Atypical Latina talks with Beauty Industry Entrepreneur, Mari, Founder of Passport Polish
Mari, is the Founder of Passport Polish, a business that was born out of the thrill and love of nailpolish and traveling. This Latinx business has been featured on Remezcla, Tatler Magazine, British GQ, and Vanity Fair London.
Mari, can we start by you telling us a little bit about your story and background.
I was born and raised in New Orleans, LA (Mid City) and my family is Nicaraguan and Cuban. Coming from a family of immigrants, it was a struggle to learn English and we didn’t have the most money. However, my parents worked very hard to give my little brother and me everything we needed! My undergrad and graduate degrees are in Psychology and I attended Tulane University, Xavier University of Louisiana, and University of Alabama (online). I’m currently enrolled in Cornell University’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Certificate, sponsored by Bank of America. I worked in the healthcare industry for over a decade doing everything from case management to psychometry before I decided to make the big switch to the cosmetics industry.
How did you get the idea or concept for your business? What services do you offer?
The concept for my business came from my love of travel and nail polish. I would always take an #ObligatoryPassportPic before my trips and realized my nails always had to be done for these photos. After seeing a friend speak at New Orleans Entrepreneurs Week, I left so motivated that the same evening, the name for my business was born and the ideas started flowing from there. I hand make nail polish that is cruelty free, vegan, and ten free. The colors are inspired by different features from the countries they are named after. I also offer custom nail polish, lipstick, wholesale ordering, and nail accessories on my website.
How do you advertise your business?
I advertise my business on Instagram, ShopLatinx, Four Shades of Color, Sezzle, and Shine Registry. I occasionally post on Facebook and Twitter as well but Instagram is my biggest marketing tool. Word of mouth is also super beneficial!
What is unique about your business?
I feel that my business is unique because I hand make most of the items I sell. I also believe the detail and research that goes into picking the colors I make are unique. A few polishes are based off of a popular seasoning that the country uses for food, I go that detailed! Anything can be inspirational from flowers to flag colors. I like to have a good representation of each country.
What were some struggles you faced along the way?
The trial and errors that come along with figuring out the perfect formula for each polish. I test out every color on myself before I set it up to be sold. Figuring out the legal sides of business (registration, taxes, Overall, being an entrepreneur is the most rewarding struggle I’ve faced. I have stressful days but even on the worst day it’s rewarding because this is my baby that I am able to nourish and watch grow.
What is your greatest strength?
My work ethic. I have a couple of mottos I live by: “Know your worth” and “my mama did not come to this country for me to be mediocre”. I always push myself to be the best that I can be so I don’t disappoint the people that are rooting for me and so I don’t disappoint myself. I may have to give myself a pep talk or have an ugly cry, but I will get that work done!
Where do you see your business in 1 year?
In one year I hope to see my brand at major retail stores nationally and internationally. I am fluent in Spanish and trying to improve my French so that I am able to speak to more customers and expand my business. I also want to have a warehouse in New Orleans where I can create jobs for the community and be able to give back more. Lastly, I would like to see myself collaborate with more brands, I am a big fan of the phrase “collaborate don’t compete”!
If you could give one piece of advice to a Latina entrepreneur looking to start a beauty line, what advice would offer?
Don’t be afraid to start! Even if your background isn’t in beauty, it is never too late to start learning and start a business. It can be time consuming and expensive, but you can start small. I started Passport Polish with the intention of just doing this as hobby and only made 100 bottles to sell. I sold out my first day! Also, make sure you have a good amount of social support. You will have great days and you’ll have some bad days. You’ll need people who are willing to be by your side for both. I’m certain I would lose my mind if I did not have the circle of family and ample friends around that inspire and motivate me!