Eugenia Ye-Yeo is a business graduate from RMIT University had worked in a local bank for a good two years before venturing to start up her own businesses.
Her first startup was called Haf Box, which she launched in 2012. She wanted to sell what she felt was lacking in the market then — practical and well-designed products for modern seniors.
It sells necklace pendants that double up as magnifying glasses and anti-slip shoes from Japan, among other things.
“Back in the day, there wasn’t any products that looked fashionable or decent for seniors. The government was talking quite a lot (about) the potential of the silver tsunami, and due to my own experience of not being able to find a gift that I was proud of for my grandmother’s birthday, it sparked the idea to start a business bringing in such products for seniors,” said Eugenia.
The startup later created its own brand of walking canes called Cane Art to cater to the Asian sizing of walking canes. These designer walking canes are foldable, which are small enough to fit into handbags.
The business, which she runs alongside her husband, is still going strong today and since have built a steady following and referral system.
However, her bigger focus now is on her other brainchild, Nodspark, which is seeing a much higher demand.
She had no time and patience to paint her nails
Nodspark is her very own own nail wrap brand. On how she came up with the business idea, the 34-year-old simply said that it was “a moment of serendipity” that she came across nail wraps.
She was first introduced to nail wraps when she attended a trade fair, and she really enjoyed the idea of it.
“I enjoy painting nails, but back then, being a second-time mother to my young daughter, I had neither the time nor patience to go get my nails painted, let alone head out to a nail salon,” she said.
She saw the potential of the product, and felt that it would fit in seamlessly with our fast-paced society, so she started up Nodspark in 2017.
“Nodspark is a solution to getting nice nails without all the fuss of smudged or chipped nails, or needing to spend extra time to wait for your nails to dry, let alone even more time to get nail art on your nails.”
One consistent messaging that the brand always pushes is that beauty doesn’t need to come at a high cost of your time or money.
This appeals to time-starved customers like busy women who wear multiple hats, working professionals, or someone who simply wants to look good without sparing two hours to sit at the salon.
No one really knew what nail wraps are at the start
Eugenia refused to disclose how much she has invested into the business so far, but shared that it took her six months to break even.
Despite the seemingly good figures, she shared that the initial launch was lacklustre.
She cited the lack of experience in marketing beauty products and lack of education on nail wraps as the main contributing factors.
“As hardly anyone knew what nail stickers were, it took us a long time to educate customers on nail wraps and how they worked. For some customers who used them and had a bad experience, we took the time to re-educate and convince them to give Nodspark a try.”
Over time, she also learnt how to build a customer base from scratch.
Beyond the marketing challenge in the early days, they also faced a lot of competition that imitated their product and branding.
“We had many lookalikes duplicating our packaging, website navigation and even brand copywriting key pointers. But I feel that it’s important to know your ability — that you are the originator and you can do so much more.”
“I kept pushing forward with brand offerings, adding value to the brand with more exclusive collaborations, re-doing our packaging to make it one-of-a-kind by making it a packaging that you can transform into a box to reuse (instead of throwing it away) as a drawer insert, amongst many others.”
Covid-19 on the other hand, served as a double-edged sword. Due to the pandemic, they were unable to hold their usual pop-up events, which form a huge part of their business.
“So that’s a loss of revenue stream, alongside our stockists being hit as well. International orders also took a much longer time to reach certain countries, so there was a lot of adjusting to do.”
“But while we were affected in some ways, other doors of opportunities as well. We were discovered by a distributor overseas in Dubai to carry our products exclusively for the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region.”
More people were also buying Nodspark to send to their friends as care packages.
Additionally, due to the closure of salons during the lockdown period, people also started discovering alternative methods for nail grooming and turned to nail wraps.
Collaborations with OBEY, Bvlgari, Disney
Staying true to their tagline to be your wardrobe for nails, Nodspark offers a variety of designs that users can wear as and when for as low as S$15 per pack.
“For those who love experimenting with different styles, this is a low-commitment option and does not damage your nails the way gelish does,” said Eugenia.
The startup has a team of designers that works on the various designs for the nail wrap. It also works with collaborators and corporate partners to lend them their original artwork and designs to be applied on Nodspark’s nail wraps.
Some notable collaborations are with Kat Von D Vegan Beauty, OBEY, Bvlgari and most recently, Disney.
“Our collaboration with Disney is super special as our designs are exclusive to the Singapore and Malaysia market only. And with Disney being such a huge brand with so many amazing characters that we grew up with, it struck a chord with many customers and it was such a hit.”
Some of the Disney designs that they offer feature Mickey Classic, Vintage, the Princess Collection and Frozen, and there will be new drops that will be released in October and November this year.
When asked what’s the turning point that helped to propel Nodspark’s growth, Eugenia said that networking definitely helped to open many doors of business opportunities.
“While there were a lot of rejections initially, there were an equal number of people who were blown away by (our) product and could connect to the Nodspark brand,” she said.
She then added that it was a “whole ecosystem” that helped to support their growth — from identifying their target market, to crafting their brand pillars, to having strong key opinion leaders who use and love their products, to collaborating with established or creative brands.
This is what keeps the brand “alive, relevant, and exciting.”
But the most important factor of all, is having a strong team. “Your grand plans can’t be executed if the core isn’t strong,” she added.
With all the challenges that has been thrown their way so far, she felt that the Nodspark team came out of it stronger than before, as they didn’t let it hinder their spirits, growth or creativity.
Looking to expand their product line next
Sharing future business plans, Eugenia said that she wants to reach out to more overseas market as part of their expansion plans.
“We’re also expanding our product line, so that’s something we are very excited about for the rest of the year and early next year.”
Ultimately, Nodspark wants to celebrate everyday beauty and believes that looking put together should not be a stressful affair, which is why it wants to help make it easier with its nail wrap options.
Summing up the interview with a personal business mantra, Eugenia stressed that there’s no fixed template to running your own business or building a brand.
“Do what is most comfortable and makes the most sense, but be consistent and as honest as you can. Everything else will fall in place while you hustle on.”
Featured Image Credit: Nodspark