have no free time? Creating new polish is about my only hobby, but it is one I really enjoy. Before polish making I loved reading, writing original stories and fanfiction (I thought about trying to get published and I did NaNoWriMo every November), and art. I’ve always been crafty. Honestly though, as my business expands I’m actually finding I have more free time because I’m learning to budget and plan my time better. I’ve gotten into sewing (hand sewing because I break every sewing machine I touch) and I still love to draw. I also love having free time to spend with family again, and my boyfriend and I just hit our 1 year anniversary in April.
Do you have any pets? Tell me about them!
I do have pets! I have 2 cats and a dog. Tinkerbell was named by one of my nieces when she was little. She’s a short-haired cat who is about 15 and still going strong! Shiloh is a 6 year old yellow labrador retriever. And Maizey Mae (you may have seen #MissMaizeyMae on instagram lol) is our most recent addition. She’s an 11 month old buff colored long-haired cat that makes my allergies act up something fierce but I wouldn’t trade her for the world! Her mother abandoned her and her siblings when they were babies and a nice woman took them in and nursed them until they were old enough to find families. She was a gift for my mom’s birthday. My sister actually adopted Maizey’s sister … now named Pumpkin. Without a mommy to look to for guidance Maizey looked to our lab as her mommy and still spends half her day following Shiloh around wanting to snuggle or going full out doggy sprawl in the middle of the floor.
Is there anything about you that would surprise people to know?
Before I discovered nail polish (and even years after I started blogging) I was a bit of a hermit. I went through a major depression in my teens, medicine helped take the edge off but I was still left with panic attacks and anxiety. I holed up in my room for days and had panic attacks when I left the house. I’m still a very nervous person to this day. I actually dropped out of school in the middle of 9th grade. I’m very proud to say I overcame my fears (with the help of lots of meds at the time) enough to take the test for my GED … getting my diploma the year I would have graduated. Still, even to this day I get shaky. Meeting new people sends me to the edge of panic. I don’t drive … I’ve renewed my learner’s permit 4 times and being behind the wheel of a car leaves me shaking so bad that I have yet to take my actual driver’s test. Even just something as simple as going into a store and buying something (something most people take for granted) leaves me shaking and near tears. It’s embarrassing to talk about, especially to those headstrong people who specifically do things that frighten them to get over their fears and wonder why I don’t just get over my fears the same way! It doesn’t feel like it at times but I HAVE gotten better! I may get shaky but it’s been years since I’ve had a panic attack, I don’t take medication anymore, AND again, though I get shaky and prefer not to, I CAN do things alone. I have my driver’s permit, I have my business which makes me work customer service, and I’m getting out there, talking to new people and actually looking forward to doing a craft show this year! Honestly, I think nail polish has literally saved my life and my sanity, and I wouldn’t give this job up for the world!
Thanks again for chatting with us, Ashley! 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!