The power of seeing a flaw in the system—and making it better

Two female founders began their own firms to improve the status quo. Now, Target and Meghan Markle are customers

Nadine Abramcyk and Ariane Goldman have a lot in common. For a time, they both worked at American Express. They’re both moms. And they both started successful businesses after being disappointed by the apparel and beauty offerings that were once available to them.

During a recent talk at WeWork Now in New York, Abramcyk, co-founder of natural nail care brand tenoverten, and Goldman, founder and CEO of maternity clothing retailer Hatch and bridesmaid brand Twobirds, waxed poetic on the importance of self-belief and trial and error, and discussed their philosophies on building a business.

Their multimillion-dollar brands have, in a relatively short time, cultivated high-profile followings, and drawn investor dollars along with them. Hatch, which raised a $1.7 million seed round in 2013, has seen its garments worn by celebrities like Natalie Portman, Kourtney Kardashian, and Gwen Stefani. Kate Hudson and Gwyneth Paltrow, meanwhile, have publicly expressed their love of tenoverten’s polishes and nail art.

Now several years into their businesses, Abramcyk and Goldman have found 2019 to be off to a promising start. In February, after 18 months of negotiations, tenoverten secured a national contract with Target, allowing the boutique brand to roll out into 800 Target stores by spring. And in January, Hatch got royal approval, literally, when Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle wore one of Hatch’s knit dresses to an engagement in London.

But neither Abramcyk nor Goldman experienced these successes overnight. It took years of dedicated, relentless hard work to fill those gaps they once saw in the market. Here’s how they did it.

Listen to your needs first. After first working in the small business marketing department at American Express out of college, Abramcyk was running Mick Margo, a West Village clothing boutique she opened in 2006, when the idea for tenoverten first took shape.

“[My business partner, Adair Ilyinsky, and I] were both in jobs we were a little bit frustrated and stunted by,” she says. “We would get our nails done together all the time and we thought, ‘Wow, we could so improve on this.’”

When the pair was getting manicures, Abramcyk says, the experience never lived up to their desired standard—or even met the expectations they had of a New York nail salon. Of the “aha moment,” she says: “This is something we want, so let’s create it ourselves.” So in 2010, they founded tenoverten, opening the first location in Tribeca.

Goldman had a similar realization while planning her wedding; she just wasn’t finding bridesmaid dresses that both flattered and catered to all of her female friends. “[I couldn’t find] bridesmaid dresses that made all of my girls feel great, with their different body types—dresses they could wear again after the wedding,” she says.

While climbing the corporate ladder at American Express, she made dresses on the side, frequenting New York’s Garment District to buy yards of Spandex and visit pattern makers to fashion dresses for her own wedding. In 2007, Goldman left her full-time marketing job at the financial-services company to launch Twobirds. One of her earliest customers, a publicist, booked Goldman an appearance on The Martha Stewart Show. “From then on, the phones didn’t stop ringing,” she remembers.

Hatch, which Goldman founded in 2011, was born of the same kind of personal discovery. While pregnant with her first daughter, she couldn’t find simple, comfortable maternity clothes that appealed to her personal style. Hatch entered the picture much in the same way Twobirds did: solving a very personal problem that Goldman herself—and as it turns out, leagues of others, who would later become her dedicated customers—encountered.

Stay true to your vision. Though both Abramcyk and Goldman were certain their businesses addressed a need, they still had doubts—and encountered doubters—along the way.

Goldman’s mother-in-law, for instance, implored her not to give up her American Express job, which provided health insurance for Goldman and her husband; Ilyinsky’s mom expressed skepticism that a nail business could take off in a city with a salon on every corner. Tenoverten also took a stand against gel manicures—which do not generally align with its nontoxic mission—at a time when the gel business was booming.

“We stood for clean beauty, and that was another hurdle,” says Abramcyk. “People asked us how we could build a business like that and warned us that we were going to turn people away.” But the company stayed the course. “I think you have to have your brand pillars and stick to those,” she says.

“It takes a lot of courage to make that first step, and to take a chance on leaving insurance and your day job and believing in yourself,” says Goldman.

Advance at your own pace. The event’s moderator Aya Kanai, chief fashion director at Hearst Magazines titles Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, Seventeen, Good Housekeeping, and Redbook, asked the entrepreneurs if they thought about their “failure résumé,” or a list of rejections compiled to serve as an instructive, motivating reminder of progress and experience.

Goldman recalls being seven months pregnant when she decided to raise financing for Hatch for the first time. “I was sitting on a stoop outside my apartment, hysterically crying after maybe 10, 12 meetings with these male-driven firms,” she remembers. “It was exhausting. I needed help, and I wasn’t at my best because I was also nurturing a baby in my belly. And so I decided to pause the race. And I felt like a failure.” But in retrospect, Goldman now says the hiatus was “the greatest possible move I could have made.”

Amid their successes, the women continue to grow their businesses thoughtfully. Both Twobirds and Hatch adopted a profit-oriented mentality—with the maximum to be reinvested back into the business—early on, and Goldman says this set the tone for her brands’ deliberate and controlled growth.

A direct-to-consumer brand, Hatch was online-only until late 2017, when it opened a brick-and-mortar store on Manhattan’s Bleecker Street. A second destination, a flagship-style store in Santa Monica, opened last year.

Putting aside financial gains and glowing public reception (from civilians and royals alike), Goldman says she refused to get swept away by early wins. “[Entrepreneur] friends of mine are kind of going superfast, while I’m kind of driving the speed limit,” she says, keeping her business at a pace for slow, sustained growth.

Commit to communication from day one. Abramcyk adds that she feels a huge—and grounding—sense of responsibility to her 250-plus tenoverten staff members across the company’s head office and four New York locations, as well as its singular salons in Los Angeles and Austin. Especially in light of the New York Times’s landmark 2015 investigation highlighting severe underpayment and mistreatment at nail salons, Abramcyk was determined to build a communicative, democratic workplace, along with an insistence on clean and safe working environments.

In addition to quarterly meetings with staff, tenoverten hosts regular one-on-one reviews with all of its employees. The company has also put employee comment boxes at every workplace. “For us, it was about stepping back and saying, ‘We’re asking these women to show up and be their best every day. Let’s treat them with respect and have opportunities where their voices can really be heard,’” says Abramcyk.

In all, Abramcyk and Goldman both encouraged eager audience members to pursue their business ideas, especially the ones that might seem very simple to you. “You hear all the time, ‘That’s such a good idea—I should have done it,’ or, ‘That could have been mine,’” says Goldman. “And it could be anyone’s idea.”

“What makes the difference is actually doing it,” she continues. “It takes a lot of courage to make that first step, and to take a chance on leaving insurance and your day job and believing in yourself.”

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