When Danielle Egan couldn’t find a non-toxic nail polish, she decided to make one herself. After seeking the advice of a chemist friend and assembling the ingredients, Sienna was born.
We interviewed four super women in business to understand what drives them to do what they do and what lessons they learnt along the way.
Tell us how Sienna started?
Back in 2013 I was looking for good, clean products to use in my soon-to-be nail bar. The chemical composition of mainstream brands is by no means ideal if you are trying to live as clean as possible, so I found myself stuck for a nail polish that aligned with my values. I passionately believe if you can dream it, you can achieve it, so I set out to create it for myself! I spent the next year collaborating with a local chemist to gain the knowledge needed to create our unique, clean formulas, and a local woodturner to create our beautiful timber caps using a weed timber that is damaging our local native rainforest.
What has been an important philosophy of Sienna from day one?
To be real and honest. We are all human here, and by no means perfect, but we’re willing to do our best and show up every day to improve and grow. We all genuinely love what we do, and we want everyone who comes across Sienna to have a wonderful experience.
You started at the markets. When did you realise you had a business beyond the markets?
The markets are an incredible place to launch a brand from, especially in Byron Bay. The local spirit strongly backs new, small businesses and I saw this even on my first day. I sold seven pieces to retail customers and then landed my first wholesale account. I knew on day one that this would go somewhere.
It feels like you were way ahead of your time for creating a nontoxic earth friendly nail polish.
I thank the progressive Byron Bay community for that. In 2013 I was certain everyone wanted to reduce their plastic usage and chemical load as earth friendly living is such a strong value here. I was shocked to see that mainstream brands still contained ingredients like Formaldehyde and Benzophenone-1 (and still do today) and had no accreditations to give them transparency (and still don’t). Perhaps it is difficult for large brands to swing their huge business ships around and change direction? Lucky for me, as a one woman show, I was able to really focus on developing a near-perfect, earth friendly product, from the clean formula to the beautiful weed timber caps to the European glass bottle production before it became a trend.
How has it grown as a brand?
Sienna started out as a market brand, I thought I would do a weekend market and send a few parcels from our basic online store. Little did I know Jessica Alba, Miranda Kerr, Erin Foster, and more celebs would discover us just a few years later! We are obviously doing something right. We are now sold in over twenty countries worldwide and have grown our colour offering from thirteen to over fifty. From a solo show in my loungeroom to the spacious office in Byron with a lovely bunch of people making Sienna magic every day.
What has been an integral lesson in it all?
You do not have to do everything yourself. Getting help from others not only helps you but will help your business grow. Find people that are excited to be a part of the journey and excellent at what they do and trust them.
How has being a woman influenced the business?
Being a woman has given me the direct experience and unique understanding of what it is like to BE a woman in the working world. The statistics on opportunities for women in the workplace are damning and I have been one of them. The year before Sienna launched, I was fired when I asked for minimum wage. This experience (one of many) has given me the drive to create a strong company to support myself and other women. The adage “a rising tide lifts all boats” is pertinent in my work as a female CEO. I focus on supporting and encouraging the people that collaborate with me to create a life they love – whatever that looks like for them. Be it launching a business, career advancement, buying a comfy pregnancy chair for comfier lunch breaks, to having a four-day work week so family can take priority.
You have recently had a baby – how has this adjustment been for you?
What a ride! I LOVED being pregnant, every kick, every hiccup, every turn letting me know he was there was a delight. After our little Richie was born, my GP diagnosed me with PNA/PND and, as it is something with a load of stigma and minimal discussion, I found it very isolating. I thought I would be back to work in some capacity at the 8-week mark, but I have only just returned part time and he is now a year old. I had to step back from the business and depend on my incredible team. I am so thankful for the way they managed everything while I was focusing on getting through each day. Luckily, Richie is a happy, loving baby so he made it easy on me. Now I spend my work days waiting for video updates on how his day is going!
What have been some of the biggest challenges of running your businesses?
The workload is incessant. The list is never ending and leaving at the end of a busy day can have you feeling conflicted as you need to be home but there is SO.MUCH.TO.DO. Also growing the team with the right people is super important so there is quite a process to recruitment for us.
What has surprised you about running a business?
That I love it as much as I do. I thought so much would be unappealing (emails, production, management) but I am finding joy in all the things. I am highly creative and find there’s a way to see creativity in everything.
What’s your favourite Sienna colour and why?
You’re asking me to name a favourite child! I’m loving nude nails and use our nail strengthener to give a nice high gloss, clean finish while maintaining the nail beds integrity (with all the cleaning of spilled drinks/food, mud, paint and….). When I want colour my go-to is Stone. It is a soft mauve pink that almost sways to purple. It’s the perfect blend for all skin tones and has been my favourite since Sienna’s launch nearly eight years ago.
Want to read about more rad women in business? Read full interview with Victoria Aguirre, founder of Pampa HERE
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