The American Dream: Russian Nail Artist April Ryan

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Steve Jobs once said, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” There is little doubt that passion is akin to entrepreneurial fuel, and it inspires and motivates, even when the going gets tough. 

One entrepreneur and educator who knows a lot about leveraging passion for forging her path to success is April Ryan. Born in a small Russian town, Ryan has overcome monumental obstacles to emigrate to America and eventually launch her business, Red Iguana. To date, the popular nail art brand—which sells over 300 different nail-related products, including silicone training hands—has generated approximately $5 million in sales. 

Things haven’t always been easy for Ryan. She has had to work hard to make the United States her home and think outside the box to stand out in an industry that’s already oversaturated with products. Today, she credits her passion and perseverance for her success. “I believe there’s always a piece of the market to take,” she says. “You will always have your piece of cake. You can always be the best at what you do, even if you’re not the first.”

Modest beginnings 

Ryan’s journey to success began in the small Russian town of Salsk, where she grew up with big dreams of working in the beauty industry. Since her town didn’t have a beauty school, Ryan had to wait for her opportunity. One day, a nail educator visited her town and noticed the young woman’s talent. Before her 23rd birthday, Ryan was running three salons in Russia. A few years later, she emigrated to the U.S. to work at a popular nail bar in Beverly Hills, California. “It was really hard work for very little money. While I am grateful for the opportunity they gave me when I spoke zero English, I felt that I wasn’t moving forward,” she says.

While happy, Ryan couldn’t ignore her ambitions. Six months after starting her job as a nail technician, she decided to become an influencer and content creator. And it wasn’t long before she had more than 400,000 Instagram followers. Spurred on by her success, Ryan opened her own online store in 2017. “I recommend that anybody who has a dream stop thinking and start working on it right now,” she says. “Start to educate yourself and find information on how to get started. Look at government websites to learn about setting up a business and search for online tutorials about what you want to do.”

Creating waves

The breakthrough for Ryan came when she realized that there was a lack of high-quality practice hands for budding nail artists. Nail experts don’t like to use their own hands to display products because many require the use of ultraviolet light, which can damage the skin. Already creating five Instagram videos a day, Ryan was no exception. “After a couple of months, I started realizing that this was a health hazard. It was terrible for my skin,” she says.

After extensive research, Ryan decided to use her own hands to create a prototype of original silicone training hands. Six months later, her product hit the market and was an immediate success, shifting the training paradigms of the beauty industry. “Innovation is a huge part of making it in the business world,” Ryan says. “After all, no industry is already perfect. As such, whatever your niche, analyze its existing processes and find areas for improvement.”

Today, Ryan distributes around 2,000 silicone hands in five countries per month. Handmade in Los Angeles, the hands come in a range of models, including full hands, half hands and single fingers. She also continues to sell other top-quality nail merchandise and has even worked with laboratories to innovate new, healthier beauty products, including popular hard-gel nail extensions.

Making passion count

Passion is the foundation of success. And it’s Ryan’s passion that has given her the momentum to build a seven-figure business in her adopted country. Even when times got hard and it seemed like there was no light at the end of the tunnel, she persevered. Today, Ryan takes every opportunity to inspire others to follow in her footsteps. “Stop dreaming about the things you want to do. There is no better time to start than right now,” she says. “Educate yourself. Find out how to achieve the things you want in life. Everything is easier than it looks once you start.”

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