Hey goal achievers, Kristin here. Recently, I interviewed a woman on the Elite Achievement podcast who started her company with the desire to create a product that could make a difference and ease her mind while painting her daughter’s nails. When Melanie Hurley’s daughters were young, she hated the thought of toxic, chemical-ridden nail polishes touching their hands. Her solution was Piggy Paint.
Piggy Paint produces chemical-free, water-based nail polishes that are available to purchase in the mass market. Not only is Melanie crushing it running Piggy Paint, but she also launched another specialty nail polish company called SOPHi Nail Polish, which is available in specialty markets or independent stores. And she has another company called Rock The Locks which is now available in over 3,000 Wal-Mart stores. I am so excited to learn more about Melanie’s businesses, and how she’s managing three companies while being a mama. I start by welcoming her and asking more about the inspiration behind her first company, Piggy Paint.
“I started Piggy Paint in my basement in 2008,” says Melanie. “My girls were two and four at the time and I was concerned about the chemicals in the products that I was using on them. My oldest had allergies and skin sensitivities. So, she would break out in hives if we put certain things on her. I started looking for a safer nail polish alternative for them. And I couldn’t find any.”
I ask Melanie to share some of the challenges in those early days of running her business from her basement.
“Well, besides logistically having tons of product all over the house,” Melanie begins. “My girls were little, and they were at home with me. So having a two and four-year-old at the time was really noisy and meant lots going on. I would hide in closets or the bathroom to take phone calls. I think the hardest thing was just trying to figure out how to do everything myself. I was trying to make sales, enter orders, pack orders, ship orders and answer as customer service. I was a teacher before, so I didn’t have any business experience. It was a lot of learning every day as I went along.”
I find learning along the way to be part of the entrepreneurial journey. Melanie mentioned that she was doing it all when she launched – sales, business, and product development, so I asked her about the process of developing the nail polish formula itself.
“I actually worked with a chemist that I found online,” said Melanie. “We worked together constantly over the phone, shipping samples back and forth, trying to perfect every single color. I didn’t meet him until a couple of years after that. It was actually perfect timing. He had been working on the formula. I told him, hey, I’m a mom, and I don’t know what I’m doing. But I really want to try to model everything after what I would want as a mom. So that’s how it started.”
I heard Melanie say she was a teacher before launching her company and didn’t have a big business background. She didn’t know about chemicals and how they come together, but her passion for solving a problem motivated her and kept her going every single day. I am curious about her other sources of motivation when launching Piggy Paint or, even today, running three companies.
“Well, in the beginning, I think the motivation came from putting everything we had into it,” says Melanie. “I was a teacher, and my husband was a park ranger. We saved one of our salaries for three years so that I could stay at home with our girls when they were little. So, to invest that nest egg into it, you know, I just wanted to do everything we could to make it work. I kind of have that personality too. I have OCD and am all in, so when I’m passionate about things, I just go for it.”
Just go for it, I repeat. Melanie invested and used savings to stay home with her kids to start the business, so I ask her how she knew it would work and that she needed to take Piggy Paint to that next level.
“I don’t think there was one defining moment,” shares Melanie. “Whenever I look back, it was a series of events that led up to where we are today. In the beginning, we went to countless trade shows, and at our first trade show, I shared a booth with a friend. I had a little table that was maybe three feet long, and we put products on it. And I just stood there. I was so excited. I wanted to talk to every single person that went by! It’s been such an amazing journey to look back and see all the struggle, heartbreak, and all the no’s. Thousands and thousands of no’s. I was really trying to know that this is what I was called to do. I felt a calling from God, so I poured every bit of myself into it in hopes that it would work. I’m always optimistic. But you just never know. When you go to trade shows, it’s hard because you develop relationships with other entrepreneurs, “mompreneurs.” And some of them come back the next year, and some of them don’t. It’s quite a journey. All of us entrepreneurs are wired a little differently. We’re all maybe a little weird in our own way.”
I ask Melanie to talk more about all the “no’s.” I work with many clients that build client-based businesses, and they hear no all the time. And sometimes, when my clients hear no, it rocks them and distracts them from the goals they are looking to pursue. So, I want to know how Melanie navigates hearing no while staying on track with what she wants to build.
