We had the good fortune of connecting with Olivia Collins and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Olivia, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I started painting my own nails in middle school to stop myself from biting them, and once I started getting bored with solid colors I started experimenting with art, and people started to notice. Soon enough they started asking for me to do it for them, and I started getting used to performing this process that had always been “mine” with someone else. By the time I was in university I was taking acrylic appointments in between classes – I loved the aspect of setting up a space for an appointment and building relationships with my clients! Some people treat getting their nails done as a therapy session, or a time for gossip, or just a time to relax and rest. I found that I was good at reading what people wanted, both as a service worker and as an artist. It just came very naturally to me. I was excited to take appointments in my hometown in the summer, but the pandemic shot those plans right in the heart, and I had no idea what I was going to do. I saw some press on nails on my Instagram feed, and offhandedly posted a poll on my story asking my followers if they would be interested in buying press ons from me. The response was incredibly positive, so I did some research and created a very basic brand identity and packaging system. I ended up making 121 orders by the end of September. That’s more than 2,100 individual nails! Everything about running a small business comes naturally to me – designing my logos and packaging, curating a brand image, making social media content, discussing with clients and answering questions, everything. Like most creatives, I’m apprehensive about entering the workforce and knew that working in an office, or in service or retail (which I did the previous summer) was not the path for me. I’ve always been picky, and I know exactly what I want – and running my own business allows me to handle every aspect of my brand until it’s perfect for me. It’s a creative job, but it’s work. I’ve started taking digital marketing and business classes to help me along the way. This is saying a lot for me – I get bored very easily. But I’ve never gotten tired of doing nails. Running Jaysee Nails feels like the perfect job for me.
Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
I’ve always liked things that were a little kitschy or eccentric. Since I was a kid I’ve loved bright colors and funky patterns, even announcing a vendetta against the colour black that I still haven’t quite gotten over. I really try to translate that into my work. The weirder, the brighter, the better. I specialize in detail work, meaning I like to create very tiny details that make my nails into pieces of art. This style is very popular in Japan and the UK, but I noticed there weren’t many similar artists in Toronto – it was a hole in the Toronto nail tech community that I wanted to fill. I pride myself in being able to work from any reference, or do any style! I’m extremely well-rounded in various nail techniques and designs, but I find myself especially attracted fine detail gel art. The trip to get to wear I am today was not easy – I knew what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be but never really got the courage to do it. The pandemic gave me the push I needed – I couldn’t do in person appointments, and I needed the income. It can be hard to get support from friends and family in business endeavors, especially creative ones. At the beginning I always felt that no one was quite taking me seriously. The come-up was veryyyy slow. I spent weeks questioning myself and my vision because I wasn’t getting the engagement that I wanted. But inevitably I found the place I needed to be, and my customer base started to grow. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to wait out the dip! The moment after you’ve truly lost hope is the moment you finally get something. All I want my brand to do is encourage people to express themselves, and do it loudly. Like with fashion, nails allow you to tell people who you are without needing to say a word. I want people to stop caring and do something just because they like it, because it makes them happy. That’s what my nails do for me.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If I had a week to show someone a great time, I’d have to give them the authentic Torontonian experience. As an artist and history buff, I would have to take a day to see the Art Gallery of Ontario. I think people underestimate the AGO, but it has some amazing pieces and exhibitions. One of my favourite restaurants is closer to my home in Mississauga – its called El Mariachi, and is the coolest little Mexican restaurant I’ve ever been to. The people are lovely and the building itself is beautifully decorated. I’m a nerd so I’d love to revisit my childhood favorites such as the ROM or the Ontario Science Center, but if you’re looking for more of a higher energy time, I’d take you to Toronto’s Crews and Tango’s, Sneaky D’s, or the Village. And there’s no Toronto trip without a picnic on Toronto Island.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
An unbelievably huge part of my story is thanks to Black Owned Toronto, an organization that highlights small Black business in Toronto, Canada. Kerin, its founder, sent me a message asking if I wanted to be featured. At the time, I was still small and struggling to perfect my work. Just the spotlight from Black Owned Toronto sent me so many amazing supporters and really helped me build a client base. Kerin has been so amazing at helping small business owners get the recognition they deserve, and has done some amazing things since the pandemic started. She’s an absolute powerhouse and I really respect her. I’d also like to shout out my sister, Madeline. From the jump she’s been so involved and helpful. She’s constantly giving me inspiration or gifting me materials for my business! It can be hard and isolating at this age to deviate from what others are doing, and feel like you aren’t supported. But I really appreciate my sister for being my biggest fan through the entire thing.