Resilience Like A Boss | Meet Janine Lee of Floss Gloss

Author: Mia Guevarra

Resilience has carried Floss Gloss co-founder, Janine Lee through her journey as an entrepreneur. After graduating from art school in San Francisco, her and her business partner/BFF, Aretha Sack decided to take their passion for all things nails to the next level. Floss Gloss prides itself in providing high quality, one of a kind lacquer that is cruelty-free and vegan. After several years, Floss Gloss relocated from San Francisco to Brooklyn, where it thrives today. Six years and hundreds of bottles of nail polish later, Lee continues to learn more about herself and growing her business. Learn more about Floss Gloss Boss, Janine Lee in her interview below.

How did you come up with the concept for Floss Gloss?
In college, I became friends with my now business partner, Aretha Sack. We had a class unrelated to our majors (Painting / Fashion Design) and we started hanging out and painting our nails with her custom color mixes. I was hooked on her colors and we dreamed about launching a line. After we graduated in 2010 into a pretty bad recession, we just went for it. Writing a business plan, finding manufacturing in California, and obtaining funding came next to make our nail game a reality!

What is the story behind the name Floss Gloss?
Floss Gloss was the name of our art school clique. We all had nails that flossed and glossed like a boss! We had one senior art show called Touch My Box, Paint My Nails by Floss Gloss and the name just stuck.

What sets Floss Gloss apart from the rest?
Floss Gloss is absolutely made for the market, by the market. We're the focus group that other companies wish they had.

Before we started Floss Gloss as a company, Aretha and I had a combined total of over 600 bottles of nail polish -- now we have over 40,000+. We had really done a lot of market research just as consumers and felt like there were huge voids and areas that could be improved including packaging, opacity, pigmentation, and branding. We worked very closely with our manufacturer for about a year developing our formula and making sure we could stand behind a product that was superior to what we had to buy in our early twenties. We wanted to put out colors that you couldn't already get at your local drug store or beauty shop.

You started Floss Gloss while in college, what advice would you give to any MISSBISH hoping to start her own business?
Get your business side in order asap. I'm serious. I went to art school, not business school. It was, and still is, a tough learning curve and I make a lot of mistakes.

Trust me, get a good CPA, file your taxes, play by the rules, always negotiate. I know that sometimes it may seem intimidating, but trust me, as a woman in business you need to stand your ground.

What is one of the challenges you faced when creating Floss Gloss and how did you overcome it?
Always, always making sure we have enough money to continue. We were very undercapitalized when we launched our line and we overcame that by proving that we deserved a place in the market. But making sure that you have funding is always a challenge when growing and keeping a small biz afloat.

“ me, as a woman in business you need to stand your ground."

What is something that you learned about yourself -- as a woman, an entrepreneur, or just in general -- in the process of creating Floss Gloss?
I'm still learning. But so far, I'm more resilient than I thought. I've had to adapt quickly, be flexible, understanding, and open to criticism. Patience is also something that I continually have to practice. Lastly, the power of self-care is real. Take that hour for yourself to do something for you and don't feel guilty.

What was it like moving the company from San Francisco to Brooklyn?
It's been great and very beneficial for our brand. We'd hit our ceiling in SF at the time and it was either LA or BK. So, we chose BK/NYC because the networking is unbelievable and we've been so fortunate to have had so many opportunities for Floss Gloss. Winters are tough, but that's why there's Miami.

How do you keep yourself motivated?
Sheer urgency, drive, and ambition. If I don't grind and hustle I can't pay myself or my overhead/employees, etc. They depend on me and I also depend on me to make that happen.

What are some of your favorite things about being the Floss Gloss Boss?
Feedback from first-time customers who really get what we do and why we do it. It's really rewarding to read a review or a comment from someone that took a chance on Floss Gloss. And honestly, things like this. Sharing the Floss Gloss story!

Where do you hope to see Floss Gloss go in the next year?
Nowhere but up, baby! And of course, hitting our sales goals, growing, and hopefully being available in more states and countries across the globe!

What are some hidden gems in Brooklyn?
Oh so many! I'm a southern California girl at heart and tacos can be sparse here, but Guadalajara de Dia 2 -- very important, #2 is the best! They have the best tacos I've had in Brooklyn. Cafe Mogador has amazing and fresh Mediterranean food. El Cortez for their nachos, aesthetic, and decor. And finally, Friends NYC, I can never not find something to buy in there. Women owned and operated, they also stock Floss Gloss and support local makers/designers, like us!

What does MISSBISH mean to you?
I might be a hot, smart, classy lady -- but don't get it twisted, I'm about my business!

Who's your MISSBISH? Tell us who she is and why she's an inspiration to you.
My MISSBISH would have to be my mom and the strong women in my family that have made my dreams possible. I wouldn't be here today without them. I owe it all to them.

Photos by: Valine Brana

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