A Conversation With Entrepreneur Kathy Ferrara Of K.Ferrara Color
Based in St. Louis, Missouri, veteran stylist Kathy Ferrara has been working in the fashion industry for more than 25 years, with clients and customers all over the country. After moving to St. Louis from upstate New York when she was 14 years old, Ferrara has since fallen in love with the city’s Midwestern charm, vibrant culture and warm sense of community. Looking for a new challenge, Ferrara searched for an opportunity to combine her passion for color and style with her interest in health-conscious beauty products. Her lifelong love of nail polish provided the perfect launching pad.
Ferrara’s K.Ferrara Color nail polish line offers 12 stylish colors, specifically curated to add confidence and elegance to any wardrobe. They can be purchased online as well as in-person at salons like Clean Spa in Chesterfield Valley and Tint Salon in Ladue. And for a limited time, ALIVE readers will receive 20 percent off their purchase with promo code ALIVE20 through the end of 2017. Keep reading to learn more about Ferrara’s journey into entrepreneurship.
Plenty of people have good ideas, but very few actually launch a business around them. What pushed you to finally make the leap into entrepreneurship?
Honestly, the base of it was just my love for learning and figuring things out. I love to be creative, and I really wanted to be creative in a different way. I love the industry I work in, but I know it really well and I wanted to try something new. I’ve been weirdly passionate about nail polish colors my whole life, and every time I wear a K. Ferrara color I get a compliment on it.
I work with a lot of women—either on photo shoots or videos—who are at the head of their companies and are just so powerful, smart and talented. They don’t have time to figure out the right red or the right nude or neutral. I thought, “How can I make it easier for them in one very small way with nail polish? How could I make a small, curated line of beautiful, high-quality nail polish that’s elegant and sophisticated—something where a woman could pick anything in this line and it will look beautiful on them?”
Starting a small business always comes with its own unique challenges. Can you talk about your experience being a small business owner in St. Louis?
I’m glad you brought this up, because when I think of the last six months, I think of the support that I’ve gotten. St. Louis really is the place to launch a start-up. I had people coming out of the woodwork who would call me up and ask, “What can I do? How can I help you?” It was amazing to me. When people talk about the entrepreneurial spirit in St. Louis, it really is no joke. We’re here to help each other. There are some very unique challenges running a small business, and you’re out there on your own trying to navigate everything—but to be involved with other entrepreneurs is a godsend.
As far as my biggest challenge, I really want to understand social media better. That has been the biggest eye-opener for me. Sometimes I jokingly say that I wanted to be in the nail polish business, but I feel like I’m in the Instagram business. Learning about that has been a blast. It’s been a challenge, but also so much fun to learn and try to get a handle on it.
Most people don’t think of nail polish as a major part of an outfit. What made you decide to start a small business around such a specific detail?
It finishes your look! It’s a finishing touch that really makes a difference. Nail polish colors are so beautiful, and there are just so many delicious colors out there to tap into. It changes the way you feel.
What sets K.Ferrara Color apart from other nail polish lines? Who is K.Ferrara Color designed for?
K. Ferrara Color is a very high-quality formula, and it’s on the pricier end of nail polish. The colors are directed towards a woman who’s a little more sophisticated, a little more elegant. There’s no neon or glitter or shimmer. It’s also a five-free formula, which means that it’s free of the five most-harmful chemicals that are in other polishes. It’s a healthier polish, and you don’t have to sacrifice quality. It’s a very special combination.
Health and wellness is becoming a priority for more and more people, especially here in St. Louis. How does your nail polish line fit into the health and wellness industry?
Ten years ago, I was diagnosed with colon cancer. After I walked through that experience, I was really interested in the products we put on our bodies and the things that we eat, of course, because it really became highlighted for me. Scientists are just now starting to do studies on the chemicals from polish being absorbed through our nails and how dangerous they are, so I really wanted my line to be a five-free formula line.
How does your background as a stylist influence your attention to color?
As a stylist and a makeup artist, color is everything. It’s what I focus on all day long—makeup shades and how they look on women, wardrobe shades and how they look on people and on camera. So I’m very sensitive to and very passionate about good colors. If you’re someone who’s more drawn to sophistication, luxury and elegance, those are the shades I know about and was going for, and I feel like I accomplished that with this line.
Do you have any favorite colors in the K.Ferrara line?
It’s so hard, because it’s a small line—it’s just 12 colors and I love them all so much. Alexandra is a gorgeous, gorgeous, deep luxurious plum. It’s my deepest, deepest color, and it’s really beautiful. But this time of year, I’m really into Ruth—it’s this vibrant ruby color and it’s perfect for the holidays. It’s more ruby than Anna, which is this really gorgeous red.
I wear Katherine probably most of the time through the year—it’s this beautiful, burnt-orchid color. Evelyn is one of my neutrals that a lot of models buy all the time because they always have to have very neutral nails. And Vivian is this really gorgeous smoky grey-blue. It’s my most, if you will, out-of-the-box color, but it’s still very elegant. I mean, it’s hard to say. I’m almost just going down the list because I really do love all of them.
You’ve said your nail polish colors are named after fabulous women who inspire you. Can you elaborate?
I have amazing, strong women in my family. The line of women that I come from and the strength that they’ve given me is very inspiring. Ruth—which is my really beautiful, vibrant ruby—is named after my grandmother. Katherine—which is the one I wear probably 70 percent of the time, that really nice burnt orchid—is named after my mother. Alexandra—that deep, luxurious plum that I love—is named after my oldest daughter. And Natalie—which is my lightest, sheerest, most neutral color—is named after my middle daughter. And it’s kind of fun for me because my daughters are so similar yet so different, and they’re such strong women. But Alexandra is my deepest color and Natalie is my lightest color. So, my daughters are both the bookends of my line.
You’re still in your first year, but do you have any plans for future nail polish lines?
I do, as a matter of fact. I didn’t think of this, but a lot of the feedback I’ve been getting from my customers is that they love that K.Ferrara Color is a five-free healthy formula, and they’d love to buy it for their young daughters. I didn’t really create these colors for young girls or young children, but I’ve gotten so much feedback about it.
So, that’s what I’m researching and looking into now: I’m considering starting a line called K.Ferrara Color Kids and having a small line of colors for young children. The research I’m doing right now is just a blast.
Photography by Patrick Lanham. All images courtesy of K Ferrara Color.