Interview with Floss Gloss Co-Founder Janine Lee

I met Janine one Saturday shopping and brunching with our mutual friend, one of my long-time friends that I've known since high school, and it was as if we'd all known each other that long. Janine's bubbly still down-to-earth personality complemented by her confidence and wit make her pretty impossible not to love. When I found out she was none other than co-founder of Floss Gloss, 5-free, cruelty-free, kickass line of super fun, undeniably cool nail lacquers, I was even more impressed. Janine built this line with her best friend, Aretha Sack, from the ground up 8 years ago, and they've been taking off ever since. Rave reviews from countless beauty and fashion sources and exclusive collabs with Hood Witch, Nylon Magazine, Flosstradamus, and more, are just a couple indications of the brand's success. I was stoked to get to ask Janine about building it all and what the ride's been like so far. 

Image by Passerbuys & Clemence Poles

When and how did you start Floss Gloss?

Floss Gloss was originally just our crew/girl time hang out after college classes between Aretha and I and some gfs in San Francisco between the years 2008-2010.  Aretha had been mixing up all these rare, hard-to-find nail colors, and my nails were hooked!  She had this way of making the colors super opaque, bright & pigmented, and the colors she was mixing couldn't be found on the market at that time. She and I talked about if we had a brand what we would do and how we'd differ from the commercial norm.  After we graduated, the recession was pretty bad and we were working service industry jobs to get by and pay our rent in SF.  On a whim for a website, we founded Floss Gloss as a CA LLC and rolled the dice to see if we could find manufacturing & money.  After writing a serious business plan and pitching investors, Floss Gloss was officially in business and we were rolling the dice again on our debut collection in 2012.  The rest is lots of sweat equity, hard work, inevitable mistakes, and a bit of timing & luck that brings us here today to Brooklyn in 2016.  

How do you come up with new products/collaborations? 

New colors & products come as we see fit, and, of course, with market demand.  Essentially we are the market and what we want, we make.  Which more often than not becomes what all our friends & fans want & desire.  Of course we have to do some shades that are just necessity for the beauty world, but the majority is really what we desire to paint our nails with.  Collabs happen when there is a serious connection, not only between both brands or with the influencer, but aesthetically, and with timing.  We have been approached countless times, but we only ever go forward with a collab when it feels right on both sides.  

What things inspire you and FG? 

Music, nature, art, fashion, tons of components make up the pulse of what is Floss Gloss and what Floss Gloss will be.  

Do you ever feel uninspired, and what do you do when that happens?

Of course.  All creatives hit road blocks or hurdles that you have to push yourself through to get over them.  Sometimes it's validation from a customer. sometimes it's a new color or a new book/song or visual that snaps you back in.  We plan really far ahead so it's more about staying woke and motivated on that shade even a year in advance.  

Photo by Aretha Sack / copyright FLOSS GLOSS LTD 

Photo by Lianna Tarantin / copyright FLOSS GLOSS LTD

Photo by Aretha Sack / copyright FLOSS GLOSS LTD

Photo by Erika Miyagiwa / copyright FLOSS GLOSS LTD

What's the absolute best part of your job? What's the worst?

Best part of my job is that it's my own job, and I'm the boss.  Equally: customer satisfaction, especially first-time buyers that become diehard customers.  I feel rewarded every time someone writes a review or remarks at how great Floss Gloss colors are, or how incredible the formula is, how cute the packaging is - that's why we got in the game.  And that reinforcement gets me every time. Worst part of my job is being the boss & all the back office, administrative work that you don't think about when you're trying to create your dream job.  There is a lot of hidden and unspoken back-end stuff that we don't like to bring up when you're making your vision a reality, but you have to be present during all of those tasks to make sure you stay afloat.  Hire a square and reputable CPA - asap! 

Image by Passerbuys & Clemence Poles

What kind of support system did you have when getting FG started, and what kind of support system do you rely on to maintain it?

Support system has been Aretha (my business partner), my man, and my family.  My support system now is the same; my man (soon to be husband) and my family + Aretha, and our couples counselor.  Aretha and I go to couples therapy.  It''s been eye opening, but incredibly important and has fortified our foundation.  

What advice would you give to other women wanting to start their own business?

Trust your gut.  Know that when they say it's really going to be hard -- it's seriously going to be super hard.  You're going to make mistakes, its unavoidable.  Just prepare yourself for the hard & prepare for the damage control of those mistakes.  Stay true and keep going.  If it's not broke, don't fuck with it.  

Do you have any specific training/education that’s helped shape you for this role?

No, haha.  I mean as far as educationally, I did not go to business school or take any entrepreneurship classes.  I went to art school and learned what I could about the real and capitalist world while I was there.  I feel like a lot about running this business, especially for us, is being able to communicate with your network, vendors & buyers.  I was a bartender for long enough to understand how to talk to a stranger and worked retail in college and understand how to sell, as well as when to let the sale come to you.  Preparedness is not always in an educational institution,  so much of it is just life preparedness.  

I'm sure running your own business can get stressful AF - what do you do to de-stress?

Honestly like sit on the couch and read or watch a mindless show.  I self-medicate and try to sleep in when I can. 

Image by Passerbuys & Clemence Poles

Who are some women you look up to/inspire you?

Although I'm not some super fanatic, these women have come before me and I aspire to be as graceful and successful as them; Essie Weingarten aka Essie, Lisa Price of Carol's Daughter, Jan Arnold of CND, Vivienne Westwood, Tina Turner, Oprah. Strong independent women.  

What's been the most surprising part of the FG journey?

The most surprising part of the Floss Gloss journey is the journey itself.   It's crazy to look back.

What can we look forward to from FG/any tidbits on surprises to come?!

OMG 2016 is soo lit! Lots on the board right now, but we're most stoked this year for our new shades!! Can't wait to share with all our babes! 

Do you consider yourself a feminist? What does feminism mean to you?

Absolutely consider myself a feminist.  Feminism to me means equality and seems completely obvious.  Like as a woman 10000%.   Just let me live + be treated fair.