NAILED AT WORK FOUNDER, AMY PRAGNELL
NAME: Amy Pragnell
COMPANY: Nailed at Work
TITLE(S): Founder & Chief Nail Officer
How would you describe yourself in 5 words? Talkative, loyal, creative, passionate and excitable.
What is the long version of how you got to where you are today? I used to work in marketing. It was the kind of life that was extremely busy, fast-paced, and stressful. I loved it. But I felt like there were never enough hours in the day—a sentiment echoed by most working women I knew— and I was always trying to find ‘life hacks’ to save time. My fortnightly gel manicure was one of these; its longevity meant I didn't have to re-apply polish every couple of days and it made me feel somewhat ‘together’ when I was being pulled in so many different directions. I always felt hands were an important part in doing business. I was constantly shaking hands, presenting with my hands, typing emails, and showcasing artwork to clients using my hands. I took pride in their appearance, honestly! Nothing has the power to make a woman feel feebler than sporting chipped nail polish! But sometimes, even finding the time to get a quick manicure was a challenge. Lunch hours were non-existent and when I did get out of the office, the salons were bursting at the seams. Inevitably, it would consume my Saturday morning. I would find myself impatiently sitting in another sterile nail bar, often a little hung over. It was a chore.
That's where the idea for Nailed at Work was born, but the motivation to finally launch the business came from something deeper, a frustration that was rooted in something more serious than chipped nail polish. Throughout the years I'd worked with some terrible female managers who seemed intent on doing everything but empowering the women around them. I'd also witnessed the struggles women faced in the workplace when it came to taking maternity leave and juggling school schedules and business meetings. Over time I developed a strong desire to create something that would help and support working women. It grew within me. I wanted to build a business of service solutions for working women, to help them save time. And what better place to begin than giving women manicures at work! That's what I do; I go into offices and give women 25-minute express manicures, using normal polish or gel (shellac), therefore allowing them to reclaim their Saturdays.
I think it is really important people can explain their main message in a concise paragraph – if the above is the full version - What is your elevator pitch on what you do? I run a business which saves busy, working women time by bringing manicures into their workplace so they can have an express luxe manicure in their coffee/ lunch break and be back at their desk, perfectly polished, in 25minutes.
Are you doing what you thought you would be doing 10 years ago? (If not, what did you think you would be doing?) I definitely didn’t imagine I’d be running a manicure business per se, but I certainly wanted to run a business and knew it would always be a female-focused one. The more time I spent in the workplace the more I knew it was going to be focused on supporting working women with service solutions, but I definitely wouldn’t have predicted such a big part of my life to be nails!
What does ‘success’ mean to you, and do you consider yourself ‘successful’? I believe success is authentically loving the life you live and having a daily purpose that makes you happy and fulfilled. I am certainly living a successful personal life. However, professionally I am still striving for it! I have ticked a few key happiness boxes i.e. taking the plunge to work for myself, (something I always wanted to do) but to feel completely fulfilled, I need to grow the business further so that it has a bigger footprint, and is commercially viable.
What do you still want to achieve? So much! Professionally, I want to grow my business so that I have national coverage, can provide even more service solutions for busy working women, and of course have it profitable. Also, I want to be able to use the business as a platform to offer broader support for working women in some way. Personally, I have set myself the goal of running a marathon by the time I am 33 … and I was clever enough to add ‘overseas’ to this goal. So a trip to NYC / Paris / London to do a 4 hour run and fill the rest of the time with shopping and eating with my husband!
Did you study anything specific for the career you are in? I did a short course to become a nail technician, and that was all!
What have been the most rewarding things in your career to date? I experienced some pretty rewarding moments in my marketing career: I won an industry award, and campaigns I worked on received national recognition and prizes. However, with Nailed at Work, the most rewarding thing has been seeing it come together, and work! Things like women getting excited because they no longer have to carve out time to go to a salon, or people saying really kind things about the business and receiving positive reviews. Also, nothing beats the feeling of repeat bookings! That loyalty is like a big, warm hug.
Tell us about your workspace (Office / café / couch / aesthetic) what inspires you about your workspace? My workspace is a nook in our spare bedroom at home, it is very minimalist with a framed quote my cousin gave me that says ‘If you can dream it you can do it’. I also the book Girlboss by Sophia Amaruso propped up on a mini-easel with a letter my Dad wrote me inside on the day I was made redundant, bookmarking a great page. However when I am out manicuring my ‘workspace’ can be 100 different things from a corporate boardroom to a booth in a funky space, to the corner of a desk, to the kitchen table in an office.
What are some frustrations you have experiences on your career journey? Starting a business that is un-precedented in Sydney means having to carve a space for it. Sales! It really doesn’t come naturally to me; cold calling / emailing is something I have really struggled with. I know it’s essential for acquisition, but for me it doesn’t get easier. Also, having to figure out every aspect of the business; I’m a one-man band, so I often find myself frustrated because I’m in unchartered waters, trying to learn new things & feeling lost. Whether it’s trying to figure out how to code an update on my website, or experimenting with the new manicure products, or researching and figuring out how to use different software products, or my accounts, or literally getting lost trying to find how to get to a new client (hallelujah for Smart Phone maps!). My frustrations come from everything being new and not being able to draw on my experience for a big chunk of running / creating a business.
When was the last time you where overwhelmed & cried from something provoked by work / workload? Over the past weekend. Realising I wasn’t working hard enough/ sacrificing enough as I should be if I want the business to grow and be successful.
