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Thea Green tells Talk Business Magazine how she became a manicured multi-millionaire entrepreneur

Thea Green Entrepreneur

Thea Green – Entrepreneur

Since launching Nails Inc in 1999, the businesswoman / entrepreneur, once labelled ‘phenomenal’ by Nick Clegg, has gone from strength to strength, and is now the owner of a multi-million pound business.

When Nails Inc first hit the market, the company quickly established itself as one of the world’s most successful and convenient nail bar chains. An instant hit, especially amongst cash-rich, time-poor working women, the company now has 59 nail bars across the UK and Ireland, with concessions in Harvey Nichols, Selfridges, Fenwick and House of Fraser.

Moving from fashion journalist to full-time entrepreneur, Green explained how the USP of Nails Inc was born: ‘At the time I was fashion editor at Tatler magazine, and was spending a lot of time in New York with work. I became hooked on their $10 manicures and it was then that I came up with the idea. In New York, there were nail bars on every corner, with women of all ages getting manicures done in their lunch hour. I was amazed no one had introduced a chain of nail bars in the UK.’

Shortly after her revelation, Green left Tatler to set up the business and launched herself as a successful entrepreneur, but her decision came only following in-depth research. She said: ‘I tested the idea out on friends and family and researched manufacturers to help create the right quality of product. I then moved on to more formal focus groups and spoke with cosmetics industry experts and other entrepreneurs to understand both the business and the creative.’

Like most start-ups, Green faced the challenge of securing funding: ‘I launched during the dot com era and investors were very focused on Internet businesses at that time. I spent a lot of time meeting a variety of potential backers and convincing them to put their money into a new cosmetics brand, and the time and effort paid off. I secured the initial £200,000 of seed capital I needed to set up the business.’

After raking together the required start-up funding, the next step for Green was prioritising the spending. ‘The key priorities were to manufacture a product range, secure a site for our flagship London store and employ and train enough staff,’ she said.

Having tackled the various ways to secure funds, Green offers her inside knowledge for start ups pitching to investors: ‘Put together a solid business plan and get it signed off by an accountant. Be yourself, explain the opportunity simply and clearly and know your numbers. Fifty per cent of the decision is the business itself and the rest is them buying into you as an entrepreneur. Do an equal job on both.’

Nails Inc began to flourish, with the first store opening on South Molton Street in just eight months. Green said: ‘The transition from journalism to running my own business was incredibly exciting and I learned a whole range of new skills very quickly. Without big advertising budgets to compete with the multinationals, you have to be very creative to stand out. It’s hard work but also very fulfilling.’

The dedication, hard work and creative marketing of this entrepreneur triumphed, as just over ten years on, Nails Inc turns over more than £13m a year and has an average of 10,000 customers per week. Though Green may be relishing her business success, those first two years, like for many entrepreneurs, brought tough times.  ‘After you’ve secured the funding, turning your idea into a real business can be quite overwhelming in the early days. The first two years are probably the most difficult but they are also the most exciting too. My advice would be to make sure your numbers stack up and that you’ve costed for growth – there is nothing worse than having a good business without enough capital for growth.

‘I really enjoyed learning all of the elements that transformed my initial idea into a real business. I love my job and I’m motivated by continuing to build the business.’

From hiring its first employee in 1999, Nails Inc now has a staff of over 400, but what is that particular something that makes somebody worth hiring? For Green, it’s all about enthusiasm: ‘I look for someone who has a passion for what they do. We have some incredibly talented and creative teams who work within our stores. We are a service business and customers come to feel pampered and special. I like to see a can-do attitude, an innovative approach and a calm head when situations get stressed. My advice is to employ a strong team and find some key members who have strengths where you are weak.’

As Nails Inc continues tat the forefront of the UK nail market, Green has established herself as a talented businesswoma, entrepreneur, multi-tasker, successfully balancing a thriving business and home life. Being an entrepreneur, wife and mother is all in a days work. ‘I actually find being a mother helps me in my work, rather than being a challenge. I don’t sweat the small stuff and it’s great for developing your people skills. I’m much more patient.’

It’s not just busy women on the hunt for a manicure that are thankful for Green’s talent. Last year, the founder received an MBE for her service to the beauty industry and in 2010 was named Entrepreneur of the Year at the Women of the Future Awards. Speaking of her achievements, she said: ‘It’s fantastic to win business awards, and I was extremely honoured when I received the MBE for my services to the industry, but I couldn’t have achieved everything without a fantastic team. It’s spurred us all on to achieve even greater things.

‘As an entrepreneur and as a boss, it’s really encouraging to receive external recognition, but most of all it reminds me how lucky I am to be doing a job I love and feel passionate about.’

If that inspires you to achieve bigger and better things, Green provides us with her top tips for business – and who knows, someday soon you may have that MBE in your reach. ‘What should a budding entrepreneur take into consideration? Everything. Do your research. Ask for advice – it’s available, it’s free and you will learn valuable information from it. There comes a time when you just have to take the plunge and that’s the difference between the ones that do and the ones that just talk about it.

‘Once you’ve done your research and created your business plan, have faith in your own abilities, have faith in your idea and just go for it.’

Enter the dragon

Duncan Bannatyne laughs off the preconceptions in our exclusive interview…

He’s a slick and, at times, fearsome entrepreneur, has outstayed all but one of his fellow Dragons in the Den, and comes packaged with views on politics and social affairs that would make even Jeremy Paxman wince. Yet despite a jet set lifestyle that sees the 62-year-old juggle London, the north-east and the French Riviera – as well as a diverse range of businesses linked only by the name of the majority shareholder at Companies House – Duncan Bannatyne is a true gentleman.

Invited to his pad in London’s swanky Covent Garden, there’s no sign of the snarling businessman who exacts an effortless Glaswegian snub to the ambitions of entrepreneurs on the hit BBC1 show. Instead, coffee is laid on, there’s the smell of croissants in the air, and for someone worth an estimated £430m, there’s not even the slightest feeling of urgency.

‘You’ve caught me on my holidays,’ he smiles. ‘This is one of the 15 weeks off I allow myself each year. I’d usually be with my kids, preferably relaxing around the pool in our place in France, but certainly away from work and everything that entails.’

His schedule has been hectic of late though. The completion of the ninth series of Dragon’s Den leads his annual reflection as to whether it should be his last…

The full interview will appear in a future issue of Talk Business. Click here to subscribe to receive the magazine.