Tell us about yourself…
From a child I was always creating something or trying to be centre stage, that classic child who constantly got told I talked too much on my school reports! I’ve always been a people person and I went on to study psychology at uni because I was always interested in what made people tick! Shortly after I graduated, I got my first job in fashion at Topshop head office on Oxford Street. It was honestly the coolest time of my life; free clothes and drinks galore. Eventually, I ran out of money renting in London and moved up to Leicester to work at Hype to manage their wholesale accounts such as ASOS, Next and Footasylum. During my time at Hype, I learnt so much about the importance of branding and marketing and this sparked a desire to start my own brand!
Tell us a bit about Claws…
Claws is a beauty brand specialising in nail art and luxury nail health. It’s now 4 years old and what started as a pipe dream, very quickly spiralled into a reality! The brand has collaborated with other big brand campaigns such as Hype, Care Bears, Hello Kitty, KFC and Protein World.
For those that don’t know, what is Claws?
Claws is a beauty brand and nail art studio specialising in all gel products. My focus is on nail health and growing out people’s natural nails to a length they’ve always wanted without the need for acrylic extensions. The other side of the business focuses on nail art. There’s not a lot of things I haven’t had to paint on nails, from Pokémon characters to the periodic table. As we specialise in nails specifically, products and training are constantly updated in order to keep ahead of the trends.
How is Claws different?
Aside from the world’s smallest chihuahua residing here (which is probably half the reason most customers come back), Claws is different because it’s such a personal experience. Most of my clients are now close friends and we just have fun with it. All of my best creations have been in collaboration with my talented clients, who all come with their own personal style which we then illustrate through nail art. I’m super lucky to have such fun and expressive customers, and it’s such an honour to spend a short period of time with each and everyone of them. Although to some nails might be a menial thing, it can really change how a person feels about themselves, and being able to have that positive impact on someone is why I love it so much.
Where are you based?
For the past 4 years I’ve been based in Wigston in an industrial style unit, however I’ve just moved to a beautiful orangery on the outskirts of Leicester city. It’s great being more central as I’m now more accessible to all areas of Leicester. The new salon has a more luxurious and minimalist feel, which is a world away from the cow print, cartoon madness of the old studio. As I’ve grown up, the studio and brand has followed.
What’s your favourite part about owning a local, independent business?
Having control of your own destiny, although stressful, is very empowering. It’s nice to know I can’t get fired! I have never met a better bunch of people than the small business owners of Leicester. Not only are they some of the kookiest and incredibly talented people I know, but the level of support is unmatched. Everyone genuinely wants everyone else to succeed and all of us are so happy to help boost each other up in any way we can.
Why did you open Claws?
After moving to Leicester from London, I quickly noticed a gap in the market for a luxury nail art studio. With the increasing trend of nail art on social media platforms I knew there was going to be huge demand for a nail artist, so I thought I’d give it a go! I wanted to provide a welcoming space that allowed people to express themselves however they liked.
How did you get into beauty?
I’m the youngest in my extended family so growing up I was surrounded by older female family members playing with makeup and nail polishes, and I became obsessed! Nails are one of the first things I was allowed to do when I was little so it’s always been a special thing to me. As I grew up, I was that classic 90’s girl who was obsessed with all things barbie and glitter and eventually the glossy magazines! My first job when I turned 17 was for the nail polish brand “Models Own”. I was very lucky to work for them as it was a small brand who grew very quickly and they were very generous with training and making sure we tried every product we sold. This access to free nail polishes meant I had 100+ by the time I turned 18.
What are your clients loving at the minute?
At the moment, everyone is obsessed with florals and what I call ‘mix and match’ nails. Flowers bring everyone joy, right? The mix and match nails are super fun too, as they mix 90s retro symbols with fun fruits and edgy flames. It’s a great way to inject fun and colour into your mani.
Where do you get inspiration for your designs?
There is now such a huge database of nail artists on Instagram that it’s a really cool creative space to be inspired by. Pinterest is also a great one, along with fabrics/prints/ornaments that people bring in. I even have customers coming in with hand drawn inspiration these days!
What has been your biggest achievement up to now?
The main pinch me moment was when my nail art was used in a global campaign for Care Bears. There’s nothing like seeing your work on a billboard in London. A personal highlight was also when I hit my financial goal of earning the same salary as I did in my corporate job. Considering I started my career from scratch again at 26, it felt good to be able to support myself doing something I loved.
What do you love most about the industry that you are involved in?
There’s a huge side of what I do that involves mental health. The conversations that I have with people in the salon can be quite heavy but I think it’s important for people to have an unbiased third person they feel they can open up to. For a lot of the busy mums/career women etc, it’s the only time that they stop and treat themselves so it’s important that I make them feel special! It’s quite typical of the beauty industry, but you get to know a lot about your customers’ lives as you see them so regularly. I’ve literally journeyed along with customers’ pregnancies, marriages and careers, and it’s so special to be a part of people’s lives in that way.
Do you have any cool/interesting/funny stories about the salon?
What happens in the salon, stays in the salon!… But we’ve had a few celebrity visits, including Scott Thomas from love island! I’ve also had to paint KFC’s own logo on the brand director, it was at that moment I realised how important fonts were!
What are your long term goals for the salon?
I’d love to keep working with brands and make Claws a global ambassador for nail art. I’m hoping some of the events I’m doing will lead to doing backstage at London Fashion week. That’s the dream! I think it’s really cool that I’m making a career from being a nail artist as opposed to just running a salon. I’d like to make more of my own products/merchandise too! We’re also about to break into bridal make up. It’s something I’ve always loved doing and goes hand in hand with the bridal manicures I already specialise in.
What are some of your favourite local, independent businesses?
I’m really good friends with The Bloom Project. She helped me a lot when I first opened which I’m forever grateful for and now it’s just nice to have someone to share the stresses with! We are also now the ultimate team for weddings. If you haven’t got Bloom’s flowers and a Claws manicure for your wedding, you’re missing out!
Secret Garden Hair are also great friends of mine and what inspirations they are! For a business that’s only been open a few years, they’ve already established themselves as a celebrity salon as well as breaking boundaries being the first salon to offer gender fluid pricing. I also have to shout out my brow and lash queen @bymeguk as she’s also been a great support – we always try to boost each other’s business where we can! I could go on all night about all the amazing business owners who have helped me along the way, but honestly there really is no place like Leicester to start a creative company from scratch. And I can’t forget the amazing customers who loyally support you along the way!