Samuel & Samantha Sweet Interview – A Double Dose of Sweet Squared
Tell us a little about Sweet Squared & how it come about?
At its core, Sweet Squared are nail professionals that believe passionately in people that are proud to be nail professionals too. We source, import, market, promote, educate and distribute the industries most envied and desired brands but with an approach we are proud to say is different from the norm.
Instead of the old lame and tired approach to distribution where sales are the centre of all decision making; we invert that approach by placing the professional at the core of all our decisions. For example, if you were a fly on the wall in one of our meetings you wouldn’t hear us strategizing on how we shift a product, instead you would hear us talking about how we can surprise, delight and make meaningful impact to our customer; the professional.
We think our approach kicks the crap out of the alternative.
Where are you located?
S2 Galactic HQ is about 5 miles outside of the great City of Leeds! S2 is based on the Leeds Ring Road – right next door to McDonalds – (handy for Samuel) and only a tenner cab fare from Leeds City Station. We are close to the famous Headingley Yorkshire County Cricket Ground (only 2.5 miles away) and also home to many Leeds Uni students! But with our 50 education ambassadors, creative academies, distributor partners and our kick ass web site, we are never far from you no matter where you nail!
What do you offer and what brands do you distribute?
We are the exclusive distributor partners for CND, CND Shellac, Minx, Lumos, Glitzy Lips, Irresistible Glitters and home of the UK network of creative academies (50 in total) and of course owners of www.salongeek.com – the largest global, professional online community for nail, beauty and hair professionals (or geeks as they like to call themselves!)
What makes Creative Academy Courses differ from other courses?
We know nails – really freaking well. We don’t teach opinion we only teach proven facts that are substantiated by the one of a kind R&D laboratory at CND. This is one of the core reasons why we have won multiple Best Industry Education awards and best Supplier Specific Training awards.
Our team of ambassadors are the crème de la crème. Chosen from the best of the best and then trained at the infamous CND “Boot Camp”. Our CND ambassadors are as passionate about professionals as we are. Fuel that passion with real scientific knowledge and you have the most potent education experience possible!
What has made Salon Geek become so popular and grow into the World’s largest online community for nail and beauty professionals?
I think the heart of the crazy success of SalonGeek.com is that it is a one-of-a-kind source to connect with other likeminded professionals across the globe. It is a place to discover others as passionate as or even more passionate than yourself about our industry. It is a place to learn from your peers without having sales pitches thrown at you and a great place to see what’s hot and what’s not in our industry. What is even better is that you often interact with real celebrities within the industry too! Ultimately SalonGeek.com is about connecting with your industry and we are incredibly proud that it has accomplished that!
Sam, Samantha and Sweet Squared, each of you has an impressive track record. You must need a bigger display case soon, tell us about the some of the awards you’ve won.
We do have some wonderful awards through our years pre S2, but its those since starting S2 that are extra special to us. They are the ones that are not about just Sam and I – they are really about the Sweet Squared team. We wouldn’t be who we are without the enormous passion and love our team has for us, the products and the company! They are why S2 brings home the bacon in the award department!
Everyone at S2 from our ambassadors to marketing and purchasing to the heroes that ship the orders from our SquareHouse (so much cooler than some “guy” shipping stuff from a “warehouse” don’t you think?) to the customer loyalty team guiding customers on career development and order placement; they create the unique experience for customers that are at the heart of much of the recognition we receive.
We have multiple Best Customer Service awards and multiple Supplier Specific Training awards that we are hugely proud of.
We also have some B.E.A.Utiful awards from CND, Distributor of the Year 2009 (after just over 1 year as Sweet Squared) and Shellac Leadership in 2011. CND also surprised us last week by inviting the entire S2 team over to our S2HQ and providing us all with a fabulous lunch for becoming their number one international distributor – not bad considering we are just over 4 years old! That’s down to a wonderful Sweet team effort!
Samantha, congratulations on your recent achievement of becoming part of the NEBOD team for PHAB where you will be representing the nail sector. This is a major landmark for the nail industry. How will you be implementing your role?
Thank you. I was very honoured. Nergish who seriously, does the most amazing job and is the PHAB driving force, had told me I had been recommended to her; not sure who did but I am thankful to them. We have a lot of work to do but PHAB is seriously a great way for the consumer to recognize a salon or mobile that has gone above and beyond in their achievements and efforts in gaining distinction points in all areas necessary to become a ‘recommended salon’ – the best of the best!
If I were a consumer I would want to know where I could get treatments done by true professionals who go above and beyond!
What effect will PHAB have on both the industry as a whole and the average tech?
It will raise the bar – it is raising the bar! Salons who want to be recommended will make that added effort to push forward and educate their team so that they can pass Reception/ treatment questions which in turn makes them better at their job. The hair professionals have really embraced this and I would love to see the nail pros embrace it also!
Sam, you started off as a graphics artist. What did your friends say when you explained that you were changing occupation to ‘do nails’? Based on your own knowledge and wisdom do you have any advice for new techs in the field?
