LOVE what you do! If you love what you do, you strive daily to perfect what you do!
As part of my interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing CND Co-founder Jan Arnold. She is a pioneer in the world of beauty. With a career that has spanned over 40 years, Jan has become an unparalleled leader in the nail industry, specifically championing the Nail Professional while providing innovative, quality products rooted in nail health, safety and style. Passionately driven to progress the professional nail category, Jan stands at the forefront of CND, ensuring this influential spirit is infused into each aspect of the brand, from science-backed product innovation to cutting edge nail style on fashion runways globally, to the Professionals that bring expert services to life in salons every day.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I have always been an artist and a lover of fashion and nails. I was going down the fashion designer path, attending Fashion Institute and Art School and paying for it as an assistant buyer for a department store in Los Angeles.
Even before a passion for fashion and nails, since I can remember, I have had dreadful nails. My entire family have upturned, what we call ‘ski-jump’ nail shape; I blame my Swedish father who kindly passed them down to all five of his children. Since I was 17 years old, I have worn nail enhancements to camouflage and transform the look of my natural nails. Then flash forward to 1979, when my dad, Dr. Stuart S. Nordstrom, a practicing dentist and chemist, invented our first nail enhancement innovation which was called SolarNailä.
As a family, we were born to travel this path to help fellow ski-jumpers, like us, have their nails transformed into gorgeous and expressive works of art. We adopted dad’s vision, forward-thinking brain, and commitment to the consumer and the nail professional — which continues to be the driving force behind the brand’s success.
There are so many great memories from that time of starting the company. For me personally, it was so rewarding to take my passion for art and fashion and translate it to our approach to business, nails and the profession. It is with this vision and deep-rooted commitment to innovation, that we were lucky to travel (a dream!), see the world and meet inspiring Nail Professionals around the globe, who inspired our future breakthroughs that would go on to transform an entire industry.
Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this career path?
It really started when I won a drawing contest on a TV show, the name of it has since escaped me, when I was seven years old, for National Dental Week. I drew a tooth with a top hat, cane and tails and the day they announced the winner, I saw my drawing on the television set! I couldn’t believe it. What did I win? A year’s supply of Hostess Twinkies — I’m not kidding! As a dentist’s kid, I was allowed to keep one or two and the rest went to the neighbor kids.
This was my early foray into a love for teeth and the restoration of teeth using polymers. I became my father’s chairside assistant all through high school; we were a fabulous team. He taught me to see what was happening on this tiny sculpture and be proactive in the instruments I handed him to fix them. He encouraged me to go to dental school, until the day I passed out on a patient during surgery, then my artist direction was sealed. All the while, my brother, and co-founder of CND followed a pre-med and finance path and low and behold, we were able to combine forces to cover all the disciplines for a viable and thriving business. My father was our chemist and he found that the common material being used in the salon at the time for sculpting nails was a single link polymer, which was weak and prone to yellowing, cracking and breakdown. He thought by utilizing cross-linked technology, that he could create a coating that was color stable, resilient and impervious to solvents. He received a patent for his efforts and gave this to us, his children, but it was up to us to create something from it.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
When we first started CND, my brother Jim and I traveled the world, introducing the brand at professional events and trade shows. During that time, we were young and got into some crazy situations — we’ve been chased by dogs in Italy, ran into a pack Javelina boars in Arizona, had our car towed in Dusseldorf, and danced all night in Denver…all because of nails! We still laugh about those moments today. We learned life, love and laughter during these amazing formative times.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I was the apple of my father’s eye. We were alike, both artist and shy as it gets. My dad was so shy and he always said to me, ‘don’t be shy, it’s the most selfish trait you can have.’ So, through business, I decided I couldn’t be shy, and I had to put myself out there. It’s not about me, it’s about them!
Early in the founding of the company, I was asked to give a presentation to 200 salesmen in Oklahoma. All cowboys, in cowboy hats, salesmen who called on salons in the state. With my dad and brother in the back of the room, I was rehearsed and prepared and ready to enlighten the boys about nails! I got up to the podium and someone handed me a big fat microphone. I had not anticipated holding a heavy device and it threw me off my game. I panicked and almost passed out, delivering the entire speech while hyperventilating. It was positively the most dreadful time of my life, and I was ready to leave my very newly found career. But then I realized that public speaking is a skill that must be learned so I tackled it and WON!!! I now love getting in front of an audience and can’t wait to share what I know about my business because I learned the hard way, it’s not about me, IT’S ABOUT THEM, always!
