Every girl has them, stashed somewhere out of sight. Those little glass bottles, usually forgotten in a drawer. Enter Julianna Dahbura, Jules, the beauty and brains behind the Miami Beach based nail lacquer brand, Deco Miami. She’s on a mission to change how you think about nail polish.
Say goodbye to standard nail polish bottles with generic packaging (if any at all). She wants every woman to proudly display her shinning glass bottles of color and dazzle. Art Deco gold bottles and unique packaging make every bottle of polish worthy of a prominent stop on every chic lady’s vanity. Jules believes anything that’s out on a woman’s vanity will get more use. The best way to make her want to do this, make it gorgeous!
I recently sat down with this young and driven entrepreneur (yup, she’s only in her early twenties) to talk shop, business, and inspiration.
Jules was originally from Maryland and briefly lived in New York City. It was in New York where she first fell in love with Art Deco. Her eyes were set on The American Radiator Building (since renamed to the American Standard Building) a landmark skyscraper built in 1924 in the Gothic Art Deco style, in midtown Manhattan. In 2001 the American Radiator Building was converted into The Bryant Park Hotel with 130 rooms and a theatre in the basement. The building is an epic display of the glory of 1920s Art Deco. It’s black, gold, and gorgeous.
Once her love for Art Deco began, Jules set her sights on Miami’s South Beach. South Beach was reborn in Art Deco. After the vicious hurricane of September 1926, which utterly destroyed the city, Miami Beach saw a building boom that lasted the better part of 20 years. That era of rebuilding focused primarily on resurrecting the fledgling resort community in the chic new style that had come out of the 1925 Paris Exposition Internationale des Artes Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, which would be shortened to ‘Art Deco.’ This style was colorful and the perfect inspiration for her nail lacquers!
Her logo and packaging were inspired by the diamond design present in many Art Deco buildings. Her nail lacquers come in diamond-shaped boxes with her own hand drawn illustrations of South Beach. Her packaging is like a gift. She loves when her customers tell her they just have to keep the box. Jules uses cheeky names for her colors and some colors are rip with Miami sass. Colors like CAFÉ CON LECHE and BRICKELL BLUE are quintessential Miami. Why did you start your company:
I came up with the idea for Deco when I was visiting one of my friends who has an extensive nail polish collection that she kept in her apartment’s windowsill. I wasn’t super impressed with how the different brands looked next to each other out on display, and this made me think “how can I make it better?” As I started asking more questions about how women use and store nail polish, Deco’s concept shaped itself into a tangible product.
I was hesitant to start a cosmetic company since I don’t completely love the beauty industry’s marketing methods, but now, I see Deco as an opportunity to make a mark in the industry. Nail polish is a really unique product for a few reasons, with the main one being that women love to compliment each other’s nails. And I don’t mean like my best friends saying “hey Jules, love your mani”, I mean like, I’m in line at a store and a random girl behind me will tell me how much she adores my nail polish color. Nails promote girl love, and since I collaborate so often with other female brands, I feel like Deco is a big bundle of positive female energy. Women want a more personal feel when they’re shopping for beauty products, which is why I think my boutique brand resonates with so many ladies. So, wrapping it all back to the question of “why did I start my company?” the simple answer is because people want companies like Deco, but aren’t getting them. So here I am.When did you get serious about branding?
I started working on Deco’s Instagram page about three months before the official launch. I had found a few smaller companies who had really successful pre-launch Instagram campaigns, and I decided that it wouldn’t hurt to start posting on social media before I had an product. I didn’t have any parts of my product back in October when I started posting on Insta, except samples of my colors, so I stuck to posting shots of my nails and tropical styled photos. This was good for me in the long run because when I did have my product (and was getting more followers) I had already established my brand’s “look”. Describe the Deco brand and ideal customer:
Deco is a brand that I created for 20-somethings, so the nail polish colors, names, packaging, everything, is supposed to be cute with a hint of sass. If the idea of wearing Male Tears on your fingers makes you giggle, this is a brand for you. I’m over puny nail polish names, so my lacquers’ names are mostly Miami inspired or pop culture references. My ideal customer is someone who is on Instagram (obviously!), who gets where the nail polish name “Champagne Mami” came from. Kidding, not everyone is a Drake fan, but still, someone who is up to date on the latest what’s what will have an appreciation for my lacquer names.What was your first success, and what did it feel like?
