Like many small business owners, Kim Phoung who operates a nail salon, was forced to close her doors during Melbourne’s COVID-19 lockdowns.

Kim didn’t let the lockdowns dilute her dreams for small business. Instead, she used the time to start carefully researching a new business idea. She wanted to find more time to spend with her daughter and husband, but running a nail salon had become all-consuming.

So Kim started to plan a new business.

“I really wanted to find a nail system that would last longer for the customer. Also, I wanted to try products that were healthier and breathable,” says Kim.

“I tried a few different brands and looked overseas at what was popular in Europe and South America. Then, I found it!”

Kim was always destined for a career in nails. Her sister operated a nail salon from the family home in a small town in Vietnam. So when Kim came to Australia to study accounting, she was able to use that knowledge to secure work in a busy nail salon in a shopping centre.

“I had to find a part-time job to cover my costs of living,” says Kim.

When she approached a Vietnamese nail salon, the owner first told Kim that her nails were “no good”. But Kim didn’t give up hope. She offered to work for free, so she could learn and practice.

“Okay, you can come tomorrow. You can learn anytime you want,” says the owner.

After a month, Kim showed the owner that she was a quick and talented learner and was given a job. Two years later, at the young age of 23 years, she became a mum and a nail salon owner.

While Kim loved running the business, she wanted to find something that gave her more time with her family. That’s when the idea for the Love Gel was created. Finally, she’d found a product that was different from anything on the market in Australia. Still, she needed help to set up her business.

Kim sold her nail salon to focus on her new business idea. She was introduced to Grameen Australia through her connections with the local Vietnamese community.

“Our Centre Manager, Thuy, helps resolve any difficulties with our businesses, and everyone shares their experiences,” says Kim.

Kim has appreciated the peer support from her group of women in Grameen. In fact, she’s met other nail business owners who are keen to purchase her product.

A Grameen loan for $4,500 is helping Kim to pay for manufacturing, branding, and importing costs for the Love Gel.

“My big goal is to distribute across Australia and even in some other countries!”

“I really love my experience with this product. I know customers will love it. That’s why its called the Love Gel.”

Kim’s advice to other women interested in starting a small business is “don’t give up, just keep going”.

“When you start out, you need a lot of money, and Grameen can help with a loan,” she says.

Kim hopes her love of business will inspire her nine-year-old daughter, Najela, to be confident, ambitious, and independent.

“Najela loves nail polish,” says Kim with a laugh.