Polish Pickup offers a fun, interactive experience for indie nail polish lovers

Adrienne and Sarah first began to hang out in the world of indie nail polish when they started their own company, Fair Maiden Polish, in 2014. There they interacted with fellow indie makers as well as customers, and found that a lot of makers liked to collaborate on projects like boxes.

“I sensed that the makers were having more fun working together than the customers were starting to receive these things just because over time the excitement of it started to play out and dry up and whatnot. It was no longer the cool thing to do a box,” Adrienne told GeekFold. “Boxes still do great, I'm not taking anything away from that, but my vision was that I wanted to do something more involved but I didn’t want to do a box. We all love to collaborate and work together. Why not just offer something that everyone can be a part of? That’s where [Polish Pickup] was born.”

The duo started the website for Polish Pickup around December 2016. After getting around 12 other makers involved, they launched in April 2017. They had about 150 sales and have been growing ever since. According to Adrienne, the customer base has “exploded in the past few months.”

The concept for Polish Pickup is fun and interactive. Every month has a theme that is nominated and voted on by customers, and inspires the polishes that are then made available. The makers that are involved each month talk behind-the-scenes and make sure their polishes are unique from each other. The polishes are then listed for preorder from the first Friday of the month through to Monday. For example, the March sale ran from March 1 to March 5. There is no commitment or minimum purchase amount required. You can buy one polish or you can buy 10.

In the week leading to the monthly sale, they open up theme nominations and people can submit up to three ideas for a future month.

“We get probably about 1,000 different ideas and then we sort them on the backend and see the ones that are really popular, usually something like flowers, space, books, a lot of them that we’re starting to cover each month,” Adrienne explained.

  Adrienne and Sarah in their shipping office. Photo credit: Polish Pickup.

Adrienne and Sarah in their shipping office. Photo credit: Polish Pickup.

A few of the themes they’ve had since launching last year include monsters and mythical creatures, fandom, and science. This March the theme was books and in April the theme will be space. Adrienne is dying to get to a few other themes in the future as well, like ‘90s TV shows, music, album covers, and ‘80s themes, and she believes they will get to all of these ideas eventually. One often suggested theme they might not ever get to though is tacos.

“I think it’s always submitted as a joke and I think we all secretly hope it never actually goes through because that would be interesting, to have 80 different polishes based on tacos,” she said.

After receiving nominations, Adrienne works with the other admins on the backend to decide which ones to offer as a list of ten for people to vote on.

“We put that up on the same day that the sale starts so that goes up Friday. When you’re done shopping at the store you can come back and vote for whatever your favorite idea is and then you get that instant gratification so you can see what theme is in the lead and some people will take to Facebook to try to make a run for what they want and it’s kind of fun,” she said.

The themes inspire creative polishes by the makers. For example, for the March book theme, there was As You Wish inspired by The Princess Bride, Watch Her Fly inspired by Dragonquest, and Master of Death inspired by the Deathly Hallows from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

The number of makers that Polish Pickup works with has increased as they’ve grown. Adrienne said the last three months they’ve kept it at 70, but they’ve since procured additional space for their business which means they can now accommodate more inventory from more makers.

“We did up the list 10 more for April than we have been taking and I think as long as the makers are continuing to make good sales, and the customers are buying, we can continue to expand that base. My concern was in the beginning, [if we] take too many on at once, is that going to exasperate the customer base? Are we all going to end up with five sales because of it? That’s not happening at all,” Adrienne said. “I think as long as we just do a slow careful methodical expansion on that and make sure this lineup is still conducive to our buyers then we’ll continue to probably increase that just so we can get everybody in.”

For makers interested in joining Polish Pickup, you can contact them via an email address on their website. Adrienne said they were so excited when they started that anyone was willing to try their concept, that their standards were low when it came to requirements for makers. Interested makers only had to have been in business for at least six months. Since growing they have increased that minimum to a year, but some companies have been grandfathered in since they’ve proven themselves to Polish Pickup. They also consider if companies know how to make a quality product, what the reviews are like, and if companies are solving customer service issues.

“We want to give everyone exposure so you might sign up one month and we might wait list you, but if you’re on that wait list for February we’re going to try really hard to get you in for March. It’s a careful strategy that my partner and I are taking into consideration because we do really want to keep that vibe of everyone can participate while still giving some seniority to those who were here with us from the start because really our customer base was built based on the brands that were a part of this…it’s a careful balance,” she explained.

It’s not just polishes that are made available each month. You can also sometimes find other items like charms and clothing inspired by the theme. Adrienne noted that a lot of indie companies that create polish also make “other nail related items and even beyond that body care [and] jewelry.” They started accepting those items as well and they’ve been popular. So much so, that Polish Pickup is planning to launch a spin off company Indie Pickup in August. Indie Pickup will focus only on handmade indie items other than nail polish.

“We’re starting to get interest from almost more people that want to contribute on that side of the house and we’re kind of losing the focus. It’s called Polish Pickup for a reason and we’re going to keep the focus there,” Adrienne said. “Obviously, there’s interest in this other field of indie products in general so we’re working on how we’re going to keep that same concept of exclusivity to the products and the theme and the voting.”

Adrienne and her partner do the bulk of the work, but in addition to expanding their space they were able to recently hire an employee to help with customer service and website work. They are also looking to hire an additional shipper since Polish Pickup handles the shipping of products to customers.

“It is preorder and customers start to get antsy as they should…It’s our goal to try and have these things out in a week and we’re starting to kind of trickle into the two-week mark and that to me is not ok,” Adrienne said.

Polish Pickup is just approaching its first anniversary and while it’s been a successful venture for the founders, it’s also been challenging for them at times, especially with so many different personalities involved.

“I think being sensitive to the makers and their concerns and their needs, that’s one challenge because there’s a lot of people involved and when you get a lot of people involved in something someone’s going to think it’s not fair or playing favorites and I think it’s one of those things we need to constantly check ourselves and make sure that we’re giving equal exposure to everyone and does it seem fair?” she said. “That would be one of the challenges and another is that we select a different blogger each month to blog and swatch all of these polishes and although we have a ton of blogger interest, it’s a huge ask to ask someone to do this and people are willing to and put this all together, but I think we’re growing to a size where it’s too much to ask just one person.”

People interested in taking all the photos and swatches needed may not realize the amount of work it really involves, as they had one blogger tell them recently it took 160 hours for them to pull it off. Polish Pickup is looking into coordinating multiple bloggers and expanding on that as their offerings grow.

With an increased number of makers being featured each month and a spin off on the horizon, it’s been an exciting year for Polish Pickup. The shop is certainly a fun place to explore each month whether you’re familiar with the indie polish community, are looking to try some indie makers for the first time, or just want to see all the fascinating products that month’s theme inspires. It will be interesting to see how the concept translates to products beyond nail polish with Indie Pickup and to see what else Polsih Pickup's second year will hold for the shop.

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