All Images Courtesy of Manicube
Ladies, next time you’re sitting in your FiDi office making your to-do list, wondering when you will find time to get your nails – and everything else – done, you’ll be delighted to know that those days are over! Coming this week, you’ll be able to enjoy a sweet in-office perk that will save you time, energy and an an after-work trip to the nail salon.
Manicube is the premier in-office service designed to make working women’s lives easier, providing 15-minute manicures to professionals at their place of work. Founders Katina Mountanos and Liz Whitman haven’t skipped a beat making San Francisco the fourth city to welcome Manicube – officially launching on February 19th – following successful launches in New York City, Boston, and Chicago, respectively. All we can say is, it’s about time! Katina and Liz took time from their busy NYC schedules to let us in on what’s to come with Manicube.
Manicube founders Katina Mountanos and Liz Whitman Image courtesy of Manicube
Can you give us a summary of your professional backgrounds?
Katina: I started my career in investment banking, an industry very much unlike beauty; I covered the container shipping industry. I worked in New York and in London before going back to business school to make a change into an industry that I loved [the beauty industry]. After two years at Harvard Business School, I went to work for Loreal. I worked on a new brand innovation team that developed new, drugstore consumer brands. That was really exciting. I developed new formulas, ran focus groups and created concepts.
Liz: I started my career as a entrepreneur in the fashion space. I started a women’s apparel brands the summer before my senior year of college. I ran that for a couple of years and was on the road all the time. It was a lot of fun; we showed at fashion week in New York and Anna Wintour came to our shows. I learned so much but I decided to go to business school at Harvard [Katina and I overlapped, but didn’t know each other]. After school, I ended up at American Express doing product management for the Delta Airlines portfolio of cards – very different from the fashion industry. I learned a ton there and worked with great folks. I realized very quickly that I was happier in a smaller, fast-paced environment. I landed on the opportunity to join the Beauty Bar team, which is where I worked with Katina.
Image courtesy of Manicube
What inspired you to leave the comfort of the corporate life to become entrepreneurs and launch Manicube?
Katina: I got tired of how long things took to launch at a large organization where everything needed tons of approvals. I was enticed by the fast-paced, exciting entrepreneurial lifestyle. I moved to a company that was eventually acquired by Amazon and I became the General Manager of BeautyBar.com. That’s where I met Liz. We were constantly meeting with really high-end brands. We launched the only brick and mortar store on the Amazon portfolio. It was also our first foray into beauty services. In meeting with some of those large brands, we were trying to stay polished for our meetings and you can’t walk into a meeting with Chanel with chipped nails.
Liz and I started asking friends to put us in touch with their HR managers to see if this was even feasible. The answer we found out very quickly was, “yes.” Women were very excited about this and HR managers were willing to bring us into their offices for this type of service. We were very excited about offering the first in-office services for women. We want to give women back their hour each week. Our services only take 15 minutes, so women can take that hour and spend it with their families, and their work and potentially become better at their jobs.
What do you look for when you launch a new city?
Katina: There are a few different parameters that we look for. First, we want to be in all the big cities. We look at sheer population size and the density of corporations in those cities. We also look at some softer factors as well. We look at how many nail salons are in each city, how many registered nail technicians there are. We also look at the culture of the city, like is it fashion forward. San Francisco was appealing to us for all of those reasons, but also because the culture is very much open to in-office perks to improve the culture and keep people motivated and happy.
Liz: We’ve seen is that this is a universal need. The majority of women in the US are either getting or giving themselves a manicure every other week or more frequently. One thing that we also look at is a made-up metric called the “Salon scarsity index” – essentially, how many salons are there per 10K people in that location. It’s ironic that we started this business in New York, because New York has a salon on every corner. What was cool was how incredible people have taken to this service. If it can work here, it can work anywhere.
Image courtesy of Manicube
What trends are you seeing in the nail industry that you’re bringing to your services?
Liz: We’re always looking at what’s out there whether it’s a trend or something new. We like to think of ourselves as trend setters. We discovered there’s a long wear polish option called Vinylux, which is a long wear polish option. As soon as we found it, we realized it was perfect for the working woman. It’s not a trend in the sense of what’s not the pages of Vogue. We like to think that we’re following the trends by constantly reviewing what’s out there. But our customers are often working women but we’re not looking at the latest nail art designs. We offer a trend collection that changes every season and we always have the hottest colors and options like metallic and glitter.
For San Francisco, we have seen demand for natural options in terms of chemicals. Obviously San Francisco is very health focused, so we’ve introduced Zoya polishes to the collection, for people looking for the healthier natural alternative.
Aside from nails, are you planning to expand your services down the line?
Katina: Even within nails, there are many service expansions in nails, beauty and even in men’s services. Some of those include gel services. That’s something we’re testing and looking to add. Also things like eyebrow threading or tweezing. We’re also exploring other services like men’s haircuts. Our mission is very much around helping working women, but we’re seeing demand from male working professionals.
Image courtesy of Manicube