Jooyeon Song and David Miró Llopis, two current second-year MBAs at the Stanford GSB, are on a mission to bring efficient manicures to millennials. They are co-founders of Mani.Me, a direct to consumer 3D-printed manicure subscription service. I recently sat down with them to discuss Mani.Me’s journey thus far and their shared vision to invent the manicure of the future.
The Origin: In search of an efficient manicure
Jooyeon Song is a lifelong nail care enthusiast. For most of her adult years, she went to nail salons to get manicures on a regular basis. However, when she started her demanding job at the Boston Consulting Group, time became scarce.
“Going to the salon for a two hour manicure every few weeks became burdensome with my busy work schedule.”
– Jooyeon Song, Mani.Me Co-Founder
Thus, Song started seeking at-home alternatives. She asked her sister to mail her the best quality artificial nails from Seoul. To her disappointment, they arrived packaged in sets of 30 to try on individually for size until 10 fit. This process that was painstakingly long. The press-on nails never perfectly fit the contour and curvature of her nails, and they always looked worse than a manicure from a nail salon.
In September 2017, Song started pursuing her MBA at the Stanford Graduate School of Business with an entrepreneurial mission to make beautiful manicures easier to get. She constantly discussed her problem and brainstormed solutions with classmates, eventually catching the attention of David Miró Llopis, a former consultant at Bain & Company. Particularly excited by the opportunity space, he joined Song’s project when it was accepted into the Stanford d.school’s Launchpad class, an intense course in product design and development.
The Product: 3D printed manicures
Song and Miró co-founded Mani.Me, a startup that custom tailors and designs manicures to fit customers’ nails exactly. With only five phone photos and a standard credit card for size, customers are able to size up their nails, select an original design, and order the perfect manicure tailor-made for them.
Mani.Me’s value proposition is its custom photogrammetry software that turns the photographs of the nails into CAD models with their exact curvatures and lengths. The company has a patent pending on this software. Then, the designs the customer chooses are applied to the models, and the nail bases are 3D printed in a specialized manufacturing procedure that Mani.Me developed.
Mani.Me’s nails aren’t just more convenient; they’re also much healthier. Song remarked that “every artificial nail glue in the market has some level of toxicity,” which poses problems for her and similarly health-conscious beauty consumers. As a result, she and David worked with a company in Korea to test and develop a toxin-free adhesive and deactivator solution for which Mani.Me has the exclusive rights to distribute in the United States.
While Mani.Me has no competitors, substitutes include are from nail salons and high end press-on nails that are high-end like those from Static Nails. Among these, Mani.Me is uniquely leveraging frontier technology to solve the pain-points of nail care.
The Market: Why now?
The market size for manicures is $10Bn in the US annually, roughly $8Bn from nail salons and $2Bn from at-home nail products including artificial nails and polishes and is expected to grow at a 5.8% 5-Year CAGR.
Mani.Me has a thesis that if millennials had the choice, they would not commit to the same nail style for 2 – 3 weeks at a time. Instead, they would prefer to quickly swap out styles on a more frequent basis, but choose not to because of how time-consuming manicures are now. This cultural penchant for variety and customization is reflected in broader consumption patterns:
“Millennials don’t like to commit to one design, brand or style. They prefer to rent many outfits instead of buying a few using Rent the Runway. They prefer to explore many gyms instead of belonging to only one using ClassPass.”
– Jooyeon Song, Mani.Me Co-Founder
Additionally, millennials have a preference for online direct to consumer purchasing, as evidenced by the success off Casper mattresses, Warby Parker glasses, and AllBirds sneakers, among many others. Mani.Me taps into this model as well, enabling consumers to buy nails directly.
With that in mind, Mani.Me offers a monthly subscription service to its customers. They can order 3 sets of nails for $55 or 5 sets of nails for $85 monthly. Customers can also choose to make 1-off purchases for $20 to $30 per set. Mani.Me has created a waitlist on their website where customers have signed up to be the first to receive their 3D printed manicures this fall.
Mani.Me Co-Founders, David Miró Llopis and Jooyeon Song
Company development: TechStars and Continued Growth
This past summer, Mani.Me was accepted into the selective TechStars Accelerator program, which has an acceptance rate of ~1%. There, Song and Miró built the patent-pending photogrammetry software, consumer mobile app, and design-in-nail manufacturing process.
“To build the most accurate photogrammetry software, we iterated through over 10,000 fingers and 50 versions of the software, building the largest dataset of nails in the world. ”
– David Miró Llopis, Mani.Me Co-Founder
As their dataset grows with each new customer, Mani.Me’s founders will continuously improve their deep learning models, accessing exponential gains.
In designing the consumer app, the Mani.Me team conducted hundreds of user interviews and user tests to craft a mobile experience that is extremely intuitive. User friendliness is crucial to Mani.Me’s main selling point of a totally frictionless process: customers should be able to order their custom nails anywhere and anytime.
Jooyeon Song presenting at TechStars Additive Manufacturing demo day
Stanley Black & Decker, a TechStars partner, helped Mani.Me invent the novel one-step 3D printing design-in-nail process. The team iterated through dozens of materials and design application processes before coming to a solution that was scalable and high quality. At the end of the TechStars Summer Program, the founders were featured in the 30 under 30 for 3D printing by 3D natives. Last month, Joyeeon presented Mani.Me at TechStars Additive Manufacturing demo day in front of 450. The recorded live stream is available here.
Miró and Song will continue building Mani.Me after graduating from Stanford in June, and plan to locate New York or Los Angeles. They are currently looking to raise a seed round from VCs with expertise in direct to consumer sales and 3D printing. The team already has $200,000 in commitments from professors and classmates at Stanford who are excited about the product and the company’s potential. Miró and Song plan to use the money raised to invest in manufacturing machines and recruit a top-of-class marketing and engineering team to join them in creating the custom-fitted and designed manicures of the future.