Living the Dream: Sara Ricklen


Name: Sara Ricklen 

Age: 33 

Location: New York City 

Education: B.S. in Apparel Design, University of Delaware

Job title: Founder & Chief Polish Officer of Pretty Please 

What she does: 2012 was the year of the “bespoke”.  Whether it was a necklace or Louis Vuitton bag, fashionistas everywhere wanted their luxury goods made special to order.  But while everyone else was getting their customized fashion fix, nail polish lover Sara Ricklen was feeling a little left out.  That’s why Sara created Pretty Please Nail Polish, the line that allows customers to name their own shade.  You can name your polish for a bridal shower, bachelorette party, birthday soiree, sorority function, company event… the list goes on! “The idea is to take something you love and make it your own, something you can’t buy in a store,” says Sara.  “Gifts like these – ones with a personal touch – are the ones that get noticed and treasured,” says Sara. Sara spends many days, long nights and even weekends managing most of her business’s needs, including branding and operations.

How did she get her gig: Sara kicked off her career by working in PR, marketing and visual merchandising. Her experience gave her the tools to build her brand from the ground up. It was a complete surprise how the company came about. I was looking for an inexpensive but personal gift for my mom and I decided to customize a nail polish in her favorite color. When I went to order the gift online, I couldn’t find it anywhere,” says Sara.  “After a lot of research and planning, I saw a hole in the market. This was a product I was so excited about that I ultimately decided to take a leap of faith and give the company a shot.”
Paint the Town Red: Sara was thrilled to participate in New York Fashion Week.  “Seeing Pretty Please nail polish on the models for the By Misha fashion show was surreal. It was a big moment to be considered a part of New York Fashion Week,” says Sara.

Very Vera: “I think that success is something that gets redefined many times over for a business owner. Success in the first few months of a new business could mean ten sales. A few months later, it could mean landing an editorial in a national magazine,” says Sara.  Her first “I made it” moment occurred when she received a big order from Vera Bradley, who used Pretty Please nail polish in gift bags across the country for the launch of their Fall 2012 line. “It felt like my product was validated,” says Sara.

Great Minds Think Alike: Sara is dying to connect with the girls from “Their ‘Mani Monday’ nail art guide, beauty advice, and overall website are all done so well,” says Sara.  “I think we could come up with a great collaboration.”

Helping Hands: Shipping out ten bottles of nail polish is no problem. But sending out a thousand?  It’s time to send in reinforcements. Completing her first big order was the moment that Sara realized her business was going somewhere. She also made sure she had plenty of helping hands to finish the task. “It took a handful of great friends, my boyfriend, my mom, and little to no sleep over a few days, but when we got the last of the thousands of bottles out the door, it felt like we finished a marathon,” says Sara.

She said what?! Like many other eager entrepreneurs before her, Sara wasn’t immune to the naïve enthusiasm that often comes with starting your own business.Very early on I had a meeting with Birch Box. The girls were lovely and supportive but I took the meeting way too early. They asked if I would be able to supply 60,000 samples. I replied that I would be able to supply 10 bottles,” says Sara.  “I cringe every time I think about that meeting,” says Sara.

Rollercoaster Ride: If you’re starting your own business, plan for a lot of ups and downs. “Learning a new business inside and out is not an easy task and to build anything great, you need be prepared to learn from your mistakes – because there will be mistakes. That’s ok,” says Sara.  “When you believe in what you’re doing, nothing should stop you. Learn everything you can about your industry, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and above all else, keep moving forward. If you have a clear vision of what you’re trying to accomplish, even if it’s the first step of many, it will help keep you focused and motivated.” 

This job’s for you if: you have passion, perseverance, and creativity. “Starting a business has taught me about the ability to persevere. Priorities shift, time becomes more precious and everything becomes more of a balancing act. Learning to push through the challenges, reevaluate a situation or a relationship and move forward has been an invaluable lesson,” says Sara.  “No use crying over spilled milk. You clean it up and pour yourself another glass.”  


Written by: Jill Jacinto

Jill Jacinto is the Associate Director of Editorial and Communications at WORKS by Nicole Williams. A former associate editor and on-air reporter for Minyanville, Jill hung up her finance hat to help young women - like herself – find success in their career. She finds great pleasure in traveling around the world and hopes to visit every country on the map. Jill resides in New York City