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Home / News and Insights / Insights / Sharmadean Reid MBE – The Stack World, BeautyStack and WAH Nails

In this month’s article, Mireille, beauty lead at top UK law firm BDB Pitmans, speaks with serial entrepreneur Sharmadean Reid MBE.

Sharmadean opened her first nail salon at 25, a pioneer in taking nail art mainstream. She was awarded an MBE at 30 for her services to the nail and beauty industry. At 33 she was appointed as an advisory board member of the British Beauty Council.

Despite being on annual leave, Sharmadean gave us her time to explain her entrepreneurial journey before committing to log off and focus on a key priority: her family.

How did you get into what you do?

From the get-go, I was interested in fashion. I found a degree at the age of 12 at Central St Martins and maintained a laser focus on it. Every year up to when I was 18, I called the university to ask if the course was still available. I eventually completed the course and graduated with a first.

As well as fashion, I had a real passion for beauty and specifically nails – I loved getting my nails done on a Friday night. There wasn’t really anywhere that I could hang out with my friends and get my nails done – with cool designs. With the money I had earnt as a fashion stylist and with some money that my friend had lent me I took on a lease and in August 2009 we had WAH Nails.

I was learning on the job and it was working; I was determined to make it a success. The issues I had I fixed, I trialled new things. I wanted to do things differently and to make them work – no booking software at the time enabled you to book a manicure based on a picture of the work undertaken by a specific technician – if I saw something I liked, I wanted to book that exact thing with that exact person. I started developing a business plan for a tech start up for next-gen beauty pros to sell their services and take bookings through the power of imagery. Enter, Beautystack.

With the arrival of Covid-19, I needed to pivot and I started The Stack World. Part media platform part community app, I designed The Stack as a way to train and develop the next generation of women leaders. We currently have over 14,000 members in 32 countries.

What advice would you give to founders at the beginning of their career?

You are going to get things wrong, that’s inevitable. Your personal identity isn’t wrapped up in your business identity – the Kardashians have had a multitude of businesses between them and they’ve not all been a success; that’s not defined them.

I’ve made every mistake in the book – every business I have run has stretched my knowledge and that is key. Despite the success of WAH Nails, I can reflect on it as my training business; it’s stood me in great stead for everything else that I’ve gone on to create.

What do you wish you had known whilst growing your business?

Share the load and don’t fool yourself that you can do it all on your own. On reflection, I shouldn’t have made it so hard for myself. I should have made solid, trusted and senior hires and let them run with a particular aspect of the business. With the experience I now have, things are different with The Stack – I’ve hired a great team and I can sleep properly at night.

As well as addressing things internally, I think my biggest mistake was not having proper legal and accounting pros in place, and this I learnt the hard way. Early in my 20s, I wanted to manufacture a product through a business that I had created. I found somebody who was willing to do this with me. A contract was placed in front of me stating the number of shares I’d have in my own business – I didn’t think to check how many shares there were in total. So not only did I own a minority of my business from the very outset, I’d also signed away my rights to use the logo I had created… it was not just about checking the contract but also knowing what should have been in there. It was a rookie mistake I made when young, but this can happen to anyone.

What made the biggest impact in scaling your business?

Partnership contracts for sure. In 2009 I opened WAH Nails and in 2010 I entered into a partnership agreement with Topshop to open a concession in Oxford Circus – my business quadrupled overnight. Partnerships are an incredible way to scale your business but you need to have the right team in place to make sure the deal is right.

[In her responses Sharmadean touched on a number of points, such as contract reviews (to identify what should be included) and partnerships – all areas which may require specialist legal support. Please feel free to get in touch with Mireille if your business is facing similar issues and you require legal assistance].

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