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Women in Business Q&A: Samira Far, Founder of Bellacures

Samira Far, at the age of 22, after a short time at her promising corporate career as an auditor, realized she hated what she was doing and left her job in favor of starting her own business.
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Samira Far, at the age of 22, after a short time at her promising corporate career as an auditor, realized she hated what she was doing and left her job in favor of starting her own business. She has loved going to nail salons in L.A. since a young age, but every time she went she questioned how sterile the environment was and didn't feel like the style was in line with her sense of self. With Bellacures, she wanted to create an environment where people felt comfortable and wouldn't be worried about cleanliness. The first Bellacures was opened in 2006, and since then, has expanded through franchising to seven more nail salons throughout the L.A. area with one opening soon in Dallas.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I think I was born with some attributes that initially threw me on the path to leadership. When I was a young child, I would make up games and teach other kids how to play and then stand back and watch the group play the game I created. I would curate fashion shows with all the kids and present it to the parents.

My college years allowed me to fully develop my leadership skills through running group projects and on-campus organizations. After college, I hated my first job so much that I knew if I was going to survive in life, I had to become the leader of my own destiny. After that realization, I started on the entrepreneurship path to start Bellacures.

How did your previous employment experience aided your position at Bellacures?
During the short time period that I worked at KPMG, LLP, I learned how to document processes and work flows. This was instrumentally helpful in building systems and aligning operational procedures for an industry that previously had no streamlined process. It is an evolving aspect of our business. My position was in the Risk Advisory department and I did Sarbanes-Oxley compliance work for about ten months. The position was my first job out of college and aside from documenting business processes, I learned the most valuable lesson in my life: to always be true and authentic to yourself and do work on which your soul thrives. That's when I left the position and sought to open the first location for what was to be the best brand in the nail industry. I'm working on bringing the brand to the forefront through national expansion with the first location outside of California to open in Dallas this June.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Bellacures?
The first highlight was the three-year mark, which is the time when I felt that the business was stable - It wasn't going to go away overnight for any reason. We had the best loyal customers and had built real value. We made a difference in the community that mattered to people.

They say you're no one until someone imitates the brand. That happened along the way so far about four times. We have wannabes. It's a funny feeling - both flattering and simultaneously annoying. Challenges are ongoing. If you're not having a challenge that means you're not growing. I can easily say that one of my biggest challenges that remains consistent throughout all the small challenges, is dealing with the feeling that "I'm not there yet." I have a specific business goal and somehow when it is finally accomplished, a new goal was created along the way that makes accomplishing the first goal not as exciting or not very fulfilling.

How is Bellacures changing the beauty franchise industry?
Bellacures is changing the nail industry. It's creating new standards for cleanliness, for customer service and quality. We've seen it here in Los Angeles; nail salons have up-ed their game because of Bellacures, which is my intention. The industry needs to be manicured, ironically, both in terms of the customer experience and on the back-end business/operational side. I'm on a mission to do this and I'm looking forward to seeing how it evolves.

What advice would you give to women who are looking to start their own business?
Specific advice depends on the type of business or industry. In general, I would say be resourceful, find mentors and be flexible in your growth plans. Also, work relentlessly to produce results that you can show for yourself along the way.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
People ask me this question all the time and I do not know how to answer it. I work and I live every day, it's not on a schedule and it's not a struggle, it's more of an organic ever-evolving prioritization game. I never feel that my life is suffering because of work. In fact, my work gives meaning to my time.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I think as a gender, we seek validation for our plans, our work, and our ideas either before we are willing to put in the effort to make it happen, or after we've already made it happen. We seek validation from people we work with, and people who work for us, which could cause problems in decision making. You have to be willing to be disliked in exchange for protecting your company's best interest, your career growth or any values which are authentic to you. Otherwise, the fear of not being liked will control your career trajectory.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Having mentors is really important. You need outside perspective and you need it often. You should have different kinds of mentors for example: financial, legal, vast business experience, old wisdom, male, female, locally, nationally, etc. The more perspective you can gain, the faster you will grow. For me mentors have served as an ongoing sounding board for ideas and business opportunities. Leading a business is extremely lonely, you cannot speak about your growth plans and challenges to many people. Because of this, it is important to find people you can speak to regularly for various perspectives on different topics.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I admire my mother because she teaches me how to be an effective and authentic human being every day. After that, I would say the following people, in no specific order and for different reasons: Sheryl Sandberg, Meryl Streep, Beyonce, Sara Blakely, Leah Busque, Diane von Furstenberg, Susan Feldman and Alison Pincus.

What are your hopes for the future of your company?
To be THE brand in the nail industry and revolutionize the common nail salon experience providing better service and a known standard of cleanliness.

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