Rachel Apfel Glass of GLOSSLAB on modernizing the nail salon experience with a membership-focused model

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Describe your business in a few words?

I founded GLOSSLAB in 2018 with a mission to modernize the nail salon experience with my hygiene-first, membership-focused concept. Currently, we have 3 locations in NYC with 2 additional locations opening in the next few months. 

What made you take the leap to start your own business?

I worked in hedge fund fundraising for 10 years.  I was always in search of a quick, clean manicure as part of my busy work schedule and then as part of my even busier lifestyle as a working mom. I always felt like manicures were errands; a very joyless and inefficient experience. I talked about recreating the nail space for years. After having my second daughter and ultimately leaving the world of finance, I worked with a team of experts to open and then scale Glosslab.  

What was your background prior to starting your own business?

I went to Columbia Business School and then worked in hedge fund fundraising for ten years.  I always enjoyed having an entrepreneurial role within companies but ultimately knew it was time to start my own business. 

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

That was never my initial plan, but every week I would go to get a manicure, I would look for the “least gross” place and I knew something had to change! That’s why I founded Glosslab on five key pillars including: Hygiene, Efficiency, Innovation, Expertise and Empowerment. I thought about giving up all the time — everyone in my life told me I was crazy to leave the finance world to take this leap and I would often believe them myself. It has been my inner passion to pursue this journey that has kept me going and really doing work on myself along the way.

Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?

I self-funded Glosslab and we had no budget for marketing. So in the beginning it was all referrals from customers/members!

We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?

Raising capital for our latest round of fundraising was definitely challenging. We had to practice time management – we had our heads down focused on operations and expansion but had to balance that with the time necessary to complete the fundraising process.

What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?

Being a mom is #1.  Then opening Glosslab and finding the great team we have now.

How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

In the early stages of the pandemic, we cared most about the safety and security of our Glosslab employees.  At Glosslab, my core principle is empowerment – starting from within our company. We have a true career path for our employees and technicians where they have many growth and learning opportunities within our company. I started Glosslab with hygiene as a #1 priority. I did lots of research – our services, including pedicures, are completely waterless due to the germs and bacteria that live in pedicure bowls, even when they are cleaned. Our tools are one-time use only or otherwise cleaned in a hospital-grade sterilizer. When we re-opened in July, we did not have to pivot our store model beyond adding Covid safety measures – temperature checks, plexi dividers for services, masks and health checks. We also launched our mani “emergency” kits during the pandemic as well as our gel eraser kit – for gel removal at home or on the go.

What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?

We are opening 5+ locations in NYC. I am so thrilled to be a part of the re-growth that NYC needs right now.  We are also launching our full line of products later this year, including nail polish, hand and foot care. Additionally, we are planning to expand to other cities across the country, including Los Angeles.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?

I learned to be more present and it’s been super impactful. Having the chance to slow down from running place to place was a true silver lining for me.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?

It has taken me a long time to learn this, but you can truly create your own happiness. I am running this business and living this crazy entrepreneur life of working 100 hours a week so that I don’t have to work 40 hours a week. This makes me truly happy and fulfilled.

How have you managed to stay grounded this year?

I take time for myself (or try to!) everyday. It’s SO important to take this time and it’s not selfish- it makes me a much better (nicer!) mom, wife and person. For me, this time is spent doing yoga or a sweaty workout, practicing meditation and/or just spending time alone or with friends.  

Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?

I am mom to two little girls who are my inspiration – I love that, especially being home so much right now, they get to see this work side of what I do all day. Juggling is always the hardest question because I never feel that I’m truly managing the juggle. And yet, somehow, I am! I have never worked harder in my life, including when I was traveling to several cities each month raising money for hedge funds. They say entrepreneurs are the crazy people who work 100 hours a week so they don’t have to work 40 hours – so true! However, my time is my own now and I’m able to spend real time with my kids everyday. I believe that my kids are happiest when I’m happiest, and I’m so lucky to love what I do!  

What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?

Action expresses priorities… just start! You have the power to create your own happiness. 

Additionally, for entrepreneurs, some advice I live by includes:         

  • Be you!         
  • Take the first step – it’s often those little things in the beginning to push an idea forward that seem small but can get it going.         
  • Ask for help. No one can do everything – don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?

Truly, creating my own happiness.  Taking control of my week and everyday to build Glosslab and push forward each day.

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