Indie Beauty Profile

Tran Wills and Ali Elman, Base Coat

By Deanna Utroske

- Last updated on GMT

Indie Beauty Profile Tran Wills and Ali Elman Base Coat

Related tags Nail care Manicure

In their Indie Beauty Profile, Tran Wills and Ali Elman, founders of the nail color and nail care brand Base Coat describe how the brand evolved as a natural complement to their Base Coat nail salons. And Elman advises prospective indie brand founders to consider the commitment carefully.

Personal service goes a long way toward giving a face to a brand and building consumer loyalty. Beauty counter consultants, spa professionals, chats with online advisors, all guide consumers’ lived experience of the products in question.

Even though their brand launched in the digital age and boasts some 11,000+ followers on Instagram, this is not lost on founders Tran Wills and Ali Elman. From the design of their branded nail salons to the caliber of the product portfolio, it’s clear that Base Coat is a brand with a personal touch.

Here, the beauty entrepreneurs share a profile of themselves and the brand.

Name: ​Tran Wills and Ali Elman, Founders

Indie Beauty Company: ​Base Coat

Launched: ​2013

Headquarters: ​Los Angeles, California and Denver, Colorado

Cash flow: ​Base Coat sales increased 70% from 2016 to 2017.

Team work: ​5 full-time employees and 20 part-time

Distribution: ​Base Coat is currently distributed through our own salons and website, in addition to several online retailers. In 2017 we focused on retail distribution which led us to several international distributors, so now we are worldwide!

Years in Beauty: ​We have both worked in the industry for 5 years.

Years at Base Coat: ​5 years for both Wills and Elman.

Entrepreneurial experience:​ For as long as I can remember I knew I wanted to own my own business. Part of the draw to it was being able to create, says Elman.

And Wills adds, I loved the idea of a clean and safe environment to get your nails done. Especially in a beautiful setting. When Ali and I realized there weren’t a lot of options out there, I knew that opening our own salons and beauty brand was the next business venture I was meant to take on.

The business: ​Base Coat has thoughtfully curated 105 nail polishes that are long-wearing, and 8-Free (free of the most toxic ingredients known to cause health problems including cancer, asthma, and neonatal death). Our polish formulations do not contain Dibutyl Phthalate, Toluene, Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin, Camphor, Ethyl Tosylamide, Xylene, or Parabens. All our products are responsibly made in the USA, vegan, gluten- and cruelty-free.

The name Base Coat was inspired by the philosophy of the business and brand: A beautiful set of nails starts with a healthy base coat. That is the foundation of our business and also the inspiration behind the two X’s in our logo: 10 fingers and 10 toes — XX.

We believe that wellness should not be compromised for beauty. Our custom formulated creams, scrubs, and oils used in all of the services at Base Coat Nail Salon are vegan friendly, scented with only essential oils, made with plant-based preservatives, and never contain petrochemicals, parabens, sulfates or any other harmful chemicals.

The wow-factor: ​In addition to our Base Coat brand of 8-free non-toxic polish and organic skincare products, we want our clients to walk into a Base Coat salon and have a complete experience and that means the design itself needs to feel welcoming and enveloping – it’s meant to give you a small reprieve for the day. Each space we design is inspired by the neighborhood or the building in which we place them.

The customer: ​We target anyone who is looking for a healthier nail and skincare experience. They want to be pretty on the inside, as well as the outside.

Milestone moment: ​We are very proud to have been chosen as a 2017 Trendsetter at Cosmoprof Las Vegas. At that show we were honored to have met with the Yahoo Beauty Editor who featured us on the Yahoo Beauty page the following week as one of the “7 Brands You Need to Know Right Now.”

Advice for fellow indie beauty entrepreneurs: ​Elman recommends that (potential) founders think carefully about what’s important to you. If you want to start a business because you think it will free up more of your time, you should think again. I say write down all your motivations for opening a business and then keep checking back in with them while you are in the process of diving into the endeavor. If things are lining up and still feel aligned with your original goals for being a business owner, stay the course. But if you are suddenly finding that you had more stress and less time than before, it’s time to re-think your strategy.

Just one: ​Asked about their go-to products, Elman says: Cuticle oil, it’s portable and versatile. Use it on your cuticles, rub it in to your entire hand to moisturize dry skin. Run those hands through your hair for frizz control and flyaways!

And Wills’ preference? I love a good hand and foot scrub, she says. It’s so dry in Colorado and California, so I’m always looking for a way to combat dry skin.



Deanna Utroske, Editor, covers beauty business news in the Americas region and publishes the weekly Indie Beauty Profile column, showcasing the inspiring work of entrepreneurs and innovative brands.

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