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Saturday, December 9, 2023

Russian Entrepreneur Grasps American Dream with Both Hands


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Spurred by Covid-19 lockdowns, many have turned to social media and YouTube videos to perfect their DIY beauty treatments at home. And the nail art industry hasn’t been an exception. From amateurs looking to increase their Instagram following to those starting their own online nail-art tutorials, the online nail industry is thriving. 

When Russian nail educator and influencer April Ryan decided to create a fake copy of her hands to use in social media videos, she had no idea it would be her first step to becoming a millionaire. Three years after launching her first pair of silicone hands, her nail business Red Iguana hit $3 million in sales and is on course to reach $5 million in 2022.

Starting from a concern about the impact of overexposure to Ultraviolet light from lamps used to harden polish, April’s silicone hands have changed how training is done in the nail-art industry. So how has April become such a force? Here are the three key pieces of wisdom April says changed her life.

Forge Your Own Path

When it comes to making your own way, April believes that perseverance and action garner results.“I recommend that anybody who has a dream stop thinking and start working on it right now,” she says. “Start to educate yourself and find information on how to get started. Look at government websites to learn about setting up a business and search for online tutorials about what you want to do.”

Born in a tiny Russian town that didn’t even have a beauty school, April worked her way up to eventually own a chain of three nail salons. A mixture of determination and talent helped her become a pioneer and set a trend in the American beauty industry. She leveraged opportunities and resources to educate herself, create credentials and take action to make her dream a reality.  

In 2014, she decided she wanted something bigger. Despite her zero-level English, April’s expertise in nail artistry landed her a job in a salon in Beverly Hills. During her downtime, she took to social media like a cyber native, capturing a community of professional nail technicians and amateurs. Her endorsement was consequential, and soon she was building a business that is today on course for serious international success.

Improve An Existing Industry

As a nail-art expert, April was not impressed with the training hands on the market. In her view, they were not aesthetically pleasing and of poor quality. The initial concern arrived when she had to make five Instagram videos a day using her hands to display different products. Many nail products require the use of Ultraviolet light which with overexposure could be damaging to the skin. 

April decided she would make a copy of her own hands to use in the videos. Research and development to create a prototype led her to a high-quality producer in Los Angeles. Six months later, April had a set of silicone hands that perfectly mimicked her own and changed how the training process is done for the rest of the nail beauty industry. 

“Innovation is a huge part of making it in the business world. After all, no industry is already perfect. As such, whatever is your niche, analyze its existing processes and find areas for improvement,” April advises. 

Build A Community

While Red Iguana grows at a clip with hundreds of products, April has deployed her extensive experience as an influencer to promote her company – which has over 400,000 Instagram followers. 

April has harnessed social media to her advantage. When it comes to building an online community, she emphasizes the importance of trust. “I worked with companies producing a range of nail products, and I would try them all. I would not promote a product that I didn’t consider good. I only endorsed the best products so my followers trust me,” April added.

It was 2018, and with her social media community to promote her product, demand for her silicone hands went through the roof. Red Iguana silicone training hands and fingers are now distributed in five countries and have become the hottest item in the world of nail art. 

Getting Things Right

Overcoming the challenges of growing up in a small Russian town, April stands as an inspiration. She has grabbed every opportunity that has come her way to build a successful business. Today, she participates in expos and various educational activities to help aspiring entrepreneurs achieve their dreams. “I believe there’s always a piece of the market to take,” she says. “You will always have your piece of cake. You can always be the best at what you do, even if you’re not the first.”

April Ryan
April Ryan
Russian-born nail artist, influencer, and owner of a seven-figure business April Ryan has experienced first-hand the struggles of growing up poor. Hailing from Salsk, a small town in the south of Russia, April has always had to create her own opportunities. And her determination and hard work have paid off. Today, the 30-something is the owner of Red Iguana, a multi-million dollar company that sells nail products and silicone hands for practicing nail art. Born to working-class parents, April was the youngest of three siblings. She was also one of the poorest kids in her class. “My mum would sew my clothes because we didn’t have enough money to buy new ones. I would also wear hand-me-downs from my brothers,” April says. “We had to grow our own vegetables because we didn’t have enough money to buy them at the market.” While she was drawn to the beauty industry, April had little prospects of ever becoming a beautician. As a teenager, she did not even have enough money to buy makeup to practice her skills. Luckily, there was something else she could afford – nail polish. “My nails became my canvases,” April says. “And while my designs were popular with my classmates, I realized that it would be difficult to become a certified nail technician in a town without even one salon.” Luck was on April’s side. When she was 18, an independent beautician arrived in her town to run vocational classes with job placement for the top student. April’s talent for nail art landed her the position. After six months of working 12-hour days, the ambitious girl was able to move to a bigger city and open her first salon – The Red Iguana. By the age of 23, April was running three nail bars. During this time she participated and won multiple professional nail competitions that helped her business grow. The challenges of doing business in a tough environment however made her reassess her approach. “Running a business in Russia comes with a lot of problems,” she says. “There is a lot of jealousy and danger due to that jealousy”. In 2014, April decided to sell her business and move to America. She boarded a plane with zero English in the hope of starting a new and less stressful life. It was not long before her skills caught the eye of an owner of a salon in Beverly Hills where she began doing nail art for celebrities such as the singer and actress Kelly Rowland. Even though April enjoyed her work at the nail bar, she knew that she was destined for bigger things. She started making educational videos about nail art for social media and created multiple new nail techniques. “Within six months, I had companies asking me to review their products,” she says. Sometimes she would produce up to five videos a day. There was one problem, however. April was using her own hands in the videos. “I was working with a UV lamp and soon realized that this had a very bad effect on my skin,” she says. “I tried using fake plastic hands but they were too ugly, so I decided to make my own prosthetic hands.” April did not have to look further than her own hands for inspiration. “My hands are my favorite part of my body. I have long, skinny fingers that are perfect for demonstrating nail art so I decided to use them as models for my prosthetic hands,” she says. “It took me around six months to come up with a detailed prototype, down to the tiny scars.” It did not take long for her viewers to start asking about the silicone hands. They mostly wanted to know where they could be purchased. And April was all too happy to oblige. She currently distributes over 2000 hands per month in five countries. These come in full and half hands, single fingers, and six skin colors. The hands are available in a soft, flexible version and a poseable option that can be fixed in the desired position. April’s e-commerce store also stocks more than 300 professional nail products including 20 different types of nail bits, files, inks, and tips Her gel products are eco-friendly and were developed together with chemists. One of April’s most popular offerings is her subscription boxes that include between five and 10 nail products each month. Just three years after launch, April’s online business has made $3 million in sales and is slated to reach $5 million by 2022. “Whether it’s promoting products or making silicone hands, I have always put quality before everything else,” April says. “I believe that’s why my products have been such a hit with customers.” “There have been a number of companies that tried to jump on the bandwagon by replicating my silicone hands, many of them in China,” April says. “This doesn’t worry me. I take it as a compliment. It means that I have created a good product that I can be proud of. Plus, those other products are of much lower quality.” April realizes that the path from poverty to prosperity is usually a difficult one: it demands determination, courage, and passion. Born in a Russian town that offered few opportunities, April had to rely on her skills and tenacity to achieve her goals. Nevertheless, she does not believe that she is special. “Anybody can make their dreams come true. I always say, ‘Start right now. stop thinking too much. Educate yourself.’ Once you start, things are much easier than they initially appear,” she says. “And don’t stress. Even if you are not the best at something, there will always be a piece of the cake.”


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