“I wish I could have seen the future back then because it really would have been easier,” Melanie says. “We made cold calls and sent emails. I’ve been told no so many times that it’s gotten easier. The first several years of going to trade shows, whenever somebody walked by our booth, no one knew what Piggy Paint was. I felt like I had to sell it every single time, just beating my head against the wall like, this is Piggy Paint. This is Piggy Paint. And now, we go to trade shows and it’s great because we built that clientele – and people know us! I remember the first trade show I went to. I was in a shuttle van, going to the Convention Center. I heard some people who had been in the industry a long time talking, and they were saying, yeah, somebody has to hear your brand about eight times before they feel like they’re ready to commit to buying it. I don’t know where that came from. And I don’t know if that’s true or not. But it feels right. Because eventually you wear someone down, and they say, I’ve seen you at so many trade shows. Okay, let’s give it a try. So, it has gotten easier along the way.”
Melanie continues, “I remember I was at a trade show in Atlanta one time. This was years ago. And when I’m at trade shows, I am there to sell the product. So, I don’t want to miss anybody, especially in the early days. I wouldn’t drink anything because I didn’t want to leave to have to go to the bathroom. I mean, it’s a little psychotic. I do go to the bathroom now. But this guy across from us came up to me after a couple of days, and he said, I have been watching people walk by, and you’ve got balls. You’ve been told no so many times. Yet you’re still out there telling everybody about your product. I think you have to have thick skin and be so passionate about your product, that you’re eventually going to get a yes. And you’re eventually going to find the right people, and that’s what I always pray for too. Is that the right people come along, so our product makes sense for them. Because I want it to work.”
There is so much gold in Melanie’s answer. The biggest thing I am taking away is that you cannot let those no’s stop you from pursuing your passion. We all have to expect we will hear a lot of no’s – we’re going to get a lot of rejection. But if you keep hanging on, asking and promoting, and you keep sharing what it is you’re passionate about, eventually, you’re going to find the right people and get a “yes.”
“Exactly,” confirms Melanie.
I mentioned in Melanie’s introduction that since the launch of Piggy Paint, she created two additional companies, so I ask her to talk about the journey of starting SOPHi Nail Polish and Rock The Locks.
“With Piggy Paint, it’s always been super fun – wild colors for kids,” says Melanie. “And we’ve had a lot of moms that have used Piggy Paint, especially when they’re pregnant or looking for cleaner products. SOPHi was really developed from a need from our customers. They were saying they wanted more adult, sophisticated colors. That’s where the name SOPHi came from. It is our adult brand. It’s still a water-based nail polish that doesn’t smell. And there are still no harsh chemicals. We just expanded on Piggy Paint. Rock The Locks is our hair care line for kids. It doesn’t have any parabens, phthalates, or sulfates. It’s bold packaging that kids love and ingredients that parents trust. So, it really goes hand in hand with the paint being a non-toxic, clean product. And like you said, it’s available in 3,000 Wal-Mart stores now. We’ve just launched a new fun hair color and conditioner in one. We have hot pink and purple. So that’s really fun.”
This prompts me to ask Melanie a personal question. I have a seven-year-old daughter, Scarlett, and she is constantly asking me to dye her hair. And I’ve never ever, ever dyed my hair, so this idea of my seven-year-old dyeing her hair kind of freaks me out. But I hear that I can buy a conditioner and it’ll make her hair pink. Tell me about this, I ask Melanie.
“Yes,” Melanie explains. “It’s temporary. It lasts between five and 15 shampoos, and you use it like a conditioner. Let it stay in for three to twenty minutes, wash it out, and it’s soft enough that you can use it again and again too if you want really vibrant colors.”
I ask Melanie if they have teal in the product line yet, and she says no, but it is coming. My daughter has gone from loving pink to teal, so it might really make her day when I can finally say yes, we can dye your hair teal! I ask Melanie if she did anything differently with SOPHi or Rock The Locks since it was not her first time building a company.
“I knew what to expect the second time around,” said Melanie. “And that really makes a difference, I think, in my confidence level and how we approach things. We just started out stronger with those brands because we knew what to expect and how everything worked. At the beginning of Piggy Paint, I made a ton of mistakes. And I think that those mistakes are what brought us to this point. But we haven’t made as many mistakes with our other brands.”
