Jeanette Sklivanou is founder of Safe ‘N’ Beautiful PC and author of Nailed It!: How one woman turned a dream business into a huge success.
Jeanette established Safe ‘N” Beautiful in 2011 after her personal commitment to natural cosmetics and concern for appropriate children’s play products led her to spot a gap in the market and launch the business’s flagship product, Snails (Safe Nails), the same year. Snails is a non-toxic, safe nail polish designed to wash off with only soap and water. It now is a number-one seller in 79 countries worldwide.
Jeanette recently released her new book, Nailed It!, which explores her business journey from inexperienced entrepreneur to leader of a globally-successful brand, and how others can plot a similar path. It is the ideal read for new business owners and those aspiring to make the jump into starting their own company, especially women.
You started your business Safe ‘N’ Beautiful in 2011 with, in your own words, “zero experience”. At which point did you realise that your dream company had become a massive success, and how did that make you feel?
In all honesty, I still have a hard time believing how far we’ve come! But the moment I realised success truly came knocking was when I received an email from Ralph Lauren Europe, asking for one of our nail polishes from the children’s collection to be in their Milan catwalk photo shoot. Only three years had passed from the moment we started the business, and it felt like no more than a blink of an eye. I was completely taken aback, in the best possible way, but I tried to let this new reality sink in. What I kept thinking was “Didn’t we just get started like a week ago, in our own garage? When did we become Ralph Lauren material?!”
How did you come up with the idea for Snails? What was your inspiration?
My daughters have always been my main source of inspiration! Seeing them have so much fun with makeovers and conventional nail polish made me question if these products were indeed suitable for them. It took one look at the ingredients list and a bit of Googling to realise that we needed an alternative. At the time, the only option for kids-friendly polish would be to order from the US, so I saw that as an opportunity to provide the European market with a healthy, safe nail polish option for kids.
How did you find your market ‘niche’? Have you got any tips for other entrepreneurs struggling to differentiate themselves from competitors?
I guess my previous response partially covers this, too – being a parent means constantly doing some kind of market research for the sake of our kids! So, to make sure we were on the right track, we kept doing plenty of industry digging to see if we could build something worthwhile. As for my advice for struggling entrepreneurs: find something you genuinely care about. I’m sure you’re facing all kinds of challenges and issues in your everyday life that could use a smarter, more suitable solution. When you focus on bettering people’s lives instead of just “differentiating your business”, you have a far better chance of succeeding.
As a founder, it can be very easy to get excited and carried away with every sign of success. How did you manage the sustainable growth of Safe ‘N’ Beautiful to make sure it’s still the thriving brand it is today?
Once again, my previous response overlaps with this question, too! When you’re hard at work every day, you actually have very little opportunity to get carried away with success. One day at a time, we do our best to come up with new and improved ways to live our brand’s purpose. Snails is all about safe, colourful self-expression for kids. We never lose sight of that. Sustainable growth becomes a natural state of being when we constantly strive to do right by our kids.
You supply your flagship product, Snails, all over the world. What would you say is both the best and most challenging thing about selling internationally?
There are quite a few challenges that come with such a feat, but from my perspective, the logistics of it can be a real nightmare! That’s why I carefully choose all my manufacturing and distribution partners. If you rush, you might get your product to some markets faster, but we wanted to make sure we would build lasting bonds with our international partners.
Where do you want to take Safe ‘N’ Beautiful next? Are there any exciting new products or ventures in the pipeline we should know about?
I like to keep our future an exciting mystery so that we can surprise people when the time is right! We have a few ideas in development, and I’m doing my best to be patient and not reveal too much. After all, part of what we love doing is to keep everyone’s imagination alive and vibrant. So, stay tuned to find out!
In your opinion, what is the unique selling point of Safe ‘N’ Beautiful and Snails?
We create beauty products that are safe for kids, easy to remove with nothing but water and soap, and are gentle on the environment. In essence, Snails always puts kids first.
Founding a business usually means becoming a leader. What were the key lessons for you in learning to become a good leader?
The more I think about this, the clearer it becomes: leaders are learners and listeners. My initial fears of having no business background were unfounded. True leaders, despite having any kind of knowledge or skills (or none whatsoever), are always ready to keep learning, it’s an endless process. The same goes for listening to your employees, business partners, customers, competitors. You become a leader the moment you stop being afraid of your imperfections and start embracing them as opportunities to learn and improve.
You recently released your book, Nailed It!, all about how you turned your dream business into an internationally successful reality. Can you tell us about it?
This book is my way of supporting other aspiring women entrepreneurs, giving them the advice I so desperately needed back when I was still in my garage, creating a brand out of thin air. I hope the book will both be a source of inspiration, as I shared all of my own raw struggles of starting a business, but also a source of useful, practical tips. I hope it will remind people that they don’t need to be perfect in order to succeed. More than anything, I hope it will nudge more women into taking that first step into entrepreneurship!
What are your three top pieces of advice for women who might be considering starting their own business but doubt they can make it?
First and foremost, doubt can be healthy – instead of letting it stifle your professional dreams, use it to create something that will really make a difference. My second piece of advice would be: ask all the questions that come to mind! The more research you do, the more you talk to people, the better you’ll be at what you do. And finally, FAIL! Failure is no boogeyman. Every failure is your chance to do better next time. Take your chance, take risks! There is absolutely no way for you to become an entrepreneur without taking risks. In time, you’ll start appreciating failure more and you’ll realise each failure is another opportunity to learn and outgrow your current self. Take that opportunity and take the world by storm!