Singapore Sparks Interview: Shawn Tan of Manicurious

Three guys and a nail parlor—that’s a little unconventional. Whose idea was it? Yijin runs Portrait International, a distribution company representing BioSculpture Gel, as well as other skincare and lifestyle brands supplied to salons and spas. He was the one who turned the integration of nail art with fashion into a business idea.What was it like starting up?Aside from the usual problems like finance and managing manpower in an industry we’re clearly unfamiliar with, the biggest challenge was being uncertain about the public’s response. Thankfully, things have worked out considerably well but we still have a long way to go in improving ourselves.Have you done anything radical in the name of research? In Singapore, you hardly see guys with buffed nails, much less guys wearing nail polish. Most guys we’ve asked about this immediately shy away, as if doing your nails is a sign you’ve lost your manhood. In that sense, everything we’ve done in the name of research—from learning about nail polish and gel manicures to experimenting with cutesy nail art—has been radical.What do you think of the startup scene in Singapore? It’s blooming, thanks to admirable efforts by government bodies in encouraging startups without intervening directly in them. Aside from the well-marketed funding programmes by SPRING Singapore, there are also underlying advantages that startups enjoy sometimes without even realizing, such as the country’s political stability and consistent economic growth. Singapore is a startup haven, and its people are just beginning to realize that.