I realize that learning is another important part of being an entrepreneur. We’re not going to get it right every time. We’re going to do some things and mess them up. But it’s about learning so we can apply those learnings the next go around, and the next go around.
“Right,” confirms Melanie. “You should expect that some things you produce are not going to be winners, and that’s okay. Going to trade shows is always a nice way to get feedback from customers and our retailers. They have such good ideas, so we really listen to what they need.”
Melanie mentioned trade shows a few times, and I’m guessing there weren’t many in 2020. I asked her if trade shows started coming back towards the end of 2021, or if she had to think differently about building relationships and marketing products.
“We just went to a trade show in New York last week,” Melanie says. “And then we have another one in Las Vegas, so they’re just starting back up. But yeah, in 2020, we didn’t have any and we had to shift our business because it’s tough to connect with new buyers and maintain relationships when you’re not seeing them. A lot of businesses shifted to e-commerce too. We definitely had to change our marketing, advertising, and push to get people online, especially at Target. Things have shifted for sure.”
I ask Melanie to share her beliefs around balance, being a mama that is running three companies.
“Oh, goodness,” Melanie replies. “Well, balance has been really hard to achieve. Especially in the beginning, when the business was in our basement and I was working day and night, not sleeping. No matter how big your business is – when it’s small starting out, or if it’s stable and bigger – you could pour 24 hours a day into it because it’s never enough. There are always things to do. In the beginning, I really struggled with that. I remember when my oldest was in first grade, she was writing a Mother’s Day card, and they were writing with prompts. So, it was something like my mom loves to fill in the blank, and my mom likes to fill in the blank. And every single one was about mom likes to work, mom likes to email, mom likes to talk on the phone. That was really hard. She was so excited to give it to me, and I went into the parking lot and cried. I sobbed. And that was a real turning point of finding balance. My girls, now they’re 15 and 17, so I’ve been able to incorporate them into our business their entire lives. They’ve been to trade shows with me, they work in our warehouse – so they’re definitely a part of it. And, at this point, my Mother’s Day cards are different. I have a few from the last couple of years that I keep in my desk to read. They’re both intelligent, strong, independent young ladies. And I know that they’re proud of me at this point, but it was really hard in the beginning.”
It is such a beautiful story, and I appreciate Melanie sharing the experience she had with the Mother’s Day card. I have felt a lot of that myself when my daughter’s like, mom, would you put the laptop away? Mom, would you quit working? It’s this constant push and pull between your desire to build your business and create a lifestyle for your family, but then to also be a present mama. I’ve ultimately concluded that balance doesn’t exist. When we communicate about balance, we are literally communicating an unrealistic reality. What works for my family is likely different for your family.
“That’s exactly right,” Melanie agrees. “I think another piece of it is the why. For me, I’m not just passionate about selling a product. I’m passionate about our products. They’re non-toxic, they’re safe for kids – something as simple as nail polish. I’ve heard so many stories over the years where it’s something beautiful that parents can share with their child, to do together, to bond. And on the other hand, my passion has shifted over the years. I love to love on our people. Throughout the years, we’ve had an amazing team of people that care. They’re just fantastic. So, I feel like this is my calling right now to love on everybody on our team because we are a family. And we have a diverse group of people working in our warehouse, including many retired men and women, and my dad is one of them. So, it’s just wonderful to walk out and see that my passion has evolved into something really wonderful.”
I ask Melanie to walk us through where to find her products and learn more about her story.
“Piggy Paint you can find in Target stores or online, and on our website,” Melanie says. “And then SOPHi is on Amazon, target.com, and our website as well. And Rock The Locks is in Wal-Mart. You can learn more about me and the story behind our companies on Piggy Paint’s Instagram.”
I close by telling Melanie how much I appreciate her time and learning more about how she grew a business from her basement with no business background, and successfully placed her product in mass retail. She’s done it all while continuing to be a mama and show up for her family.
And with that goal achievers, keep focusing on your weekly wins, keep noting the lessons that you’ve learned, and consistently make progress in the direction of your goals.