Ha. Nothing at first because I made everyone promise not to tell my friends what I was doing! I was a 21 year old kid accidently getting involved in a field virtually void of men.
Saying that, within a few months, I was so in love with the whole gig that I couldn’t help bragging about what a seriously sweet job I had. In fact, I don’t think I’ve stopped bragging since.
The only advice I could offer a newbie looking into becoming a professional is: Don’t wait. Just do it. Be patient, it is harder than it looks just as it is far more rewarding than it looks. Be sure to find a partner (in both your personal and professional life) that supports your dreams; this is an industry that can make them come true.
In fact, I can’t think of an industry which affords so much opportunity and satisfaction. Nails did not come naturally to me, but the constant evolution of skills, the time with my clients, the ability to be my own boss, being able to travel to countless countries, to settle in a home half way across the world with a beautiful wife, to raise an amazing family and to be a part of a business which has such a positive impact on so many people. That’s pretty special and something I am immensely proud of. That is what this industry can give!
Last year Sweet Squared made their debut trade show appearance at Professional Beauty ExCel 2011 and again created a buzz on the show floor at Olympia Beauty in London. Do you have a favourite aspect of exhibiting?
Trade shows are a heck of a lot of hard work and investment but connecting with our customers face to face and being able to dish out our patented love and respect in person is second to none. What is almost as cool as the face time with customers is getting to watch our amazing CND education ambassador team kick beautiful ‘booty’ on the demo floor! I think Sweet Squared are pretty good at getting our customers excited for what we have in store! Show goers come to see us for great deals, the exclusive new products and to drop by and say hi! Trade shows sure are a lot different to the more intimate weekend extravaganza we put on known as “The Event”! Now that is something that really excites our customers!
Congratulations again on winning two categories of the Guild Awards Of Excellence 2011; Best Customer Services & Best Supplier Specific Training. This is a proving a very successful year for Sweet Squared, have you anything in the pipeline you can give us a sneak peek of?
Well let’s see… we have been nominated for 3 new Guild Awards for 2012. We are sponsoring Dancing on Ice with CND Shellac, Minx and Glitzy Lips; we have won Best Cuticle Oil – CND SolarOil and Best Base Coat – CND Stickey in the Best Beauty Buys for InStyle Awards 2012 (that makes it 9 years running). Lumos won Best Base Coat at the Elle Awards and we have a tone of LFW shows lined up! It’s all go!
We may even be looking at the Event 3.0 later this year to celebrate our 5th birthday!
When are the next Square Awards?
At the next event! This will be packed with key note speakers, on stage demos, presentations, Square Awards, new product launches and we are celebrating S2’s 5th birthday, it is going to be amazing! We are very proud of “The Squares” as they are the way that we get to honour the industry as we see it. The only challenge we have is trying to keep the number of awards down to a level so people still have plenty of time to party afterwards! Dates TBA!
What makes Sweet Squared rock as much as it does?
Our team. Seriously. If you want to honestly provide an A+ experience for your customer, you need to attract A+ teammates. A+ players “get it” and take initiative to deliver on your promise to the industry in ways you hadn’t even considered yet.
For instance, just last week Kay, our lead sales emissary (we don’t do “reps”) suggested we get together a small group of leading spa directors for a day of relaxation, pampering and interaction. The objective of the day was not to have a sales meeting or to pitch products, but simply to say “thanks” and to listen to ways in which we can help our customers accomplish their goals better. It was a genius suggestion and an incredibly powerful day. Powerful not just for those that attended, but for all of our customers as we implement programs and tools that we hadn’t even thought of yet. That afternoon alone will bring benefits to our large day spa’s through to our single mobile professionals.
That is the type of initiative that our team takes. That is the type of company culture we strive to maintain. And that is why we rock.
What are the differences between the nail industry in the US and in the UK?
Well, first off – licensing. The USA is the only country in the world where the majority of states require licening to be a professional. That means that you have to go to school for around an average of 500 hours and then pass a state board exam before you can perform treatments on the public. This also means there is a clear demarcation between the public and the professional when it comes to purchasing professional products.
Although there isn’t licensing per say here in the UK, we still adopt a similar philosophy in selling our products. If you cannot prove that you have a minimum level of training and experience, we simply will not sell you product. To us, protecting the privacy and privilege of our professionals is far more important than flogging some product to make a bit of extra cash. Another key difference is that US nail professional can generally get a wide variety of competitive brands all from one supplier whereas internationally, brands are generally distributed exclusively of one another.
In our opinion, that exclusivity is essential as it allows us to get behind a brand and truly partner with them instead of simply trading off shelf space in a store and trying to flog whatever is on special at that moment.
But ultimately there is little difference between the people in our profession. Our industry is freaking awesome as it is densely populated with a soul and spirit unlike any other. Nail professionals are creative, high energy, inspirational and extremely personable. A nail professional is the type of person who would all be miserable working as a bean counter in some back office. That “essence” is a common denominator in professionals all over the globe.
What tips do you have to help techs turn a footfall customer into a longterm client?
