“It started during the pandemic,” began Serenity Nail Polish co-founder Jasmine Phinex. “She always loved getting her nails done, and so one day she asked me to go to the store and I was trying to explain that the stores were closed. At the time my daughter was like 3, and she said ‘[make] Serenity Nail Polish then.’ I took that and was like, you know what, we need to just start our own nail polish company because this is something that she loves and enjoys.”

Phinex’s daughter Serenity, whom the company is named after, is a small child with a big love for getting her nails painted. What started as a moment shared between her and her mom during last year’s pandemic ballooned into an entire business plan to create a non-toxic nail polish brand with a focus on creativity and self-expression for children. 

Phinex co-founded the company with her husband, James, and they decided to name their now 4-year-old daughter a CEO with a stake in the company as well. She and her husband want to leave a legacy for their daughter and begin to create generational wealth.

The company officially launched back in February 2021 and sales have been booming, said Phenix. Serenity Nail Polish sells gel polishes, nail art, polish remover, nail kits, UV lamps, and unique nail polish sets at their online store.

“I actually used the stimulus money that we got last year to start the business,” said Phinex. 

Phinex is a full-time teacher at Achievement First charter school in Queens. 

She said she used about $8,000 in savings to also fund the business. She said at the time she wasn’t aware of Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (M/WBE) assistance and the company didn’t qualify just yet. Phinex said finding capital continues to be their biggest challenge, but she remains undeterred and will not give up.

“Whatever it is that you do, once it’s your purpose, keep walking in your purpose no matter what,” she said.

She started research for her company by reaching out to a Black-owned nail salon near her for ideas. She then launched herself into taking business classes, trademarking, and marketing their fledgling company.

The vegan component to the business was important, said Phinex, because it had to be safe for children as well as adults. “All of the harmful chemicals that regular nail polish contains is linked to so many health conditions that people are unaware of,” said Phinex.

Harmful ingredients such as formaldehyde, toluene, dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde resin, and camphor can be found in some nail polishes, according to Harvard Health Publishing. 

Formaldehyde, for example, is a preservative that has been recognized as a “potential cancer-causing substance” that can also cause an allergic reaction for some people when it comes in contact with their skin. 

Harvard Health said that “studies have shown that chemicals in nail polish can be absorbed into the body, but the exact amount of absorption, and whether it is enough to have negative health effects, are not well established.”

Just to be on the safe side, Phinex said they went with the vegan option for their products, “especially since kids put their hands in their mouth.”

The testing period to create sustainable and safe products took about six months before releasing it to the public, she said. 

The COVID lockdown and work-from-home schedule allowed Phinex to juggle building the brand and products while caring for her daughter at the same time. 

“It was pretty tricky and I really felt for our children,” said Phinex about this past school year. “Some of our children eat only when they’re at school. So my mind was on them. What was home like for them. I think that’s the part that I definitely thought about a lot, and I wanted to make sure I checked in with them a lot. It took an adjustment for me as a teacher to learn to manage a classroom online, make sure they even had a computer or internet access at home.” 

While Phinex was busy teaching and handling the logistics of the nail polish business, she said she included her daughter in the process.

“Teaching our children from young, especially our children, financial literacy,” said Phinex. “She is a true CEO.” 

Phinex said her daughter goes everywhere with her, and will eventually be attending the same school she teaches at in the fall this September.

Next steps in the business, she said, is to open a kid’s nail salon and spa eventually. 

“It’s going to take care of the kid’s mental health, a little pampering because they need it. Oftentimes we focus on adult mental health and it’s like why don’t we have the same thing for our children. They’re our future. They’re the next generation and who we’re raising up,” said Phinex.