Today we chat with Christy from KBShimmer who has built one of THE most popular indie brands on the market. So popular in fact that she was last year's Indie Brand of the Year as voted for by you, the readers of this 'ere blog.
Follow KBShimmer on Facebook HERE.
What’s your earliest polish memory
My first polish related memory was ironically on cuticle care, not polish specifically. From an early age, I have had long nails, as did my mother and grandmother. I remember my grandmother taking to me about pushing my cuticle back to let my “moons” show and taking care of my nails.
What was the polish that started it all for you – OPI’s I’m Not Really A Waitress. I am not sure how many bottles I have of that polish, but I have back-ups of back-ups. I remember getting a pedicure searching for my perfect red toned polish, and that was it!
When did it go from enjoyment to full on polishaholic-ness / obsession
I would not say I am obsessed. Compared to many I have a very small collection.
How many polishes do you own –
Well, if we don’t count all the KBShimmer polishes, probably 100 or so.
If there was a fire and you could save only one polish, what would it be –
Not really sure. I have Finger Paints Twisted, and I really love that polish so that might be the one I save.
Which is your favourite brand and why –
Why KBShimmer of course ;) After that is is OPI. They have always been a brand who has colors I like.
Which brand do you own the most of –
As a polish wearer, what’s the best tip you’ve picked up along the way –
Best tip, probably the foil removal method. That saves so much time!
Do you also have a day job –
KBShimmer is my full time job.
What prompted you to start making polishes –
I have always loved polish, getting a pedicure is my favorite way to pamper myself. So when one of my suppliers started offering supplies to make my own, I jumped on it. Polish was a great extension to my already colorful line of bath and body products and offered me another way to play with color.
How difficult is it to get started – what’s involved –
If someone wants to do the correctly, it is not difficult, but time consuming and expensive. Getting a business set up with the state and the federal government, learning cosmetic regulations, etc takes time. In additional to the business side of polish, you have to be knowledgeable about your materials. Back when I started, there was one polish base, now there are many to choose from, each with different properties. Then there is the glitter. I have tested hundreds and hundreds of glitters to ensure I am using ones that don’t curl, bleed or break down. That means investing in base, bottles and glitters that will never be sold. Even with more and more suppliers offering glitter for polish, I still test. Each base is different and I do still come across glitter that says it is for polish but bleeds or curls. I test for quite a while, so investments made in new glitters do not pay off right away. Colorants can also be tricky, getting them to blend smoothly, finding ones that don’t stain or fade takes time.
How long did it take from the idea to the first saleable polish –
I am not sure exactly, a few months? Some of my first polishes were one color shimmers. It took me a while to test enough glitters that I could start using them in polish.
How did you decide your brand name –
KBShimmer is a nod to my daughter Katy. Her nickname is Katy Bug, so when naming my business I wanted something that had meaning to me, so Katy Bug was shortened to KB. We then added shimmer as I thought that sounded nice!
What was your vision for your brand –
My goal has always been to bring color into the bath. From rainbow colored soaps and bath bombs, to the kaleidoscope of polish colors I offer, I think that skincare can smell good, look pretty, and be fun.
How do you decide where to sell eg Etsy v an e-tailer –
From the beginning I have had both an Etsy page and a standalone website. Etsy is a great place to introduce people to your brand, and is easy to use. My website allows me to control how I sell, what I offer, and makes features like customer rewards possible. It was also important to me to move off Etsy as soon as I could so that customers would not have to worry about cart jacking. I keep polish in stock at all times on my site.
What was the first polish you made and did it ever make it to sale –
The first polish I made was a shimmery burnt orange color. It did end up on Etsy for a short time, and still is one I have in my collection. Party was my first glitter polish and that was just recently retired.
What’s the proportion of prototypes to saleables – how many make it through the process –
For every 10 or so that make it for sale, I probably have 2 or 3 failures. Some colors are harder for me than others. Yellows and reds are two that I seem to have more failures then successes. When I created Blinded By The Bright, I went through 4 prototypes before I settled on the final version, and I am still working on something red. Most polishes though I work out in my mind before they ever are made with base.
What defines whether a polish makes it through the process – why do some of them “not work” –
For me I have to love a polish before it makes it out for sale, if I don’t, then it gets cut. Before I even blend a polish, I have a very specific idea in my head of the color and the glitters I want to use. Most of the time my ideas work just the way I want them too. Other times I cannot get the base color right, the glitters just don’t show correctly, or the base changes the glitter color to something that I just don’t like. When that happens, the polish is set aside.
Which polish is your favourite child –
That is a hard one as I really do love every polish I put out. I would say my favorite glitter topper is Clown Puke. I love the wide variety of glitters I use, and how every nail is just a bit different. Lilac Dream is one I reach for often. The subtle shift of color, the soft shimmer and shine, it is one of my first polishes and one of my favorites. Out of my crelly polishes, I think Oh Splat! is really my favorite. The play of the rainbow colored glitters against the white is just so pleasing to my eye. For my jelly polishes, I Got A Crush On Blue is on top. I love holographic glitters, and the way they just float in the base floors me every time I wear it.
How do you decide on polish names –
Naming is the hardest part of the whole process for me. It takes me weeks to settle on names for polishes. Names often start around the color of the polish. Sometimes it is a season or objects that that help inspire the name. I love puns and try to make my names a bit cheeky. If people chuckle when hearing a polish name, I am doing it right.
