Trailblazing nail industry entrepreneur and innovator April Ryan knows that actions get results. She has already beaten the odds by creating a nail industry empire and leaving her native Russia to live the American dream.
Running a multi-million dollar nail industry from Colorado Springs in the United States is a long way from the impoverished southern Russian town where she grew up.
Without a beauty school, April had zero chance of achieving her dream to become a beautician. At 14 years old, she recognized that working with nails was within reach because nail polish was inexpensive – unlike pricey skincare products. Armed with cheap nail polish – April became the go-to girl for nail art among her school friends. Her incredible drive reemerged when she seized the chance to sign on to study with an independent vocational training school that came to town. She topped her nail technician class and was immediately employed with a local salon.
Her secret was to act swiftly and decisively. “You have to stop thinking about what you plan to do and do it. Do not wait. Start right now,” April says. A kick-off point to achieve your dream is education, specifically learning about how to start your business.
“There are many official government websites that have free information about starting a business, especially in the United States. There are so many resources, apps, and online tutorials about the steps you need to take to set up a company, and they do not cost anything but your time. People can learn so much from reading guidelines. You will quickly learn that everything is easier than it looks when you do it. The trick is to power ahead and just keep going,” she adds.
Overcoming the competition
April has not stopped pushing forward from the moment she started her first job.
Deflated by the salon owner’s lack of interest in growing her business and training her staff, April left her job after just six months. As a freelance nail artist, April’s mobile nail business quickly became the most in-demand nail outfit in town.
By the age of 23, she had moved to a larger city and opened Red Iguana nail salon – named after a favorite pet. One salon quickly became three as she worked feverishly across 12-hour days, seven days a week. Her success, however, was tainted by the menacing jealousy of competitors.
“It is almost impossible to run a business without fear in Russia. It is a very dangerous place, and I was worried that someone would set fire to my car or smash the salon windows. It was very stressful to live in a culture of fear. People were jealous of my success. They thought I was too young and must have a sugar daddy,” she says.
It was not the first time that April was confronted with adversity that was beyond her control. She grew up as one of the most impoverished children in her school grade and owned a single pair of shoes that were torn. She wore homemade clothes, and her family grew vegetables to supplement their diet.
“My poor childhood is something that I ran away from like crazy. I had a lot of ambition and very big plans. To this day, I never stop moving forward,” April says.
In 2014, she snatched control of the dark threat of envious competitors and decided to follow her American dream. Loaded with an impressive skill set freshly honed in the demanding world of Russian nail art, April touched down in California. With virtually zero spoken English, her prowess spoke for itself, and the award-winning technician landed a job in a high-end salon in Beverly Hills.
Established, April shared her expertise on social media racking up a community of 400,000 follow professionals and enthusiast followers. It was not long before potential clients queued up for her endorsement, and they paid for her content.
The $11-billion market adored her as she paired cool videos with upbeat tunes with her hands at front and center of every instruction video. From the onset, April invested in her social media profile using a DSLR camera rather than a phone camera.
She understood the importance of great visuals. “I only endorsed the best products, so my followers trusted me. I also did not use sex to sell products and used great music,” she says.
April quit her job and pivoted her energy into social media as an influencer. She made up to five videos a day for her clients. However, she developed concerns about having her hand under UV light – which cures nail polish – for hours every day.
She decided to make a silicone copy of her hand to use to showcase her talent. Suddenly her followers became clients wanting to buy silicone hands. Word spread like wildfire.
“The business snowballed about a year after we made the hand. We sell about 2000 a month worldwide,” says April, who gave up influencing to embrace entrepreneurship.
Red Iguana made $3 million in sales, and it is heading to reach $5 million in 2022. Her silicone hands are sold in five countries and appear in movies and commercials. “You must never stop progressing. When you feel like you’ve achieved something, do something more.”
It gets easier
Red Iguana’s e-store is an Aladdin’s cave with hundreds of branded nail technicians equipment, machinery, and accessories. It’s been a labor of love.
“I remember every step that I took on this path because I didn’t know what to do. Everything was new. Right now, I am making documents for customs releases and working with brokers and factories. I’m collaborating with chemists. This is all-new, but it is much easier than it looked when I first started.”
April is currently exploring ways to fill the gap between professional nail artists and serious amateurs who need good products at home but not top-of-the-range professional quality.
As a product innovator, businesswoman, and star nail artist, April believes there is plenty to go around.
“Do not stress if you are not the best or the first to do something. I believe there’s always a piece of the market to take. You will always have your piece of cake. “