TECHNATION200: Being a busy student, career woman or stay-at-home mum should not preclude any woman from being on point in the nail department. That at least is the view of Rhea Papanicolaou-Frangista, whose new venture, Prettly, means time-poor ladies can still look polished. She tells Toni Sekinah all about it.
As a busy MBA student, Rhea Papanicolaou-Frangista found it extremely hard to find the time to spend the hour she would have loved at the nail salon. And that didn’t include the time it would have taken to book an appointment and get to and from the salon.
Then, by chance, she heard about a mobile nail professional who did home visits, and immediately booked an appointment and had a great manicure. She was already familiar with the concept of mobile beauty therapists, as it was fairly common in her native Greece.
“As soon as I had my nails done by a mobile beauty professional here in London, I instantly felt an urge to recreate this experience for other women like myself in the city. I really did feel it was a problem,” she says.
So Prettly was born. Using its platform, anyone can book a nail professional to come to their home, office or hotel room, as long as it is in zones one to three in inner London.
“Ultimately, it’s a solution that makes life easier for busy women when it comes to their grooming,” she explains. “It’s for women who are either stay-at-home mothers or professional women who work during the day.”
Its mobile-responsive site allows users to book one of 11 treatments with three clicks. One of Prettly’s 30 nail technicians will arrive in a Prettly uniform and do a manicure, pedicure or both with no money physically changing hands. The user pays at the time of booking and the company operates a no tipping policy.
Prettly will take 20% commission on the price of each treatment, which range from £10 to £70.
The site also provides inspiration and entertainment with articles on hair, beauty and makeup trends as well as posts by guest bloggers in its magazine.
The platform runs on Amazon and its front end is built in PHP. Papanicolaou-Frangista plans to launch iOS and Android apps within the next three months.
Prettly also has a “very sleek and cool” interface for its nail technicians – all of whom are freelancers working with Prettly livery. They log on and input the days and times they are able to work and the areas they are happy to travel to, which gives them control of their schedules.
Even though the technicians have autonomy, and are not on the staff, Prettly expects them to meet its standards and provide top-quality treatments and customer service.
The nail technicians are all qualified and insured and have to go through a five-step application process to become Prettly-approved. In addition, after each treatment, Prettly will send the customer an email to rate the therapist out of five and write a review. Customers can see the ratings and reviews of the available technicians before they book an appointment.
“We have a minimum rating threshold and make sure that every professional on our professional side is up to par,” she says.
As well as this focus on quality, Papanicolaou-Frangista says that being a female-focused and female-led company is helping to define Prettly as a business.
“We understand women and we are trying to create a lifestyle brand that will really inspire them and make their lives easier,” she explains. “Interestingly enough, a lot of our competitors are run by men.”
Papanicolaou-Frangista has long had an eye for aesthetics as she spent the first four years of her career in business development at The Fine Art Fund Group, an art investment consultancy. She also spent a few months as the marketing manager at Artfinder, an ecommerce platform for original art.
She always knew that one day she would set up and run her own business and had built up some good experience of the fundamentals of entrepreneurship while at the Fine Art Fund Group. Because it was a small company she learnt a lot about fundraising, business development and client relationships.
When she graduated in 2013 with an MBA from London Business School where she’d had “an amazing learning experience”, she felt the time was right to launch her business. She met Farrah Hamid, a fellow LBS graduate while working as a summer consultant at the Boston Consulting Group. Hamid joined her as co-founder in early 2014.
The partnership has been fruitful, with Papanicolaou-Frangista and Hamid securing a round of seed funding through private backers in January and they are now looking to close another round in the next five months – looking to raise between £300,000-500,000 from angels or early-stage VCs.
Looking ahead, Papanicolaou-Frangista may broaden the remit for Prettly to offer makeup and hair treatments, but for the moment the focus remains on nail treatments.
In that area, there is certainly room for growth as research from Mintel suggests that, while two out of three British women regularly wear nail varnish, only 15% of UK women routinely visit a manicurist.
If she can meet the challenge of maintain the quality of the treatments while scaling the company, women across London will have the time to feel just that little bit more glossy.
Rhea Papanicolaou-Frangista – CV
Associate director of business development, The Fine Art Fund Group.
MBA, London Business School
MSc, European public policy, University College London
BA, modern European history, Brown University.