Amy Ling, who came to the US from China, could not get a job at a restaurant. Now she is running three nail salons in the busiest areas of NYC.
After her first-hand experience of working in the business, Amy is now addressing the use of harmful chemicals in the workplace — as well as the toxic chemicals found in nail polish. Founded on the belief that you shouldn’t have to sacrifice your health for beauty, Ling’s nail care brand, Sundays, is a self-styled “lifestyle brand” committed to improving the well-being of its clients and community.
Sundays’ products and services offer a non-toxic, vegan and cruelty-free variety of nail polishes, along with mindful experiences, such as a two-in-one manicure meditation that helps clients to focus on their wellness. Launched in 2017, Sundays now services clients at their Nomad flagship, Saks 5th Avenue and a new salon in Hudson Yards.
I sat down with Amy over a manicure at their very first location in Nomad to get a closer look at what makes Sundays’ brand so different. And of course to “wear” the brand myself.
Grit Daily: Amy, for the uninitiated, you told me you made the decision to launch your own nail salon over a dinner — without any experience in the industry and never having stepped into a nail salon before. What inspired that move and what were your first steps in starting your business?
Amy Ling: It was over a conversation with a high school friend and I think my initial thoughts was just to help immigrants. I thought they deserve a better treatment, like the companies I used to work before, fixed hours and stable pay.
GD: What’s behind the Sundays name?
AL: Sundays are relaxing, and also mindful. I feel on Sundays, you carefully choose how to spend your time because you’re getting ready to start a whole new week..
GD: Do you see being an immigrant in the US as an obstacle to starting a business — or is it a strength?
AL: I used to see being an immigrant as an obstacle. I felt like an outsider because I don’t talk like people who grew up here. Also, I don’t fully understand a lot of cultural things, and sometimes I still don’t. However, I have started to think about it differently now. I think being an immigrant has made me really curious and humble about the unknown world in front of me.
I think my background makes me unique and helps me see things differently.
GD: What does a typical working day look like for you?
AL: Lots of emails and meetings! I spend my weekends planning — Sunday night is one of my favorite times to plan things.
GD: What you would say your greatest achievement is — to date?
AL: I think being able to trust myself more and to be more confident; this has lead me to be more trusting in others and able to cheer for other people’s success, even our competitors.
GD: You mentioned an international expansion for the Sundays brand. Please elaborate on that.
AL: We currently have our brand selling in over ten countries. I think our message that “we are all beautiful in our own ways and we don’t have to sacrifice for beauty,” really is something universal and can resonate with so many different people, no matter the country they live in.
GD: There’s research that shows women are more likely to take on more roles at work without taking credit for it. Did you ever feel like you have to choose between being a woman or entrepreneur?
AL: I would have to agree, women tend to take less credit for the work they have done, but I think this situation is changing gradually. It is part of our mission to inspire other women to realize that their voice matters. However, I think being an entrepreneur is challenging for everyone, men and women. As an entrepreneur, you are constantly making decisions, and as a female entrepreneur, gradually you really learn how to prioritize or integrate your life into your work.
GD: What’s life like outside Sundays? How do you spend your “down time”, if any?
AL: In my down time, I like to catch up with friends. I enjoy hanging out with different groups of people with different backgrounds, because I like to learn about things from a different perspective.
At the same time, I need a lot of alone time. My favorite is to watch the animals in Central Park, I enjoy feeling how free they are.
Looking for more from Grit Daily’s Spotlight? Check out the archives, here.