How do you decide on themes for your collections – I don’t really have themes. I release 4 times a year, once a season. Even without themes, the collections do tend to follow treads for the time of year, with darker deeper colors coming out for fall and pastels for spring.
How did you “get your name out there” –
KBShimmer has been in business since 2008. When I launched my nail polish line, I had an existing fan base that helped propel the polish. I also had some good luck with being found by the polish community.
Can you pinpoint moments where your brand has grown, and what triggered them –
I think that what really helped my polish line grow is the availability. On my site, as long as you have a US address, you can always find my core line of polish in stock. There is no waiting for restock times, no rushing to check out. Stress free shopping is something that I get many compliments for.
What’s your most popular polish and why do you think that is –
Oh Splat! has been by far my most popular polish. I think that people love white polish, and Oh Splat! having a clean pallet of colors and uniform shapes makes it an easy polish to wear.
Do you get tingles when you see other people post swatches of your polish? –
I do! I love seeing people wearing KBShimmer polish. I have not run into too many in person wearing my polish, but I hope someday that will be a more common occurrence.
How did you decide which bloggers to work with – how important is it to pick the “right” blogger, or has it been about getting the most exposure / using many bloggers to spread the word. –
Working with bloggers has been a huge benefit to my polish brand. Bloggers can make or break a polish, actually both the company and individual shades depending on their critiques and swatches.
When I am choosing bloggers I look for those that are:
Have photos that are focused and close enough to see the polish
Have hands that are well taken care of
Showcase glitter polishes well
Have good clean up skills
Have audience that is engaged with the blog/good readership
Live in the US or have a US shipping address (I don’t ship internationally)
I do get so many requests that I end up working with a good number of people. It is my goal this fall to reach out to bloggers that I have yet to work with, as there are still quite a few that signed up that meet my requirements
How do you feel when you see people do nail art with your polish – does it give it a new life or ruin the aesthetics? –
I love seeing nail art with my polish. Some of my favorite swatches are ones where the polish used to create art. And I do mean art, there are so many that are able to make nails into masterpieces.
Where do you see your brand a year from now –
I hope to see KBShimmer in more stores so people can shop locally.
Whose nails do you wish you had –
That is a hard one, there are so many people with great nails. Really, I am happy with my own nails, but wish my polish application skills were more on par with many of the polish bloggers.
Your shop started with soaps and lotions, how and why did you digress into polish?
I started on the polish path almost two years ago. One of the suppliers I used for soap colorants started to offer nail polish supplies, and I decided it sounded fun. With pedicures and manicures being something I already enjoyed, polish was a natural addition.
Where do you create – describe your workspace –
Right now I work out of a 3000 sq ft warehouse. I have an office for business dealings and a space that will soon be set up for retail shopping. When we moved in, we installed a huge counter, about 16 ft long that I use to create polish. It is right next to my shelves of glitter so everything is right there for me.
How do you stay original – how many polishes do you test and then find someone else is doing something similar –
I try not to pay attention to what others are doing. There are so many makers now if you worry about what others are doing you are going to make yourself crazy checking for duplicates. I think I have a pretty unique style, and put my own twist on the colors I create. By doing so I hope that I never create something exactly like another’s, and so far I have not shelved anything for being too close to an existing polish.
Is there room for so many polish makers.
I started in an area with hundreds of thousands of small companies making handmade soaps and cosmetics, it is hard to carve out a customer base, but it is possible, especially if you have quality products and top notice customer service. Handmade nail polish is a very young field. I think that as more companies are created, the more public awareness there will be, therefore increasing the customer base. And with it being a young field, quality products and top notice customer service will be even more important in creating business that will have staying power.
My perception is that you were really well received from the start – is that how it felt at the time?
That is nice of you to say. I hope that was the case.
You were voted Crumpet Reader’s Fave Indie Maker last year and you seem to be everyone’s favourite – why is that? What do you think you’ve tapped into, that others haven’t?
Again thank you! I try my best to create unique, quality products that are accessible. In a time when you had to stalk your favorite makers and cart jacking on Etsy frustrated so many, I worked to bring in supplies in bulk so that I could keep constant stock. I think that helped make more people aware of and able to get KBShimmer polishes. I work with Harlow & Co to restock and often as she can to make polish available internationally.
You have a very clearly defined collection cycle that you don’t seem to deviate from – what are the pluses and minuses of that, and of releasing such relatively large collections?
For me personally, the quarterly release schedule allows me time to perfect each and every polish I put out. If I tried to release more often, I feel that my quality and vision might suffer trying to pump out product. It also allows me to time send products for testing, to work with bloggers on swatches, and to keep things in season. I also like to release a larger amount at once so that there can be something for everyone. If you like top coats, matte, creally or jelly polishes, chances are there will be at least one of each type in a collection. It does create more work for use preparing, but it is worth it.
If you could only be remembered for one polish you’ve made, which would it be.
Another tough question. I think that I will probably be remembered for Oh Splat! It is one of the public’s favorites. If I had to choose one, I think that one would be it too.
If you could steal any other indie maker’s polish and claim it as your own, what would it be?
I don’t know really, maybe Floam. That is such a classic now! Amy was a genius when she created that polish.
Same question, but for a non-indie brand.
I think Finger Paints Twisted. I love the look of rainbow flakes against black!
A huge thanks to Christy. If you are a KBShimmer fan, make sure you have entered the GIVEAWAY for a chance to win 2 polishes plus a top coat. Big hugs to Victoria from Manicurator for the use of her glorious photos xx