To Cheryl Ou, being super means being independent and having a say in how one wants to live their life.

The 35-year-old founder of the socially-conscious nail salon, The Nail Social has come a long way from her early days in the start-up scene. From nail salons to backpacker hostels, the business maven had dipped her feet into businesses across many industries when a bad experience with an investor led her to rethink her own motivations for running a business.

“I used to think that all entrepreneurs start their own business because of passion. Looking back, I guess it was rather naive of me. Partnering with an investor made me realize very quickly that everyone had different motivations. For some, it is all about the money and chasing profits, and making use of people to make more money,” she says.

After a clash with the investor, Cheryl was forced out of her own business without seeing a single cent of profit. Armed with a purpose, she took the opportunity to start anew. “I’ve seen the kind of person you become when you only look at money as your only motivation and that is not the kind of person I want to be,” she says.

Cheryl reached out to her ex-employee and manager of her first nail salon, Germaine, and together, they opened The Nail Social to provide skill training and employment to those who needed it the most – underprivileged women such as single mothers who face especially high barriers to employment, lacking a support network and the necessary skill needed to be independent.

“I don’t have lots of money to donate to charity but what I have is a skill. Germaine and I decided to use our experience and knowledge to pass on our skills to other women who were keen on entering the nail industry, but could not afford signing up for a course,” she says. Beauty-related courses in Singapore demand as much as $3,000 for a 3-month course to $6,000 for an 11-month diploma certificate.

Ladies from the team at The Nail Social

The Nail Social works together with social service agencies like the Daughters Of Tomorrow, YWCA and other family services centres to identify women who could benefit from their 2-month vocational training programme. Suitable candidates are then offered employment to join the core team at the salon, helping them find confidence and empowering them towards independence.

“We started on this journey in the hopes of being able to change someone’s life for the better. When I look at how far some of our beneficiaries have come, it really makes this journey all worth it,” Cheryl says. “Some joined us when they were at their lowest point and having no confidence at all to speak to customers. And today, they are able to chit chat and joke with customers. Furthermore, they are now also able to help train and mentor the new trainees that join the programme!”

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