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Jooyeon Song of ManiMe: “Why we need to train ourselves to feel confident”

One of my favorite lessons from Stanford was one from Professor Allison Kluger — I learned about how women would feel less confident in general vs. men. My key takeaway was that we need to train ourselves to feel confident. We need to acknowledge that we might feel “less confident”, or “not ready” to put […]

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One of my favorite lessons from Stanford was one from Professor Allison Kluger — I learned about how women would feel less confident in general vs. men. My key takeaway was that we need to train ourselves to feel confident. We need to acknowledge that we might feel “less confident”, or “not ready” to put ourselves in a seemingly “too high” challenge. This changed my outlook on life, and I took a leap of faith in my career. I became bold and said yes to things that I didn’t feel 100% comfortable about. “Fake it till we make it” has become my new mantra.


As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jooyeon Song. Jooyeon is the Co-founder & CEO at the high-tech nail company ManiMe. After her stint with the Boston Consulting Group and Hyundai Motors in India, Jooyeon met David Miro Llopis during her MBA program at Stanford, and ManiMe was born. This innovative, beauty tech company offers custom gel manicures created with 3D scanning and laser cutting. The process is simple: you send five photos of your hands through manime.co, the startup receives your unique nail size and delivers custom-fit peel & wear manicure stickers to your door.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

As a time-poor consultant and avid traveller, I was tired of losing valuable hours to get my nails done. The salon experience with toxic chemical smells, enduring damaging tools and removal processes, like drilling and UV light was not what I wanted. I knew we could create a manicure that offered versatility and a custom fit to every user, giving them the opportunity to express themselves as often as we change our shoes and clothes. With this in mind, I decided it was time to make a change and ManiMe came to life!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

When my team got accepted to the Techstars incubator, we didn’t have any outside funding and were in our hungry-entrepreneur days. Our humble beginnings as a brand have made us who we are today. In Hartford, Connecticut, my team of four were staying at a hotel room — two on the bed, one on the sofa bed, and my cofounder, David on the floor. We were joking back then we would never forget these days, and now I can say it’s one of my most interesting stories!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When creating prototypes of our nails, we used 3d printers to make an absurd amount of 3D printed nails. One day, I forgot to change the resin cartridge to the transparent resin — and ended up printing multiple “grey” nails instead of the beautiful designs we’re known for. Imagine seeing an exact replica of your nails, in an industrial grey color. Haha. Key Learning: Finding a good color is the key! That’s why ManiMe has done the hard work for you.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

ManiMe just launched our custom gel nails to the public with 26 new designs. I cannot be more excited to see how it’s helping people boost their confidence and maintain a non-toxic lifestyle.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

One of my favorite lessons from Stanford was one from Professor Allison Kluger — I learned about how women would feel less confident in general vs. men. My key takeaway was that we need to train ourselves to feel confident. We need to acknowledge that we might feel “less confident”, or “not ready” to put ourselves in a seemingly “too high” challenge. This changed my outlook on life, and I took a leap of faith in my career. I became bold and said yes to things that I didn’t feel 100% comfortable about. “Fake it till we make it” has become my new mantra.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I lived on Jeju island — the southernmost island in Korea — and left when I was only 18. Before then, I was always wondering what laid beyond the ocean. I feel indebted to many people in my life for giving me the learning opportunities and resources to move and make my dreams come true.

That’s why I have to pay my good fortune forward. Building roads and making an impact on the community has always been of the utmost importance to me, and I aspire to do even more throughout my entrepreneurship journey. As the mentors in my life helped me grow, I too would like to become a person that can support others to rise and rule.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My mom. Having grown up in a small town in South Korea, I was surrounded by neighbors and relatives that would commonly greet families with only daughters, such as mine, with a single piece of advice: “You should try having a son!” From a tender age, my sister and I frequently witnessed and fully understood the heartbreaking stress my mother went through.

Yet, my mother remained strong. She concealed her stress by laughing off sexist remarks saying, “I actually would like to have another daughter!” She refused to acknowledge any negative sexist comments, and I admire her for that. During my elementary years, whenever I received an award my grandmother would lament, “What a pity…If you were a boy you would have become a great person”, to which my mother would retort, “Jooyeon will do greater things in the future than any boy!” Her resolute expression and love for her children will always remain in my heart.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I would love to have a lunch with Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx. She’s a huge inspiration as a female founder myself. My favorite line from Sara is, “Believe in your idea, trust your instincts, and don’t be afraid to fail.” Her story gave me the courage to believe in my idea, and not to be afraid to fail. I would love to print a custom-cut ManiMe nail set for her!

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