It is always exciting to see a new business start up in Madison, but it is even more fun when that business has a connection to the Weinert Center! Laquerus, founded by Jennifer Lane and Priyanka Verma, reimagines the nail studio experience at 426 W. Gilman Street.
Their physical location may have opened in June 2018, but the work that went into launching the business began long before that. The two needed a concept for the Weinert Applied Ventures in Entrepreneurship (WAVE) class and although they admit the business has greatly evolved from the initial idea, this was it! Recognizing an opportunity that presented itself, they took WAVE very seriously. Initially the goal was to test the idea and business model with the WAVE Board but after receiving financing from the Daniel H. Neviaser Entrepreneurship Fund, they knew they were on to something.
The two founders acknowledge that throughout the months of planning, the vision for the company changed. They initially focused on the technology standpoint; offering an app for rewards, scheduling, and more. What they came to realize is that other things mattered more to them and to their clients! One of the differentiators was to offer waterless services (which has numerous advantages compared to traditional manicures and pedicures). Another was to be open on Sundays. They both knew what it was like to be working and studying as students and the frustration that occurred when the businesses you frequent are not open when you want them to be!
The two knew how important it would be for one of them to have a very deep knowledge of the industry, so Priyanka went to nail school in 2017 to become an expert. Knowing skills such as how to hold a file or the technique for proper polishing is very important when interviewing candidates to join their team. Applicants needed to give a French manicure and both had to properly judge the results.
When initially visualizing the studio, they did not have a concrete vision of what it would look like. Their experience is that many high-end places have a very sterile feeling. While it is nice to know that things are clean, these spaces are not very inviting or friendly. They wanted something that would “feel more like being at a friend’s house.” They also recognize that the space must be very photographable which is important for the many patrons who love sharing their experiences on Instagram!
There is no denying the risk involved with entrepreneurship. For Jen and Priyanka, this was most apparent when they turned down great job offers to pursue their vision. “After graduation, most MBA students really look forward to going back to work after two years out of the labor market. It is definitely a leap to not take the position you have worked for.”
On the subject of hiring, they have found that “when you are new it’s hard to hire because your name is not out there.” Although they say training employees is a lot of fun – it is rewarding to see how they grow and improve over time. One of the most important things they brought from the WAVE class into the studio was the “Test and Learn” philosophy. They are very comfortable with ambiguity and passing that style down to their employees which is a new concept to their employees. At many established salons, the rules and way of working are so set that the employees have no voice and no creativity. They have found that empowering employees to speak up brings great ideas to the surface and is great for the esprit de corps!
Laquerus is a great example of entrepreneurs having a vision and refusing to compromise on it. Jen and Priyanka have pivoted some at various stages, but have always been driving toward doing it their way. It is always exciting to see a company move from the WAVE classroom to the real world!