Would you say you put pressure on yourself? Has this increased or decreased as you progress in your career? I actually think it has changed as my career has progressed. When I worked for other people, the pressure came from a motivation not to disappoint or let them down. Whereas now; it comes from not wanting to fail myself. I think the latter is more powerful because, rather selfishly, it directly affects me. It's my own expectations and goals, (but I'm taking it all in my stride).
If you are a business owner – and you often can’t just check out / have a week off when you are dealing with personal things – how do you keep on keeping on with your business when things get tough? My business is still relatively young. So far I have had to simply dress up and show up. The rushing around from appointment to appointment can be tiring, and then I get home and have to do the admin side of the business, so there have been a few periods of exhaustion where I have had to use 20 minutes between appointments to sleep in my car. My biggest fear is letting clients who have made a booking down, fortunately I have only had one period of being unwell so far and it wasn’t too bad- no appointments were cancelled and cold & flu tablets got me through!
Has your career affected your personal life / relationships? If so how? My husband has been so incredibly supportive I have no doubt I have driven him up the wall with it many times, but he’s hidden it well and been incredibly forgiving. Many friends have been super supportive and organised for Nailed at Work to go into their workplace, which has been great because I get to see where they work, meet their colleagues, see how they spend their week, all in their ‘natural habitat’ - this is a privilege we don’t often get with friends so I’ve loved these opportunities.
Has your journey at times felt lonely? Yes, absolutely. It’s certainly been the loneliest time of my life. Trying to navigate a business from nowhere to somewhere without a road map, without people sitting 1m away to bounce ideas off, without a boss to tell you if you’re doing it wrong - it can feel very isolating at times. I believe it’s teaching me resilience, self-reliance and helping me tune in and listen to my gut.
What causes you anxiety / sleepless nights? Thinking about the logistics of successfully growing the business, worrying about why clients didn’t re-book, the impacts of my personal life with the business (i.e. having a baby!) and keeping the business going and my clients loyal with no staff to take my place.
If you had your time over again, from when you started your career to right now, would you do anything differently? I pondered this question for a while and think ultimately the answer is no – purely because (as cliché as it sounds) every bad job I took and career decision and every challenge taught me something and got me to where I am and I don’t think I want to be anywhere else. However, I do regret not saving more before I started the business- but do we ever feel we have enough money?
What advice would you give your 21 year old self? You’ll get there, little friend… and it’s OK, he’ll propose one day!
Who are some women in business you admire & why? I admire anyone who throws caution to the wind and creates something. From successful business women like Sophia Amoruso of NastyGal, Mia Freedman of Mamamia, Carolyn Creswell of Carman’s Muesli, Samantha Wills, Chrissy & Sal of Tailormaid, these women have created successful businesses from scratch and it is awe-inspiring. But I have just as much admiration for people starting out and pursuing their passions, like my best friend living in New York as a playwright. She’s at the beginning of her career, and listening to her passion and how hard she works at it is amazing and so admirable.
What traits do you admire in people you surround yourself with? The ability to always speak kindly of others, and not indulge in bitching or be negative about others. We live in a time where criticizing people is second nature and it’s the reason we have such terrible tall-poppy syndrome in Australia.
Work life balance… Does it exist (I don’t think it does!) and how to maintain it, or a sense of it? If we were given an extra 10 hours in the day, we’d fill them and we’d still feel like we weren’t achieving enough. But I don’t think we’ll ever feel the balance is perfect, the minute chores are completed they need doing again, no amount of time spent with friends and family seems like enough and work wouldn’t be work if the to-do list was empty. I am a firm believer in being present with whatever you’re doing. So do one thing 100%. Don’t multi-task. Very ironic advice from a woman who has created a business built on multi-tasking!!
Have you ever thought about giving up / quitting? If so, does that feeling hit from the same triggers? Why haven’t you quit? I have thought seriously about, and even tried to, get another job to supplement the start-up income but I felt this was a form of quitting. Knowing I wouldn’t be able to spend as much time on and in the business would only have negative effects for the business and then I’d never know if it didn’t work out because it simply wasn’t viable, or if it was because I gave up. So I decided to just keep swimming!
What is the biggest misconception about what you do? That working for yourself means you have so much freedom and flexibility. Friends will often say things like ‘I have the day off next Tuesday let’s go for lunch’ or ‘I’ll pop over at 10am for a cup of tea’ – but I am (and need to be) working when I’m working from home!
What advice would you give someone who is starting out in your industry? Women need to help women. It’s so amazing that you’re starting something that achieves that.
If you knew what you know now, about how much work was involved to get you to where you are now, would you do it again or do something different, if so, what? I would definitely do it again. I would probably even read more books on business, speak to more people, be more OK with vulnerability and ask for help in areas I’m not comfortable or familiar with.
I like the quote ‘Don’t just have a job, have a purpose’ - What do you want your legacy to be? My purpose with my business is to help working women, so professionally, I hope to achieve that and pass it along. I want to see the business landscape for women change during my lifetime and I want to be a part of that. As a person, I hope to be remembered as someone who pursued their dreams with passion, authenticity and creativity.
The SAMANTHA WILLS FOUNDATION is about bringing women in business together – why do you think this is important / (why did you want to be involved in this interview)? Because too many women bring other women down, and we need more platforms to join together and bring each other up. We don’t have to compete with each other, we can collaborate, help and learn from each other. That’s the way forward.
What are some of your favorite quotes? “Love and Do with Gusto” – this is a quote I made up. Maybe more of a mantra. But I believe in it whole-heartedly and try to live by it.