We know and love her preeminent collection of colourful, breathable and oh-so shiny polishes – not to mention the nail-saving qualities of her much loved treatments. But what of the woman behind these beautiful blends?
We’ve cleared a 10-minute space in our founder Sonia Hully’s packed schedule to speak to her about her influences, highlights and how Nailberry all came about…
What came before Nailberry? How much bravery did it take to make the leap and change your career path so fundamentally?
My career has introduced me to many industries. After several years in Finance, I setup my own businesses – including property development and interior design. All proved successful and I felt proud to independently be making my own money.
The global financial crisis changed the world and I knew I had to change with it. My successes had provided modest savings, so I looked for gaps in various markets that would deliver a return. Around 2010, I spotted an opportunity in the nail salon business – a middle-ground of premium yet approachable and affordable salons that offered comfortable, aspirational décor and a high level of service. After a good, long think and some planning, Nailberry was set up in business by January 2012.
I’m inherently an entrepreneur, it’s always been a part of me and my personality. I love its aversion to the ‘average’ 9-to-5 and enjoy the opportunity to always learn and be creative. Therefore it didn’t necessarily take bravery – more the will to roll my sleeves up and put in the hours.
What have been your Nailberry highlights so far?
I launched my first polishes in 2014. Free from formaldehyde, toluene and dibutyl phthalate, as well as any animal by-products, they were a very new concept. The renowned and much-respected British Beauty Blogger, Jane Cunningham, tried them out, loved the colours and concept, and wanted to be the first to write about us. I remember her commenting on how we were going to be a serious contender and saying “I think without knowing it, it’s what we’ve been waiting for”. It was so flattering.
Another very notable moment was when the illustrious (and influential) Le Bon Marché, Paris, became my first stockist. In the UK, Selfridges approached me (!) to become a stockist. It hasn’t stopped there... more recently, I’ve proudly worked with John Lewis.
What are the main challenges you have had to overcome as a business owner?
There’s a real misconception about entrepreneurs and how much time we have to do what we want. Trust me, it’s certainly not the case!
Owning your own business is all consuming. The hours are long and non-stop, especially so in the early days. I never truly switch-off and rarely have real time off, as work still demands my attention during family holidays. But, as challenging as it is, this is what you sign up to; this is what I love doing.
Possibly my biggest challenge is letting go. Despite having a talented team around me, letting go is always the hardest thing to do. After setting up a business, you get so used to doing everything yourself. I want to let go and put my trust in the team, but it’s a big hurdle to overcome.
In an increasingly competitive beauty and nail care industry, what continues to set Nailberry apart?
Quite simply, it’s our ethics. We never, ever compromise on quality and our commitment to being cruelty-free, halal and vegan.
Is there such a thing as an average day in your life?
Absolutely not! I have no routine… though, because I travel so much, I do try to install a rudimentary one that involves taking time out for exercise.
In which case, what would be your perfect day?
Generally a day without responsibilities which is nearly impossible :)! I relish any time I can rest, sleep, take some fresh air, watch a movie with my family or exercise. So rare, but so restorative.
I recently took up Bollywood dancing – it’s incredibly fun and uplifting, and really takes my mind off work.
On the topic of family, what is your secret to juggling running a business with a large family?
I create To Do lists all the time. As I don’t sleep particularly well, they also help me switch off and rest better.
Do you have a mantra?
Yes. Do not do to others what you wouldn’t want others to do to you.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Puddings, definitely. I have at least one per day!
And finally, what are your top three Nailberry polishes or treatments?
I have four… Noirberry, Pop My Berry, Elegance and Glamazon.