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Yes, one very important influencer to me was our speaking coach, Susan Cox. Susan developed a method of presentation skill that addressed every aspect of connection with people in any size audience. She broke it all down one by one: the eyes, the hands, your feet and gestures. Each part of your body can help to convey your message and learning them one by one empowers confidence, effective communication and control of your pace and confidence. I not only practice these skills on stage, but also at a cocktail party or the dinner table, which I consider the communication center with friends and family. If you’ve ever watched Collin Powell, he practices the same skills, he’s a masterful communicator and one of my idols.
According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still must be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?
Wow, I’m quite shocked at this stat because, in my world of the professional beauty industry, women rule; 90% of all salon owners and stylists are female! I feel inspired by these entrepreneurs who have a passion for their art and a confidence to build a business around it. These are women who understand that beauty truly changes lives, and they are the magic makers that give us all the confidence to do anything. I guess my advice for women is GO INTO BEAUTY!
Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?
Women can do anything, as we all know, and what’s most critical is finding a passion, channeling the drive, having a goal and working your butt off to get there. During my career development, I did business with all men on the distribution side. I loved it because I was unique and different to them, they were tired of talking to themselves and found me interesting. Find that unique opening and go for it, and don’t be shy, follow every opportunity.
Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?
There is nothing more exhilarating than finding something that ignites you, something you can sink your teeth into, dream about and be thrilled by! That’s what being a founder is all about. It’s also a wild ride, so it’s not for the faint of heart. There are ups and down and risks along the way. It’s important to surround yourself with people who complement what you do for balance. When my brother and I were building our company, I was always ‘salt’ and he was ‘pepper,’ almost opposites in every way, so we blended our vision to do the perfect spice on which to make decisions and build strategy. It taught me to compromise and teamwork, and helped to develop a sense of openness that was critical to our success.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder. Can you explain what you mean?
I guess one could be that we like things the way they were upon the founding of the business. Alleged close-minded and back focused. But I can attest, that staying open and fresh is the gift of a founder over time because the mission and vision are in the soul, the long term objective is crystal clear so there’s no question of commitment and clarity which then allows for exploratory dreaming. I’ve never stopped dreaming and looking for the next creative opportunity.
Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?
I believe you must be courageous, committed, and creative in everything you do. You also need to do twice as much listening as talking. When you observe everything, you see going on around you, it fuels you from a business, creative and innovation perspective. We can translate what we hear on a scientific level and translate it into something meaningful for both the professional industry and clients.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
At CND, we are known for our brand personality in everything we do, and I truly believe these attributes are the recipe for success:
1. Be passionate: LOVE what you do! If you love what you do, you strive daily to perfect what you do!
2. Be professional: Use systems, be the guardian of the industry, model leadership, practice excellent communication skills, be precise and connected!
3. Be polished: Stand tall, dress for success, speak clearly and correctly.
4. Be grounded by principles: Do the right thing always — be good to yourself, your clients, and your colleagues, go the extra mile to be a professional leader all the way.
5. Be BOLD! Do it well or go home. Strive every day to learn and to be the best you can be!
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Through Beauty Changes Lives (BCL), an organization dedicated to support the entire Nail and Beauty Industry through the Beauty Professional. Beauty Changes Lives is a nonprofit driven to make the beauty profession a first-choice career by empowering individuals with mentorship, inspiration and scholarships. I am a proud founding board member, dedicated to our mission of empowering the next generation of beauty professionals with the education and expertise to realize their full potential — and the full potential of the beauty industry. Beauty Changes Lives works with leaders across specialties to sponsor scholarships, foster mentorships and provide the stage on which to showcase our individual and industry impact. Working together, we’re building more confidence in our industry, our clients and our communities.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be?
To help establish an active and global Cultural Intelligence (EQ) with a commitment to supporting diversity, equality and inclusion.
Is there a person in the world with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
Rei Kawakubo, founder of Comme des Garçons, my favorite designer of all time! She’s unique and listens to her own creative voice. I also have an instinct that I was once Japanese man in previous life; we are meant to know each other.