How Entrepreneur April Ryan Followed Her Dream To Make It Big
Russian-born nail artist, influencer, and owner of a seven-figure business April Ryan has experienced first-hand the struggles of growing up poor.
Hailing from Salsk, a small town in the south of Russia, April has always had to create her own opportunities. And her determination and hard work have paid off. Today, the 30-something is the owner of Red Iguana, a multi-million dollar company that sells nail products and silicone hands for practicing nail art.
Born to working-class parents, April was the youngest of three siblings. She was also one of the poorest kids in her class. “My mum would sew my clothes because we didn’t have enough money to buy new ones. I would also wear hand-me-downs from my brothers,” April says. “We had to grow our own vegetables because we didn’t have enough money to buy them at the market.”
While she was drawn to the beauty industry, April had little prospects of ever becoming a beautician. As a teenager, she did not even have enough money to buy makeup to practice her skills. Luckily, there was something else she could afford – nail polish. “My nails became my canvases,”
April says. “And while my designs were popular with my classmates, I realized that it would be difficult to become a certified nail technician in a town without even one salon.”
Luck was on April’s side. When she was 18, an independent beautician arrived in her town to run vocational classes with job placement for the top student. April’s talent for nail art landed her the position.
After six months of working 12-hour days, the ambitious girl was able to move to a bigger city and open her first salon – The Red Iguana. By the age of 23, April was running three nail bars. During this time she participated and won multiple professional nail competitions that helped her business grow.
The challenges of doing business in a tough environment however made her reassess her approach. “Running a business in Russia comes with a lot of problems,” she says. “There is a lot of jealousy and danger due to that jealousy”.
In 2014, April decided to sell her business and move to America. She boarded a plane with zero English in the hope of starting a new and less stressful life. It was not long before her skills caught the eye of an owner of a salon in Beverly Hills where she began doing nail art for celebrities such as the singer and actress Kelly Rowland.
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Even though April enjoyed her work at the nail bar, she knew that she was destined for bigger things. She started making educational videos about nail art for social media and created multiple new nail techniques. “Within six months, I had companies asking me to review their products,” she says. Sometimes she would produce up to five videos a day.
There was one problem, however. April was using her own hands in the videos. “I was working with a UV lamp and soon realized that this had a very bad effect on my skin,” she says. “I tried using fake plastic hands but they were too ugly, so I decided to make my own prosthetic hands.”
All hands on deck
April did not have to look further than her own hands for inspiration. “My hands are my favorite part of my body. I have long, skinny fingers that are perfect for demonstrating nail art so I decided to use them as models for my prosthetic hands,” she says. “It took me around six months to come up with a detailed prototype, down to the tiny scars.”
It did not take long for her viewers to start asking about the silicone hands. They mostly wanted to know where they could be purchased. And April was all too happy to oblige. She currently distributes over 2000 hands per month in five countries. These come in full and half hands, single fingers, and six skin colors. The hands are available in a soft, flexible version and a poseable option that can be fixed in the desired position.
April’s e-commerce store also stocks more than 300 professional nail products including 20 different types of nail bits, files, inks, and tips Her gel products are eco-friendly and were developed together with chemists. One of April’s most popular offerings is her subscription boxes that include between five and 10 nail products each month.
Just three years after launch, April’s online business has made $3 million in sales and is slated to reach $5 million by 2022. “Whether it’s promoting products or making silicone hands, I have always put quality before everything else,” April says. “I believe that’s why my products have been such a hit with customers.”
“There have been a number of companies that tried to jump on the bandwagon by replicating my silicone hands, many of them in China,” April says. “This doesn’t worry me. I take it as a compliment. It means that I have created a good product that I can be proud of. Plus, those other products are of much lower quality.”
April realizes that the path from poverty to prosperity is usually a difficult one: it demands determination, courage, and passion. Born in a Russian town that offered few opportunities, April had to rely on her skills and tenacity to achieve her goals. Nevertheless, she does not believe that she is special.
“Anybody can make their dreams come true. I always say, ‘Start right now. stop thinking too much. Educate yourself.’ Once you start, things are much easier than they initially appear,” she says. “And don’t stress. Even if you are not the best at something, there will always be a piece of the cake.”