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Sharmadean Reid doesn’t wait for a great idea to be realised to utter, “I wish I’d thought of that”. From her college project turned corporate venture, WAH Nails, to her latest beauty-tech foray, Beautystack, this is a woman all about the now and the next (and the nails).
Perceptive and visually led, Sharmadean knew nails were going to be a major trend before words like “ombre” and “shellac” were part of the zeitgeist. WAH Nails began as a fanzine about girls in hip-hop. Her salon space in East London opened in 2009 and within two months of trading, Selfridges came knocking.
At first, growth was by word-of-mouth and then it went viral, spawning a life of its own on social media. A localised vision was tapping into a global audience. Fast-forward to today and Beautystack is all about harnessing global beauty trends. How people are wearing their hair and nails and make up all over the world is paramount intelligence for Sharmadean. Where trend-seeking is concerned, travel follows.
A beauty leader and a force for change, Sharmadean shares her go-to nail colour, spills on the only beauty essential you need and why her next suitcase is packed with a monochrome of blue.
How did WAH Nails come to fruition?
WAH began as a fanzine about girls in hip-hop that I started in order to practise my skills on InDesign and Photoshop. If I ever saw a girl who I thought was cool I would give her a copy of the magazine. Slowly, people started knowing me as the WAH girl.
I would get my nails done every Friday and I thought it was going to be really popular, but no one was doing it as well as it could be in terms of the experience and vibe. I researched the hell out of the salon business and knew it wouldn’t be scalable, but that it wouldn’t lose money either. We found a spot two minutes from my house on Kingsland Road and set up shop. I had no idea what I was doing. It wasn’t about running a business for me; it was about having a physical space to connect with my friends.
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What is Beautystack?
Beautystack is a visual booking platform for next-level beauty services. Browse our editorial content and book your next treatment with our curated list of Beauty Pros.
What are you working on at the moment?
Right now I’m working on growing our team so hiring is a main focus – as well as staying motivated during the gloomy English winter months. I’m also working with Marriott Hotels, as part of its In Focus event series, discussing leadership and how to empower individuals to pave their own way to success. Management didn’t come naturally to me, so I’ve had to work hard on this over the last few years. Every day is a lesson in people management because if you don’t look after the people, they won’t look after the company.
What has been your career highlight so far?
I think where I’m at now is a career highlight, I have an amazing team and an exciting product. I tend to not look back on the “highlights”.
Do you have any advice for people looking to start their own business?
Understand how you’re going to make money. That might sound really straightforward but so many people start businesses without knowing how they’re going to make a profit. Understand your exact customers. Every decision you make is aimed at those customers; give them names and personas and profiles. Don’t ever make decisions without thinking about who your customers are. Plan a roadmap for the future and try to have five stages in that. Year one we’re going to achieve this, year two we’re going to achieve this, and work backwards thinking “what do we have to do to get to that goal?”.
Instagram really helped grow your business when you were first starting out. What platforms should entrepreneurs be looking at today?
Beauty professionals (or even those with a beauty skill) should be looking to Beautystack. It’s a social-platform-meets-booking-system that allows you to make money directly from your pictures. Plus, you can customise your hours and work flexibly on your own terms. Instagram is an incredible unrivalled audience – a platform that has changed lives. I found it just a few months after it launched and grew my WAH brand awareness on there as an early user. What I’m trying to achieve with Beautystack is to close the loop between brand awareness and actually booking a treatment. Our platform is focused on a seamless beauty booking directly from content.
Do you think that the beauty landscape is changing for the better?
I think it’s getting there – as an industry it’s becoming a lot more democratic and we’re seeing increasing diversity. One of our main missions at Beautystack is to change the perception of careers in beauty. As an industry it’s often stigmatised as frivolous or unintelligent, but it’s a billion-dollar sector that has allowed women all over the world to start businesses, work flexibly and feel empowered. Beautystack aims to continue that.
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Does travel inform your work?
Yes, absolutely. Travel is my thinking time – I always think up my best ideas when I give my mind space to breathe. I get inspiration from everywhere and I always customise my beauty treatments to my next destination. When I went to Italy last summer, I got nail art inspired by Luke Edward Hall for a classical vibe and opted for a pedi in a maraschino-cherry red. I get incredibly angsty when I don’t travel; it’s like my oxygen. Not only do I love the time to myself on the plane, but Beautystack is all about global beauty trends so I’m constantly observing how people are wearing their hair, nails and make-up all over the world.
Your go-to nail colour is…
Red on my toes, lilac on my fingers.
Best place in London for hair…
I get my hair cut with Alisha Dobson at Bleach London, but I book my braids with @amazingafi on Beautystack.
London’s best beauty spots include…
WAH Nails, of course, as well Keash London (bookable on Beautystack), SkinWork for facials in Soho and Skin and Sanctuary for facials in Hackney.
Best cities for beauty lovers…
Beauty routine essentials…
Coconut oil is the only real essential! Others items in my kit include: Skinceuticals AHA face wash; Bobbi Brown concealer in warm almond; Thayers Lavender Witch Hazel; Biologique Recherche acid solution; and facial oil from Disciple Skincare.
Tell us some of your most loved and loathed beauty trends right now?
I love the innovation that Keash London is creating right now – UV hair tattoos and blinged-out edges. I also love finger waves. A trend I don’t like is encouraging teenage girls to cover up their hormonal skin with lots of make-up, rather than helping them to repair it through diet and the proper care.
If there was one destination you could go back to immediately, which one would it be?
What are you reading at the moment?
“Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if your Life Depended on It” by Chris Voss. I read it four years ago and it was life-changing, so I’m reading it again now.
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What are your travel essentials?
Travel adaptor, books, headphones, facial oil, a black silk slip dress and a good companion.
And finally, what’s in your SUITCASE?
I’m about to go to Morocco – Chefchaouen is on the intinerary – so I’m only packing blue clothes.
On 27 Wednesday February Sharmadean will be speaking on a panel as part of the Marriott Hotels event series, In Focus. The event will be focusing on How to lead in 2019 where Sharmadean will be offering insights into the world of leadership and how to maximise leadership potential throughout your career, with real-world examples from experience starting her own business.
Tickets for the event can be reserved here.
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