Interview with Pree Walia, CEO & Co-Founder, Preemadonna
By Joanna Furlong
Pree is co-founder of Preemadonna, the inventor of the Nailbot. The Nailbot prints instant custom nail art directly on your nails in 5 seconds. You place your phone in the Nailbot cradle. You coat your nails with a special base coat, take a picture of your nails, tap print and voila—your nails are done. This may sound futuristic. But it’s real. www.preemadonna.com | @preemadonna
What is Preemadonna’s vision?
Preemadonna is a female consumer company that meets girls with technology that is relevant to their lifestyle. We are starting with a very popular form of creative expression for many girls, nail art and nail decoration. We invented a family of Nailbots that automate the nail decoration process. A robot that paints your nails or prints cool custom nail art. We think it’s awesome. We are also building a mobile art marketplace for applications well beyond fingernail printing.
Ultimately, the Nailbot is a platform for creative self-expression for our community of dynamic girls.
Why do you think people are so excited about this?
It’s our authenticity. So much of our hearts and our past experiences are in this company.
Preemadonna and the Nailbot are powered by our community of girls and women. We want them to build this company with us. Girls can design their own digital nail art with the Nailbot. We will be putting together tutorials for girls to learn how to do so using software programs like how to program your own printer with our Preemadonna Maker Kit. We are showing our community our product design process and having them directly participate. They are literally going to build one of the prototypes we used to prove our concept and get angel funding.
To reach our earliest supporters, girls aged 7 to 17, we developed an Ambassador program and formed partnerships with nonprofits. We meet them where they are, house parties, tech summer camps, Girl Scout meetings and schools.
Did you ever think your career would lead to working with girls?
Decisions in your life make sense in retrospect. I’m a girl’s girl, one of three daughters. I was in a sorority. And starting a company for girls, by girls, makes sense to me. I found my truest self with girls. That said, I never anticipated that we’d be so focused on a younger generation. But they keep you in check. You can’t pull a fast one on them.
You’re owning the feminine side of you.
Yes. The name of company is Preemadonna. But the definition of being a “prima donna” means “first lady”. It means a talented artist. But over the years, it’s gotten a negative connotation. But the original definition was a show stopper. And you know, quite frankly, when I get my nails done and my hair done, I feel really good.
I like being smart. I like feeling beautiful. I like being a girl. Being smart and feeling beautiful should not be a contradiction.
How did it feel to get your first round of funding?
Diane Donald was my first investor. She was a close friend, my freshman year roommate at Northwestern. She has three daughters and understood the concept. I warned Diane that she would likely lose her money, but she believed in me. You have to use those early investments to push forward and believe in your ability to execute on a vision. We need more angel investors like Diane who are willing to make big bets on women that they believe in.
What do you want to tell other founders who are in the early stages?
Take care of your body. By that I mean food, exercise and self-love. I started out strong, but there is always an excuse for getting off track. This is a marathon and if you’re not in good shape mentally and physically, then you’re not going to finish.
I genuinely believe because women have held me up over the past 33 years, you have to look to other women to support you. Find those core group of friends. I worked in politics before, and many of the campaigns I worked on lost. So I understand failure very well. Everyone wants to be with you when things are amazing. But who is with you when you fail publicly and have no money?
At what point, do you feel you need to step back? Draw a line in the sand?
I’m doing everything to make it a success. We want to reach as many girls as possible and still remain true to our core to inspire girls with creative tech and involve them in the building of our products.
At some point, success may mean exiting. The exits of which to do that may be not what I envisioned. They may not be pleasant. It’s not money that stops the company. It’s the founder who stops believing.