As a longtime massage therapist, Aurelia Edwards had to keep her nails short for her trade but when she went to parties she used press-on nails and thought it should be easier to size her nails and buy press-on nails and nail art online.
Before the pandemic, in order to test out her idea for a new business, Edwards ran a physical press-on nail popup shop in New York City where customers could get sized for nails and buy the nail artistry of featured designers. It was well-received and she began working on her digital solution.
Then, when the pandemic hit, do-it-yourself beauty became a necessity, with products and services sprouting up to serve up home solutions to salon goers. Edwards’ young Miami startup, Nailstry, was one of those.
Nailstry (short for nails and artistry) is an app-based fingernail sizing solution that helps customers shop for press-on nails. Then they can shop on Nailstry’s curated marketplace.
Edwards, a chemistry and biology alumnus of Florida Internatinoal University, was a runner-up in the 2022 Miami Herald Startup Pitch Competition’s FIU Track for Nailstry. “Being a part of this competition has given me the unique advantage to make an impact within my community through representation and by inspiring young people to explore STEM and the journey of entrepreneurship,”
How Nailstry developed
At the start of the pandemic, Edwards retired from massage, moved to South Florida, and went all-in on Nailstry. The pandemic brought on a sales boom in press-on nails as well as nail stickers and gel manicures. Nailstry, which utilizes computer vision and AI, was recognized by r Apple and invited to their entrepreneur camp to continue building the technology.
Through their customers’ camera phones, Nailstry’s technology measures the users’ fingernail widths and curvature to determine their sizes and stores that in their app profiles so they can shop at Nailstry’s digital marketplace, simplifying the shopping experience.
To date, Nailstry has more than 3,000 users and features about 300 nail designers. For now, Nailstry makes money through a percentage of marketplace sales, but the plan is to move into B2B and license this technology to bigger brands. “That’s the business model we’re growing into,” Edwards said.
What’s ahead? Nailstry is building version 2 of its tech and is working on a feature to allow customers to try on their nails through augmented reality before they buy.
Funding has been a challenge, and Edwards has been bootstrapping using personal savings and has been applying for grants. Another challenge has been finding technical talent to help her. “As a non-technical founder, I always say I am building the car as I am driving it!” She now has a CTO and works with tech teams in Ukraine and Brazil. “I have learned that trust and communication are fundamental in building a successful team,” she said.
Her advice to entrepreneurs
What’s Edwards’ advice for others thinking about starting their first business? “Just start.”
If there is something that you want to do, mute the noise and execute. Don’t overthink it or get caught up in the “what if’s”, just do a little bit everyday. You’ll be surprised about what you have accomplished once you look back along your journey.”
Edwards loves what she does, but adds: “Being an entrepreneur is not easy. They’ve glamorized it but it can be very isolating. It’s really good to network and talk about what you are doing and know that there are people out there that who want to celebrate your wins.”