A Q&A with Talon founder Emma Fried
At sk*p we like to highlight business owners who are making a difference just by choosing to make better products that don’t harm the environment. Like many beauty products, nail polish can be incredibly toxic; so we were excited to find out what inspired the Brooklyn-based founder of Talon to choose a more sustainable path.
What first sparked the idea to create Talon?
For many years it was my dream to open a nail salon in my hometown of Tucson, Arizona. When I moved to New York, my favorite self-care/treat myself moment became a mani and pedi with my friends. I wanted to bring something chic and fun to Tucson like I was experiencing in NYC. Of course, life moves fast so, after a handful of years and after having made a life for myself in New York, I didn’t feel like I could leave and start my dream salon. In the meantime, a friend suggested that I start a nail polish line as a first step to seeing that dream realized. But a lot has changed since then and while owning a salon might not be as big of a dream as it once was, I still think I would like to open one in the future. Fun Fact: about 10 years ago when I decided I wanted to open a nail salon, I called my mom and told her my idea. I asked her what I should call it and she immediately said Talon! The rest is history...
In what ways does Talon help reduce waste?
Like sk*p, Talon doesn’t use secondary packaging. I like to focus on repurposing and eliminating anything that I feel isn’t necessary or reusable, aka--destined for the trash. I search out used bubble wrap and packing materials. I often post on Facebook asking if anyone has materials they'd like me to take off their hands. During quarantine, I scored five trash bags full of bubble wrap and used them for shipping! We reuse boxes from other companies and, when shipping in new mailers, we only use those which are compostable and made from recycled paper products. I don’t include extra inserts beyond our seed paper thank you notes, and I have decided not to individually pack each bottle in its own box because those make their way to the trash once you remove the bottle. I’m also a big fan of the bottle return program that we offer as well as our artist collaborations, where unfinished polish is used to create something new! I’m really obsessed with our artist collabs. (Visit www.talonpolish.com to find out more!)
Unlike other nail care brands, you offer a really unique bottle return service, how did you come up with this idea? What % of customers use the service?
Creating the least amount of waste was one of the main goals, and still is front and center when making decisions for the brand. Reusable and/or circular components are crucial to sustainability! With that in mind, that’s how I got the idea for bottle returns! A very small percentage of customers have returned their bottles, but I think part of that has to do with the lasting power of nail polish. I’m hopeful that customers will start returning bottles in the near future, but I think that having the option is a really great part of what makes Talon special.
Are there any other changes you would make to be even more sustainable as a brand?
At the moment, I feel like I have covered a lot of my bases. Earlier this year, I made the decision to switch our bottle labels from vinyl to paper. There are probably components that I haven’t realized can be improved yet and I think that is okay. Learning and growing along the way is all part of the journey!
Have you always been interested in helping the environment and, if not, what caused this change for you?
I have been living an eco-conscious lifestyle for a while now, but I wasn’t always in this mindset. I would say in my mid-twenties is when I made a big shift and started considering the impact of my daily actions. I initially started removing animal products from my diet because of my love for animals and, in doing so, I learned about the impact that animal agriculture has on the environment. Once I started committing to a plant-based diet for environmental reasons, then I started to consider all of my actions and how they affect Mother Earth.
In your personal life, do you try to live sustainably and use other sustainable products?
One hundred percent! I actively avoid as much plastic as I possibly can. I choose beauty products like sk*p—that are contained in mostly glass/aluminum/biodegradable or recyclable packaging, bulk grocery shop, wear thrifted/pre-loved clothing, and (of course!) I always have a reusable water bottle on me. I try to think of the end of life of the product. Will it end up in the trash? Is there a way I can consume something which leads to less waste as a final product? I’m not perfect, I just strive to be less trashy, literally!
Do you have any advice for those interested in starting a business and keeping it sustainable?
Commit to your sustainability ideas. When I was designing the bottle label, I knew I wanted to include bottle returns, but I wasn’t sure it would be possible. My gut told me to add the bottle return information because I would figure it out and make it happen. Committing makes you figure it out and makes it happen. Anything is possible!