I grew up with a single mum on benefits – now I run a nail company Serena Williams loves and have an MBE

GROWING up in single parent household on benefits, Sharmadean Reid was determined to be successful – even spending her waitressing cash on books to better herself.

The 34-year-old mum, who grew up in Wolverhampton, is now the proud owner of WAH Nails and Beauty Stack, an image-based beauty booking app.

A true girl boss, Sharmadean never doubted she would make it, launching her magazine WAH (We Ain't Hoes) at university and opening her first nail salon at 25.

She now boasts a celeb fan base including Serena Williams, Margot Robbie and Jordyn Woods.

Sharmadean spoke to Fabulous Digital for #BOSSINGIT, our series about ordinary women who have launched incredible businesses, thanks to Aquarius.

She said: "I grew up in a household with no money. I’m the eldest of a single mum, we grew up on benefits, we had nothing.

"I remember when I got my first waitressing job when I was 14, it was so amazing that I had £20 and I felt so rich.

"I grew up in a household without books and I could take that £20 and buy all the stationary and books I needed.

"The satisfaction of learning and the freedom of earning gave me all the things I wanted to do.

I grew up in a household with no money. I’m the eldest of a single mum, we grew up on benefits, we had nothing

"I thought ‘I’m really into fashion and art and want to buy these Miu Miu boots but I can’t afford them’.

"I used to buy the Sunday Times with my waitressing money, I always had a vision of how I wanted my life to look and I wanted access to information."

Sharmadean, who mum to son Roman, eight, was studying fashion communication and promotion at Central Saint Martins, in London, when she started WAH in 2005 – then a fanzine about women in hip hop.

After graduating with a first class degree Shamadean, who lives in Ladbroke Grove, London, worked as a stylist for brands like Nike and ASOS.

And it wasn't long before she decided to turn her brand into a fully fledged business – opening her first nail salon in July 2009.

Sharmadean said: "I think I had a little bit of useful naïvety.

"I thought ‘I want to have a hangout space for me and my friends’ and because I had this brand already, that I spent my youth building, it was only natural that I call it WAH.

"At the time, nails were a very big part of hip hop culture.


I am so lucky for this prince in my life!

A post shared bySharmadean Reid (@sharmadeanreid) on

"Every Friday, me and my friends would go to the local nail salon, hang out and chat. I never really spent time in a pub.

"When you go to get your nails done it's a bonding experience, you talk about things you'd never normally talk about.

"Before we opened, salons were either down at the heel or really fancy, there was nothing in between.

"I wanted to create a salon where you walk in and all the girls just look like you.

"I was 25 years old and I thought ‘of course I can start my own salon’, it wasn’t even a question. I was totally naïve, but I kept going with it."

Every Friday, me and my friends would go to the local nail salon, hang out and chat. I never really spent time in a pub

Sharmadean launched her first salon with a £17,000 loan from her best mate – who she's known since she was a teenager.

Her manicures are easily recognisable thanks to the signature bright colours and creative nail art.

The brand now counts Margot Robbie and tennis ace Serena Williams among its celeb fans.

She said: "My best friend had just inherited £17,000 from her grandfather. It’s so funny because at the time I thought it was a lot of money but it really wasn’t.

"She said ‘I’m going to give you this money to start a business, but when I get back from travelling in India you have to give me a job’.

"She wasn’t wealthy at all, she just had this little bit of money. When she got back, she worked with me building up the salon and I paid her the money back within three years.

"The first thing I did was find the space, I found a perfect little empty shop which was two minutes from my house at the time.

"I think it’s really important when you start a business to make it as easy for you to be there as possible, so you’ve got more time to work on it.

"Especially when you have kids, it’s even more critical to be near your home. After I found the location, I just worked on finding a team of nail artists to help me.

"I was not prepared for how popular it would be."

Why I support #BOSSINGIT

Sun on Sunday columnist Karren Brady says:

"I am a passionate supporter of encouraging women to learn new skills to help give them the confidence to reach out and achieve their ambitions.

"This brand new series will help share different stories which I hope will act as inspiration and show just what can be achieved with grit and determination."

Sharmadean, who was awarded an MBE in 2015, has grown her business to include concessions in Topshop and Harvey Nichols, a Boots product line and an ASOS clothing line.

Her new venture Beauty Stack launched in its beta version in October, with the entrepreneur due to re-launch thanks to new fundraising in June.

She said: "It's in the app store now, people can book treatments on it. Jordyn Woods booked a treatment on the app the other day.

"Most of the cute young singers and songwriters are using the app, or their stylists are.

"Instead of working with 100 girls in London, training them in nail art, I wanted to help girls all around the world, from Brazil to India and Nigeria.

"I wanted to take these girls who are already doing beauty treatments for their friends and give them the tools to start their own businesses.

"My focus is now with Beauty Stack, I employ 25 people there and about 15 in the salon, and it's growing really fast."


GROWN UP TOO FAST Five-year-old became world's youngest mum after periods started age THREE

Aquarius is a brand-new functional water-based drink with added minerals, Lemon and Zinc & Lime and Magnesium.

Aquarius is available in two fresh citrus flavours and every 250ml serving contains 20 per cent of your recommended daily intake of zinc or magnesium.

Sharmadean said: “I love Aquarius because I know that while I hydrate, I’m also giving my body the essential minerals it needs to help protect me from everyday tiredness and stress.”

In last week's Bossing It, we spoke to an entrepreneur who put herself into care at 17 to escape her abusive home life then lived in a council house – now she's set to make £100k.

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