Q&A: Non-toxic varnishes hit the nail on the head

This week we chat to Kara Jeffers, founder of Australian-made nail polishes brand Miss Frankie. Having run nail salons for over a decade, Kara was concerned about the toxic ingredients found in many varnishes, so set about developing a safer alternative – all Miss Frankie polishes are “five-free”, meaning they don’t contain formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate, toluene, formaldehyde resin and camphor, as well as being vegan and cruelty-free.

ISB: What inspired you to transition from being a salon owner into also producing your own nail polishes?

KJ: The industry changed a lot over the 11 years I was running my business, with a lot of cheaper/chain nail salons entering the market. My overheads were high with CBD rent and staff, I also wasn’t working full time as my kids were still young, so it was challenging. I always knew I wanted to create my own product, nail polish was something I was passionate about and I knew what customers were after.

ISB: How did you fund producing the first range of products, before you got them to market and started to derive an income from them?

KJ: Miss Frankie is a fully self-funded small business but it’s definitely not easy. We started off with a small amount of savings and sold one of our cars to fund the first range of Miss Frankie polishes. There are several costs involved when starting a business, not just the product but packaging, labelling, graphic design – it adds up very quickly. All profit goes straight back into the business, which allows us to keep growing.

ISB: How do you maintain the high quality and performance of Miss Frankie polishes without using the chemicals usually found in such products?

KJ: Nail polish formulas have drastically improved in recent years, which I think has been driven by the demand of savvy consumers caring about what’s in their beauty products. There’s no need for nasty chemicals to be present in nail polish formulas. We work with an amazing manufacturer who understands our ethos to help us produce high quality nail polishes.

ISB: I understand the environment is very important to you – aside from being chemical-free, how else do you ensure Miss Frankie operates as a “planet-friendly” business?

KJ: I’ve always been interested in eco-friendly packaging, so using recyclable materials for the Miss Frankie brand was a must. All of our send-out boxes, tissue, cards, nail polish sleeves and boxes are recyclable. We’re always on the lookout for ways to improve our environmental footprint by working with suppliers who share the same passion.

ISB: Where do you see the business developing in the next couple of years?

KJ: I’ve set my goals high and am very excited to grow my stockists internationally – we’re already working with stockists in New Zealand and Asia. However, it’s not as easy as it seems. There is plenty of competition out there and even simple things like organising international shipping can add hefty costs when doing business overseas. As for our product range, there is a lot of potential and we’ll be expanding our offering in the next 12 months.

ISB: And finally, what is the most important lesson you have learned on your journey you’d pass on to others aspiring entrepreneurs?

KJ: Don’t start a business with the sole focus of money – it’s important but you need to love every aspect of running it. I wholeheartedly love my brand and truly believe in my product. I do everything from sales and accounts to marketing and packing orders. As the business grows I will start to let go of some responsibilities, but starting off this way has enabled me to understand how a business is run efficiently.

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