My first time interacting with customers (who weren’t my friends or family, ha!) was at a Christmas market in New York City. Watching those first few customers light up when they saw my boxes and bottles was such an amazing feeling because after so much work over the last few months to make the lacquers a reality, I was finally sharing them with other people. Maybe it sounds cliché, but I felt like an artist who was showing off her work for the first time. I put a lot of effort into the details of my lacquers, and it felt awesome that they were being appreciated.What did you wish you knew about business before you started?
It’s a roller coaster ride. Some days I’m killin’ it on Instagram, my inbox is full of orders, and I can’t drink enough cups of coffee to keep up with all of my emails, and other days, not so much. I’ve learned to take advantage of my slower days to tackle other tasks, but it can be a little discouraging to be busy busy busy and then suddenly have a quiet day. But, the harder you grind, the more busy days you will have!The one big tip you would give new comers to your industry?
Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate! Never be afraid to reach out to other creatives or entrepreneurs, because you never know what could come of a friendly message. When I first started working on this line a few months ago, people kept telling me “you can’t do it all alone!” in regards to finding a co-founder, and this advice was almost right, because I definitely could not have gotten to where I am today if not for all of the amazing bloggers and influencers that I have worked with through Deco.
Related to collaborations, be somebody that you would want to work with. For example, I hate it when people don’t take my time seriously, so I actively try to make people that I work with feel like I value their part in our collab. In general, whenever I have a sub-par experience with someone, I think, “okay, that sucked, so now I know to never do that to someone else.” I’m always thinking about how I can be a better partner because as a startup, I have to be “on” all the time when it comes to my company.What’s the first thing people notice about your brand?
The packaging, for sure. Then people read my color names and they laugh (usually when they see Miley Whats Good or Male Tears). I’m all about first impressions, and I think my product makes a pretty good one.What has been your biggest source and traffic?
Instagram! I only market on Instagram. Instagram is Deco’s marketing platform because even when Deco was just a concept, I felt confident in my ability to build a community of lacquer lovers through this channel. I am pretty certain that most of Deco’s Instagram success is because I only post pictures taken with my DSLR camera, (okay, I’ve posted two or three pictures taken with my iPhone but that’s it!), and people respond very positively to my photos. I don’t have a formal background in photography by any means, but I do know how to take a pretty picture. A decent camera is an investment, but it’s definitely worth it if your brand’s strategy includes social media marketing. A clear, crisp picture will take you far!What would you tell new comer about developing a brand esthetic?
Once you develop your style, stick to it! There is nothing more annoying for me than when I follow a company account and they post stuff that seems like it’s out in left field. It just looks clunky, IMO. If you want to keep your followers, you have to give them what they want. People follow Deco’s account because they want to see nail polish, high resolution photos, and tropical stuff. So I’ll never post a picture taken with my iPhone of a cat unless the cat is doing something distinctly related to nail polish or South Beach.
Also relevant to note is that it’s okay and necessary to say no to partnerships that don’t fit your brand’s aesthetic. I get a lot of requests for collaborations, and most of them sort of align with my brand’s look and feel, but overall, the big pictures are different. It sucks because I hate saying no to people, but it’s better for everyone in the long run to be consistent with their branding.How do you think your business will change in the coming years?
I’d like to eventually (like, way down the line) expand into other color cosmetics, but I’m quite content with just being a nail polish brand at the moment. I want to “do” nail polish really really well before moving onto anything else.
Check out Deco Miami Nail Lacquers and be sure to follow along on Deco’s Instagram. Now head to the comments and let us know what tips Jules gave you really loved. To be featured on an upcoming Behind The Brand let me know on the contact page.