Easy – and if you stick to this you simply can not go wrong! Be passionate. Know your product offerings inside and out and love them passionately (if you aren’t passionate about them… you aren’t using the right product for you). Be consistent. Offer a great treatment and keep it consistent so every time your client comes back to you, her treatment is always as good as the last! Invest in your career. Develop your skills and take at least two courses per year to keep yourself updated – always know more than your customer! Give. Give from your heart because it feels good and right; when you give, you get! And always be thankful every day for all the wonderful things you have, the things you do, the people you meet and the lives you touch!
Finally love. Love what you do and do it with pride, with honour, with passion, with love and with respect for the individual paying you to perform your magic! If you do all of these things – how on earth can you fail at anything?
Where would you like to see the nail industry in 10 years?
I would love to see the same respect offered to nail professionals that hair and beauty professionals receive; it is happening for sure. I would also like to see other nail companies stop selling to the non-professional… how can we become more professional if they are simply willing to sell to anyone? Surely we should honour our professionals by making sure we are not selling to their customers? And finally, I hope to see that in 10 years the industry will have evolved, even matured but that the core spirit of the nail professional will always stay the same.
What do you love most about your work?
Getting to work together. I know its not a normal thing, but we live and breathe work and are immensely proud of what we do. I couldn’t imaging not sharing that experience like we do. One awesome aspect that is seriously cool about work is getting to working with CND co-founder Jim Nordstrom (who is a not only a legend, but a one-of-a-kind mentor). From day one, Jim has always been highly engaged in S2 decision making and brings with him an incredible wealth of experience. It also really helps that Jim’s business philosophy and belief in company culture fits snuggly with ours.
And of course… the Squares. Our team. They freaking rule.
If you could wave a magic wand and change 1 thing about the industry what would it be?
Our industry can sometimes attract a lot of bottom feeders trying to turn a quick buck off the back of professionals. Bottom feeders seldom know much about nails and generally don’t care to learn, so they come and go. I would love to invent some kind of shield around our industry that just bounces these types of people off into another direction… that would be cool.
What is a typical day in the Sweet household?
With Haydn (our oldest son) now off at University, the house is a little less manic. Our youngest son Dexter generally kick starts the day at 7am with his “ritual”; a damn near OCD process of how he gets ready every single morning (down to the minute). This includes waking us up by stomping through the kitchen on cue (our room is directly below the kitchen).
Samantha: I have generally answered my emails up until 11pm the night before so I catch up on new emails and such while Samuel gets ready. Then I get ready and head off to the office. Depending on what is in the pipeline, I may meet with purchasing and marketing (who sit in the office opposite me), or with our customer loyalty team manager or education manager. When Jim comes in from San Diego, it is a full on meeting week and he always stays with us so it is work from 9am to 11pm lol! We get our best ideas around the kitchen table with a good bottle of chardonnay (or Sam’s martinis which I can’t abide)! I have weekly calls with our distributor partners to catch them up on S2 news and for them to catch me up on their news! There are so many things I do so it is difficult to pin point an exact day – but it is never dull or boring!!
Samuel: I always start my day with a stop in to our local Costa. But that is about where the predictability ends.
Depending on what we have going on and what we want to accomplish, every single day is totally different.
What could you not leave home without?
Samantha: Oh it sounds so cliché but – my iPad and my iPhone plus my trusty bottle of water!
Samuel: Mmm. Pants?
What was the last purchase you made?
Samantha: A Donna Karen evening dress! I will wear it at the City of Hope Ball honoring OPI’s George Schaffer, in Las Vegas in August!
Samuel: A new computer for home. Mine sort of died and I am a serious sucker for tech. Samantha is going to have heart palpitations, but now that I have just read that she has a new dress for a ball, I feel much better coming clean about my new computer.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
Samantha: to be able to understand, speak, read and write all languages in the world! Can you imagine? How amazing would that be? Although it has nada to do with speaking all languages in the world, I think my call sign would have to be Sweet Heart because I think I am (lol) and people have commented on my ability to be empathetic and kind! I am proud of that! It’s nice to be kind and to make someone feel better or special!
Samuel: When I was 8, I used to spend my summer afternoons desperately trying to get bit by this dorky (and totally inert) garden spider out in our garden. My goal was to swing like Spidey to and from school so I didn’t have to walk the 4 blocks either way (4 blocks with kid legs is the equivalent to 20 blocks with adult legs). I never could get that spider to do it and I was way too chicken to upgrade to a more serious looking spider so I am still after all these years superpowerless. So, if I could have any power… I guess it would be that. If only to fulfill a childhood dream (and save walking anywhere as an adult).
Sweet Squared have made the final 5 in Industry Innovator, Best Customer Care, Best Marketing & Support and Best Education & Training categories of the 2012 Scratch Stars Awards. Voting is now closed and the winners will be announced at the Awards later in the year.
Thanks to Samantha and Samuel for answering our questions, sharing more about themselves and giving their advice to our readers. Be sure to check out Sweet Squared to see what they’ve been up to!
Stay tuned for more interesting interviews with other fun & fearless members of the nail industry.