DCFunemployment: So Who Are You?
Claudia Diamante, nailsaloon, co-founder
CD: I am an optimistic and self-motivated person who wants, essentially, two things in life: to continually challenge myself to be a better version of me, and to have a balanced life close to family and friends. I began my corporate career in Argentina, where I grew up, and eventually moved to the U.S. to get my master’s degree, after which I continued down the corporate path. But I was always intrigued by the idea of having my own business. Prior to nailsaloon, I started a line of leather handbags, but that didn’t turn into a long-term project. The combination of the right timing and identifying an exciting niche, gave Andréa and me the push we needed to act on our entrepreneurial spirit and create the nailsaloon!
Andréa Vieira, nailsaloon, co-founder
AV: I am driven by joy, really. Joy in spending quality time with friends and family, joy in pursuing life’s passions, joy in connecting with the world, joy in the small things… and every once in a while, the really big ones. I am from Brazil, but grew up bopping around nine cities (in four countries) before finally realizing that DC is my home. I chose journalism as my profession, probably because it aligns with what ultimately moves me: getting to know others, hearing their stories and sharing unique life experiences. After 20 years working in broadcast journalism and TV production, I embarked on this adventure with Claudia. It’s funny to realize now that it wasn’t all that big a pivot. As it turns out, owning a business heightens all your senses, experiences and connections. For better or worse!
DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?
Funemployment results from having the freedom to decide our own destiny. We love that we can…
Claudia: It means the freedom to decide our own destiny. It means we can choose the path we want for our business, in both growth and impact, whether it’s impact on our team, our clients or our brand. Equally importantly, being funemployed is having more control of our schedule and being one step closer to achieving the balance we so seek.
The path to funemployment happened when we decided we’d work for ourselves. Making the decision and taking that first step – essentially, committing to executing it – was one of the hardest points in the journey. It’s when you assess risk, weigh options and choose to dive. After that, it’s sticking to the task and honoring one of the reasons you did it in the first place: to have greater balance between your available time and your desired quality of life.
DCF: Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?
Andrea: Owning a business takes a village, that’s for sure! But I think we’re both very lucky to have had such supportive friends and family, cheering us on along the way. I, for one, know I could not have done it without my parents, my dear friends, our team and even our very first clients, many of whom are still regulars and who have become a part of our urban family. Our managers are simply put, spectacular. They care about the nailsaloon like it’s their own. Our team is the best in town – in talent, in disposition, in personality. We joke that we’re only “mean” at the nailsaloon about how nice everyone has to be. [Laughs.] “Nice” is part of our brand. We want the nailsaloon to be a place that’s inviting, warm, and friendly and frankly, it’s because we’ve been on the receiving end of that from so many loved ones throughout our lives.
DCF: What’s your happy place?
Andrea: I think my happy place is around a table with friends or family. Nothing makes me happier in life than sharing a long meal with the people I love, and spending hours – literally hours – after, over coffee, talking about anything and everything.
Claudia: Both Brazilians and Argentines love to turn meals into these very lengthy affairs, where people sit around the table after they are done eating, and drink tea and coffee while they talk non-stop for hours. In Spanish, we even have a name for it. It’s called “hacer sobremesa” which can be translated loosely into “have the post-meal.” The post-meal is where you really just relax into the moment after eating and just hang out. But it can, no joke, go for hours. (DCF: We could use more of this around the world!)
DCF: Where do you get your energy?
Claudia: Seeing the vision we had for our company come to life, and witnessing our brand gradually become a strong part of the DC landscape is more rewarding than we can describe. My daughter inspires me to be a better person, a better mom, and to leave a legacy of impacting others in a positive way. My husband inspires me to bring about change one step at a time. And Andréa is a strong source of inspiration and positive energy, especially when things don’t go as planned. We joke that in times of despair, we have to take turns to cheer each other up. We’ve been lucky that when one of us is down, the other is usually up enough to carry the weight for both of us. [Laughs.]
Andrea: It’s true. [Laughs.] Claudia and I are mega-complementary in that we are different, but have a very solid sense of how to find the middle ground, and even more than that, do it laughing. Claudia helps me see things from new perspectives, and pushes me to be a better person. I’ve learned a lot from her and I’m so grateful that we can still have a good time together, whether we’re reviewing spreadsheets, or kicking back as friends, over a glass of wine, after having put a moratorium on work talk. I also want to mention something that has been an unexpected source of inspiration. We wanted to open up the cleanest, freshest and friendliest nail salon in the city. But we didn’t realize we were building, in some ways, an oasis for people, that third space that’s not home or work where everyone can experience something unique. We are shown every single week that people come see us because they love the feeling they get when they’re at the nailsaloon. And honoring that feeling is a tremendous source of motivation and what keeps us on our toes, more than anything else. (DCF: What a beautiful thing you have built, it must be incredible to hold that space for people).
DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find it?
Claudia: For me, balance means being grounded and having harmony in everything I do. It means that I devote my time to being a better version of myself and it also means spending quality time with those I love. I also meditate, exercise and try not to take things too seriously.
Andrea: I think balance is a daily exercise. I have a dear friend who, instead of doing new years’ resolutions, picks a word that she uses to frame her entire year. I often join her and this year I chose “presence.” In a way, it’s mindfulness, with an added burst of energy… because it’s about staying in the moment, but also, showing up for life in a bigger way. For me, that’s been a personal challenge, but I am determined to staying present so I can have more balance this year. (DCF: I love that idea, picking a focus word is a wonderful way to shape your year!)
DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
Claudia: Opening the nailsaloon was not easy. Our operation is larger than we expected, more complex than we imagined and we had tons of hiccups along the way, as most business owners do when they’re opening their first store. The challenges are constant, and the sacrifices are many: time, resources, vacation, sleep. [Laughs.] In the first year, it’s a lot of trial and error in an unknown territory. After you pass that first year, you have a good sense of the terrain. But you never let up.
Andrea: Yeah. There’s no such thing as “the business manages itself.” That’s a bit of a myth. Now, we didn’t think we were going to get a free lunch…but that’s probably a good thing, because there is no free lunch to be had, that’s for sure. [Laughs.] (DCF: Nothing runs without fuel and maintenance so yeah that’s a total myth!)
DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
Andrea: It’s interesting. I used to avoid certain labels. Yes, I’m a woman, Latin American, and I’m an immigrant but I never wanted to believe any of it would prevent me from having an equal seat at the table. This experience, however, has showed me first-hand that women still have to face a lot of things men don’t. I can’t tell you how many times mansplaining comes into play in our world. Even from male friends who, mind you, are not business owners, randomly giving us advice on how to run our business. When we never asked. Once in an important meeting, while one man was disagreeing with us but being really condescending, I had to interrupt him and say: “Please treat me like I’m one of your male colleagues, not like I’m a little girl at the schoolyard.” No joke. And he got it right away. I still can’t believe I ever had to say that. (DCF: Unfortunately I’m learning sometimes you have to teach people how to treat you and it sounds like you took him to school!)
DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
Claudia: One piece of advice that has stuck with me is “Always follow your heart….when there’s doubt, there’s no doubt.”
Andrea: It’s true. She’s said that for a very long time. Even when we were roommates, in our 20s. It’s solid advice.
DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
Andrea: I have worked in quite a few places and, naturally, every job has had its good and bad. But the last job I had before coming back to DC to open the nailsaloon was, in particular, really tough. I had amazing colleagues, but worked for an organization that left me quite faithless. From the outside, it was a cushy, glitzy, sexy job. From the inside, the place was making me pretty miserable. I failed fast…and knew that accepting that reality and leaving was going to be the quickest way to find my joy. I’ve never looked back.
Claudia: Yeah, we’re big believers in accepting sunk costs. If it doesn’t work, recognize it, stop pouring resources into it and go in a new direction.
DCF: What was your proudest moment to date?
Claudia: When we got our first checks from the nailsaloon! It proved that our idea had officially materialized into a working business, and that the future we envisioned was closer than we thought!
Andrea: Yeah, that was pretty great. I’d also add when Yelp flew us to go to San Francisco for a conference with 99 other business owners, from companies all over the U.S. that they deemed “model.” That was really validating. And humbling. And all-around fantastic.
DCF: What are you Currently Conquering?
Claudia: We are so happy to have just launched our brand new polish line, called “O by nailsaloon.” Our polishes are 5-free, cruelty-free and vegan, and we are so excited by our formula – it took us more than a year to get it just right. The coolest part though, is that all our colors were carefully curated, then named after our wonderful team. We had a party last summer and each colleague got to pick the color that would have their name. You can see some pictures by following us on Instagram (@thenailasaloon) and liking us on Facebook. (/thenailsaloon) Or, by coming in for a mani-pedi.
Thanks for reading!! This week we partnered with nailsaloon to offer a fun thank you for checking them out this week. To enter to win, comment below with what you love most about the nailsaloon – either from a visit or from their interview, follow the nailsaloon and follow DCFunemployment. For extra entries – share on twitter, facebook or instagram with #nailsaloonOnDCF. Winners will be randomly selected for a manicure at the nailsaloon!!