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London Grace

Founder Kristen Hazel

interviewed by Alex Mann


"Transforming the maintenance of a manicure into a fun, social experience"

Upon returning from New York, founder Kristen Hazel wanted to create a nail bar with quality products and convenient hours. London Grace has become an award winning nail bar, cafe and bar with their own collection of free-from nasties nail polishes.

What is your background and how did it lead you to starting London Grace?

I started my first business ‘Party Staff Ltd’ at 16, after recognising the need for waiter and bar staff in my local area. A year later I had 60+ staff on my books, providing waiting staff for up to 16 events a week. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial personality; I enjoy spotting problems and coming up with solutions. After graduating I worked for a consultancy in the city but quickly realised that working for a large corporation was not for me and missed the buzz of running my own business. The idea for London Grace was conceived in the autumn of 2013. Having studied in New York where a manicure and a coffee was a way of life and one that was available around a working day and at the weekend, I returned and noticed the lack of choice and quality of nail bars. I began to look at ways to transform the maintenance of a weekly manicure, into a fun, social experience.

Where have your biggest influences come from?

I come from a family of entrepreneurs and inventors so you might say it’s in my genes! Other leading ladies in business like Tamara Mellon (Jimmy Choo) and Bobbi Brown inspired me to take the leap and leave my job as a technology consultant to start London Grace. One of the great advantages of our customer facing business is that we are in constant contact with our clients, who of course influence us. For example, if our clients feel there is a colour missing from our palette then we can incorporate this when we launch our next polish collection.

What were the biggest challenges that you faced when setting up London Grace?

With no prior experience in the beauty industry, launching the business was a challenge in the first place. However, the advantage was that I was able to look at everything with a fresh perspective and I quickly learned the importance of having a good team with complementing strengths. I felt it was important to develop our own range of polishes that are five-free to promote the London Grace ethos of healthy, happy nails. We also streamlined our treatment menu with a ‘no nonsense’ approach, so unlike many other nail bars we don’t offer acrylics, nail art and our treatments performed are dry. It is a challenge communicating a new message but we’ve found that letting your knowledge guide you and committing to a clear brand ethos attracts your target market.

How important have your properties been to the success of London Grace?

Our aim is to build a High Street brand so the properties and locations we’ve chosen have greatly contributed to our success. As our stores in Putney and Clapham are in prime High Street locations, they are convenient for clients to reach with great transport connections and having popular shops and restaurants nearby makes the locations even more of a destination to visit.

Will there be more stores in the future?

Absolutely, the idea with London Grace has always been to create a brand, not just another one off beauty salon on the High Street. We have a clear strategy outlining the key locations where we would like to open stores, both in London and across the UK.

Where do you feel the beauty market is heading?

Consumers are definitely becoming more savvy to the ingredients in products they’re using, so our free from nasties polish and ‘healthy, happy nails’ ethos are positively received. We are also looking forward to exploring the way smart technology can build and strengthen relationships between brands and their audience.

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