NEW YORK (FOX 5 NY) - A brother and sister duo in New York has launched their own e-commerce site devoted to nails. But before they could get started, the siblings from New Zealand had to pitch their business plan to immigration officers.
The idea for Live Love Polish came to Michelle Lin about two and a half years ago. She was hanging out with her brother, Wayne, in their studio apartment in New York City, painting her nails, while complaining about the lack of selection and variety in nail polish.
That complaint turned into a multi-million dollar business.
Michelle says that startups always come in to disrupt something or change something.
So they decided to come in and say 'you know what? we're done with the same shade of red over and over again. We're done with these nudes. We want to bring something exciting and different.' And something healthier too.
All of their polishes are 'three free,' which means they don't contain the three toxic chemicals most commonly found in nail polishes: formaldehyde, toluene, or dibutyl phthalate.
The site features about 600 polishes from small producers all around the world.
Illimité is a brand new line, inspired by art history.
Cirque is a line of polishes, also from New York that they work with very closely.
And Starrily, another Live Love Polish favorite, is from Ohio.
Each brand featured on the site is tested for formula, application, and color. Michelle says for every sample they approve, they reject about 12 others.
But, before they could even get started, Michelle and Wayne had to apply for a visa.
They had to file about 200 pages of paperwork and then pitch their business to an immigrations officer, explaining how coming to New York to start a business would benefit the U.S.
Ways jokes that the I.C.E officer must have liked their pitch, because he let them in.
Once approved, Wayne quit his job at Amazon and kicked in his savings. Michelle dropped out of NYU and taught herself to code, building the site and hand packing every order with a personal note.
When they first started about two years ago, Wayne says they'd be lucky if they got 200 orders a month. During their last holiday season, they were doing 200-300 orders everyday.
This year, they were named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, and it seems like their upward potential is unlimited.
Nail polish alone is a billion dollar business in the U.S., Michelle says. Nail services stacks up to about $8 billion in just the U.S., and is one of the fastest growing sectors in the beauty industry.
So when people say 'oh, it's just nail polish,' she says she's always astonished.
But Wayne and Michelle Lin aren't just building their own business, they're helping others along the way.
Wayne loves that Live Love Polish customers are also supporting the other small businesses who create the unique polishes sold on their site.
Most of their nail polishes cost around $13 and are available at: www.livelovepolish.com