Initially, the thought of sharing nail polish may sound off-putting or even disgusting to some. But in the age of Zipcar, Redbox and Netflix, the practice of sharing beauty products isn’t as farfetched as it sounds.
“Nail lacquer is one of the only things that can be shared,” says Liza Kindred, one of the founders of nail-polish subscription based service, Lacquerous. “It’s similar to going to a salon, where you pull the bottle of polish off the wall and share it and put it back up.”
Lacquerous allows members to rent several bottles of high-end nail polishes for up to a month. It is identical to what most people experience in a nail salon. The bottles shipped to members are no different than the hundreds of bottles the staff shares among clients who are getting manicures and pedicures.
“Once people realize that, it tends to set them at ease,” says Ms. Kindred.
Together with Ashlene Nand, the two partners are using their own money to finance the business, with some cash from family and friends; and are hoping to expand their business by early next year. Early interest in the business has been high. Even though the service has been kept to a group of 100 people, the company has a waitlist in the thousands since launching.
The idea behind Lacquerous came from Ms. Nand’s self admitted nail polish addiction, “especially Chanel polish,” she said. “But I couldn’t afford to keep buying $30 bottles, so I Googled ‘rent nail polish’ and nothing came up. That’s when I started working on a [presentation] to present the idea.”
She approached Ms. Kindred, who she already had a working relationship with from previous startups and fashion companies, and the two decided to go into business together.
The service is relatively straightforward and similar to the popular DVD sharing service Netflix’s business model. Each month, members pay $18, which lets them choose from three polishes from a selection of 70 colors from a range of designers, including Dolce and Gabanna, Chanel and Dior. The company also has limited edition collections that are harder for the average customer to find on their own. After 30 days, members return their colors using a prepaid envelope, similar to the iniquitous Netflix red envelope and select three more.
The chance of infection from the shared nail polishes is minimal. Many polishes contain chemicals such as formaldehyde which will kill any germs inside the bottle.
“Bacteria can’t live for long in a bottle of nail polish,” says Ms. Kindred.
With an average bottle containing enough polish for thirty to fifty (and likely more) applications, depending on nail length and number of coats, there’s more than enough to go around. While they do not chemically test returned polish, the company reports that it cleans each bottle and disinfects brushes before sending them onto the next member.
“We inspect [bottles] to make sure they’re uncontaminated, which is actually more than they do in the salon” say Kindred.
Lacquerous is still in its early stages and the founders are still working out the kinks that come with any new business. One foreseeable problem is how to handle bad customer behavior (such as customers who keep bottles too long, attempt to drain out polish, or replace colors with cheaper, inferior or counterfeit brands).
“We don’t want bad behavior to hurt our members that use the system correctly,” says Ms. Nand.
The company’s long-term plan is to partner with nail polish companies and sell full bottles to customers who tried a color and loved it.
“The idea is really easy for people to grasp, and there’s a huge demand out there.”