Metta Francis launched NAILS BY METS in 2010, with a vision of swapping her IT job for a polar opposite career in nail styling. Now mum to Mila, 14 months, she told us more about her surprising journey…
Tell us a bit about Nails by Mets
I’ve been working as a mobile nail artist and manicurist for five years. To start with, I was doing nails as well as my full time IT job, working evenings and weekends. It was hard work, but because I loved it, it didn’t feel like a burden. It was worth it, as I knew I had the goal of owning my own business in mind.
I started doing private clients at their homes, but 2 or 3 years ago I began to book events, which was really exciting! I recently worked at the Cosmopolitan Fash Fest for the second time, doing the nails for their models. I also do other private events like pop-up nail bars, hen parties, bridal showers and kids parties.
When, how and why did you decide to change your career?
Five years ago I was still working as an IT Consultant for a global IT consultancy firm . I was working long hours, not sleeping well, not eating properly – it was draining, and I hardly ever saw my partner. I thought to myself: “Do I really want to do this for the rest of my life?” And the answer was, "not really!" I was travelling away from home a lot and I knew I wanted a family, so I couldn’t see how it would work.
I knew I would need to change my career when I had a family and I always wanted to start my own business, so I started to think about what I could do, long term, that would be flexible and family friendly.
I also needed to do something for me – something I enjoyed that wasn’t just ‘work’. I’ve always enjoyed doing my own nails, but I hadn’t had any training. To start with, I researched the market for mobile nail stylists. It seemed to me that most of my potential competitors were quite dated, so I felt I could do something different. It was also a time when a lot was changing with nail art, and new products were becoming available (like gel polish, CND Shellac, Minx), so I knew it would be a good time to get involved in the industry.
I did some training and quickly fell in love with it! It can seem like such a small thing but for me (and my clients) having your nails done can really lift your mood.
What tips would you give to women who want to make the most of maternity leave?
I was lucky that I started thinking about NAILS BY METS five years ago. I knew when I started the business, my end goal was to have this as my sole job. It took me four years to get to this point, and I had to work hard with two jobs to get the right experience and build my skills, so I’m pleased I started when I did!
As soon as I was pregnant, I decided to take 9 months maternity leave and use this time to build the business. I then extended to the full year and in the end, I decided not to go back to work - we had some savings and I knew my new job would be less hours, saving childcare costs, so I took the gamble and it paid off!
It’s probably harder to start something for the first time during your maternity leave as you only have a year (and a baby to look after!). Don’t pressurise yourself unnecessarily, as the hardest job of all is being a mother. Running a business can be stressful and hard so don't worry if you don't turn into Richard Branson overnight (with baby attached to boob!). What I would suggest is using your maternity leave to really discover what makes you happy. What did you particularly love or hate about your job? You may be surprised! Think about your personal life, hobbies and general things that bring you pleasure - is there any scope to create a business from what you love? Did you have any niggling ideas that you think would make an awesome business? Use the time to start dream boarding to see if it's a viable idea!
On my maternity leave, I learnt to prioritise what’s important and live within my means, so I felt more confident about the potential financial insecurity of starting my own business.
Now I work smarter, and more efficiently – I work less hours, but get more out of it. My attitude is: “If I’m leaving my daughter now, I don’t mind because I’m doing something my love”. I’m lucky to have parents and parents-in-law that are nearby and help with childcare, and my flexible working hours means I often work when my husband is at home. Flexibility was something I knew I wanted from the very beginning.
What’s been your ‘wow’ career moment?
This year, I won an award from Scratch Magazine (the UK’s only magazine dedicated to nails). It was for the “Mobile Nailist of the Year”. Everyone in my industry is working at such a high standard so that was a huge achievement for me and a big moment: it reaffirmed that I was doing the right thing for me.
What are your beauty tips for mums?
Use cuticle oil twice daily! It helps to keep your nails healthy – mums are always washing their hands and nails can be weak after giving birth. If they break frequently, just keep them short – you can still have fun with colours! Also, I’d suggest treating yourself at least once a month to a professional manicure as it makes such a difference and gives you some ‘me-time’ which is really important.
Beauty-wise, I’d also recommend coconut oil. I use it for everything – as a cleanser, makeup remover, conditioning hair treatment, as a moisturiser… it’s so versatile. Shea butter is also amazing for dry skin and can be mixed with coconut oil to create a beautifully smelling, super-moisturising butter. Both of these are completely natural and perfect for baby too. I only really use these two products!
What other beauty brands or styling artists do you love?
I received a Neal’s Yard “New Mother” gift after I gave birth and fell in love! The bath oil and massage oil smell divine and I love that the products are ethical and organic. I also love Lush’s “Angels on Bare Skin” it's an exfoliating cleanser that I use when my skin is feeling particularly dry and flakey (i.e. right now!) and it's great for sensitive skin like mine. I also love Sanctuary Spa’s salt scrub for body.
Are there any other mums out there you admire?
Sharmadean Reid is the ultimate #mumboss to me, especially as she is in the same industry. I've watched her journey from when she started WAH Nails on Kingsland Road many years ago to launching WAH London products all whilst raising her son as a single mother. I don't know Sharmadean personally but from what I've seen she has a great business brain but also loves travelling too which is something I also love.
Sophia Webster is also amazing. First up her shoes are awesome but what I admire the most is that she has a daughter who’s a similar age to mine, and runs her own fantastic business (with a product I love). I loved seeing her photos from a trip to the Sophia Webster factory in Brazil with her baby in tow - so impressive! I visited Brazil when I was pregnant and always feel so warm when I see other mums and babies visit there as it’s such a special place to me.
Lydia Garrett is also great - she’s always got some really easy and healthy recipes which is perfect for me as I don’t really like to cook! All her recipes are baby/toddler friendly too which means less cooking all round - win! I met Lydia at a free cooking class for mums in Peckham and then again at Mothers Meeting, she is such a lovely lady!
Where do you hang out in South East London?
The Horniman is local and great for us – I’m taking Mila there today! We also like exploring Sydenham Hill Woods which is right on our doorstep. Mila loves swimming too – we go to Thornton Heath where my parents live (it's not fancy but has good baby sessions) or the new pools at Forest Hill. Dulwich Park is also great!
What’s next for Nails by Mets?
I’m currently working on the Nails By Mets VIP club. It will give members exclusive offers on treatments and other hand-selected partners. I'm very excited about it! I’m also working on special events and pamper days for new mamas and pregnant ladies where they can indulge in some important ‘me-time’. Watch this space!