‘Get naked’ challenge (and SBDC) key to start-up success

Cory and Ana Seidel, Finely Finished

WSU News: By Hope Belli Tinney, Washington SBDC

OLYMPIA, Wash.–If you hear “Let’s get naked” and think “unpainted nails,” Ana Seidel is talking to you.

Ana and her husband, Cory Seidel, are owners of Finely Finished LLC, which includes an online store for nail and skin care products, a quarterly nail care magazine, a blog focused on nail art and another blog for nail care advice. Business is booming, largely because of Seidel’s adept use of social media and her “Get Naked” challenge.

Adept might be an understatement. Their Facebook page for Simple Nail Art Tips has more than 95,000 “likes” with increases of more than 1,000 per week, sometimes 1,000 per day, over the past eight months. Their Instagram account has more than 18,000 followers and is also growing daily.

In the “Let’s Get Naked” challenge, Seidel uses multiple social media platforms to invite women with dry, cracked or yellow nails to remove their polish and apply Seidel’s original jojoba-based oil for three days. The before and after photos and glowing reviews of Bliss Kiss™ Simply Pure™ Nail Oil have helped catapult the Seidels from business hobbyists to all-in entrepreneurs who recently leased a 2,000 square-foot warehouse and hired their first two employees.

Layoff prompts focus on family business

Ana Seidel’s interest in nail care research and development started in 2010, but things got serious after Cory was laid off from his job in software testing and development in late 2012.

“We’d been playing at business for 20 years with the goal of me being able to work at home,” Cory said, so they decided to view his termination as an opportunity. Instead of spending his time looking for a new job, they doubled down on their efforts to create a viable business that could support their family.

Fortunately for them, they had some mentors along the way. The first was Daryl Murrow, director of the Thurston Economic Development Council (EDC) Business Resource Center. Murrow is an approved training provider for Washington’s Self-Employment Assistance Program (SEAP).

The SEAP curriculum helped with early-stage development, Cory said, and Murrow helped them get set up to sell their Bliss Kiss™ Simply Pure™ Nail Oil on Amazon.

Free help from small business advisor
With their business up and running, Murrow introduced them to Ron Nielsen, a certified business advisor with the Small Business Development Center in Lacey. “Ron is just a wizard with numbers,” Cory said.

Despite their belief in each other and in their business plan, 2013 was difficult. They were averaging about $3,000 in sales each month, which wasn’t enough to meet expenses. Nielsen, who started meeting with them in early 2013, didn’t sugarcoat anything, Ana said, but his ability to review the financial statements and point out promising trajectories or healthy ratios helped them stay positive and motivated.

“The kind of advice he gives us would cost $500 an hour if we had to pay for it,” Ana said.

By early 2014 average monthly revenues had quadrupled. In the first three months of 2014, Cory said, their revenue equaled what they had made in all of 2013. With Nielsen’s help, sales increased 500 percent over 2013 and profits improved by 700 percent.

“I can say without a doubt that if we didn’t have the SBDC, both Cory and I would have gone back to working for other people.” Ana said.

Contacts:
Ana Seidel, Finely Finished LLC, ana@myblisskiss.com, 360-464-7415
Cory Seidel, Finely Finished LLC, cory@myblisskiss.com, 360-709-0602
Ron Nielsen, Washington SBDC, rnielsen@spscc.edu, 360-407-0014
Website: http://www.nailcarehq.com/products/