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Secrets of Success: Melanie Hurley

There are some “rules” of business success most entrepreneurs abide by. But many also have their own “secrets”—things they do or believe that helped them achieve success. In “Secrets of Success,” a weekly interview series here at’s Small Business Forum, I ask some of today’s smartest, most innovative, most successful business owners to share their insights and success secrets with you.

Meet: Melanie Hurley founder of Piggy Paint. A little more than eight years ago, Melanie was a stay-at-home mom with two young (nearly 2 and 4 years old) daughters who loved to have their fingernails painted. Her oldest daughter had lots of allergies and skin sensitivities, so she “always hated the thought of my kids putting their hands in their mouths after I painted their nails with traditional kid polishes.”

A former elementary school teacher, Melanie had no business experience, but did have a “burning desire to create a product that could really make a difference. I also figured if I made something that I would want to purchase for my kids, and modeled it after my girls–who were my target market–the polish should sell.”

She selected kid-friendly polishes centered around the colors of the rainbow, and chose names based on things that either reminded her of her girls (like “Forever Fancy”) or phrases she’s heard them say frequently, like “Mac-n-cheese Please”—which was a recurrent answer to the question, “What would you girls like for lunch?” Piggy Paint is currently sold in 4,000 stores, including select Walmart locations.

You can find Melanie on Twitter @PiggyPaint.

Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?

Melanie Hurley: Since I was a little girl, I always wanted to be an elementary teacher. I fulfilled this dream and taught three years prior to starting Piggy Paint. Though teaching 2nd and 5th graders is completely unrelated to what I do now, the teacher in me makes me a better salesperson. Our product is about educating consumers on the difference between our water-based polish compared to traditional solvent-based polishes. I feel if you learn about our products’ great attributes, then you should want it. On our website I’ve included tips on how to use Piggy Paint as a learning tool. Once a teacher, always a teacher...

Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?

Hurley: At the time I started my business [in 2008], I was a mom with two little girls who loved to have their fingernails painted. I’d always hated the thought of my kiddos putting their hands in their mouths after I painted their nails with traditional kid polishes. Not only did the ingestion of chemicals worry me, but the smell left me with bad headaches. One day while we were painting nails over a foam plate, my daughter dropped a glob of her solvent-based polish onto the plate. Shortly after, the paint began to bubble and “ate” through the plate. I looked in dismay at the hole in the plate and decided to test all of her other “kid” polishes on the foam. Within minutes, all of the polishes began to bubble and eventually left big holes in the plate. This was my “Wow” moment. My quest to find a safer alternative began, and I knew that if I was looking for a kid-friendly nail polish, then lots of other parents must be too...and Piggy Paint was born.

Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?

Hurley: Starting and sustaining your own business is draining. In the beginning, I lived, ate and breathed Piggy Paint to get it going, and worked every moment of every day. My breaking point came when I read my Mother’s Day card my 1st grader created at school. In her innocence, she answered every prompt from her teacher with a response about me and work. Her Mommy loved to work, and it broke my heart. I sat in my car and cried uncontrollably for an hour. This pivotal moment reminded me that my girls were why I started my business in the first place and that I needed a priority shift. From that point on, I’ve worked hard to achieve a work and home life balance. I began turning off my phone in the evening so I wasn’t tempted by phone calls or email, and shifted my focus back to what really mattered.

Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?

Hurley: I nervously called a fellow mompreneur for advice when I first started Piggy Paint. She not only graciously answered my questions, but also told me to never be afraid to ask successful people for advice—it’s the best way to learn. I’ve asked and answered many questions over the years, and am more successful because of it. I feel very blessed that so many wonderful, caring people have been willing to share their experiences and wisdom with me.

Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?

Hurley: I think it’s important for entrepreneurs to remember their mission and why they are doing what they are doing. Too often we get bogged down with all of the problems of running a business and lose focus of what’s really important. I love it when moms tell me they are thrilled to be able to paint their daughter’s nails for the first time without worrying about harsh chemicals. It’s these stories that make it worthwhile and allow me to get through the everyday madness.

Lesonsky: Do you have a prediction for small business?

Hurley: I predict small business will continue to be the heart of America. I love walking up and down trade show aisles and seeing endless rows of entrepreneurs bringing their products to market. There are so many innovative ideas arising from a problem or need, and these problem-solvers are extremely passionate about their ideas. Small business is the American dream—taking an idea and bringing it to life. The independent retailers purchasing products from entrepreneurs at these shows have relationships with their customers and know them by name. Small business is personal and meaningful, which will always be relevant and impactful.

Lesonsky: What’s your favorite book?

Hurley: Max Lucado’s You Are Special. I’m a sucker for a good kid’s book, and I love an inspiring message. It is important for every child to know they are loved and made for a special purpose.

Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?

Hurley: “Never, never, never give up”–Winston Churchill. I have a plaque with this quote on my desk as a daily reminder to fight hard, each and every day. We are all given different talents, but what we do with these gifts is what matters the most.

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Author information

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at [email protected], follow her on Google+ and, and visit her website,, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.