The Owner & The Brand: Symantha Wechie-Onyechi of Triple O Polish
Nails are my favorite accessory.
If you couldn’t already tell from my interview with Mimi D.—one of my first clothespetals interviews ever—I love nail art.
I do. I love nail polish. I love painting my nails. I love getting my nails done. I love changing the color and patterns and letting my nails reflect the changing seasons along with my changing outfits and my changing moods.
And it's Fall. So as we say 'hey' to pumpkin spice and sweater weather, we're going to need our nails to change accordingly. Colder weather often makes for the best nude sets, and let me tell you, it's not easy finding a #browngirlapproved nude that matches your skin tone.
And this "nude gap," as I have just coined it, is actually part of CEO and businesswoman, Symantha Wechie-Onyechi's entry into the world of creating her own nail brand. Her own disappointing past experiences in nail salons, where no nude shades matched her own, made her decide one day to begin creating those inclusive shades. With no bridge in sight for brown nudes, Symantha built it, setting out to make a few nude polishes before realizing how much fulfillment she found from mixing and creating her polishes. Triple O then grew from a few offerings into full collections of unique, bold colors that enhance the natural beauty of every skin tone.
Triple O Polish is built on the foundation of inclusion and education, yes. But, Symantha takes it one step further, because her brand not only promotes a range of colors but colors that are named after African civilizations. And, behind this intentionality, Triple O draws parallels between the richness of not only our own breadth of colors and melanin, but also our history and heritage. Not to mention, while Symantha leads miniature history lessons behind her naming choices on her Instagram and TikTok, she also promotes healthy nail care. The line is not only cruelty-free but also toxic-free and clean.
"...do exactly what you want to do in life and have no regrets."
1. Would you mind providing a bit about your background?
My name is Symantha Wechie Onyechi, I’ve been a Texan gal all my life. I was born and raised in Houston, Texas. I've always loved nail polish, I also was an excellent nail biter too, but I would still paint those little nubs of nails! I've always admired my mother and my aunts' nails. All three of them have super long beautiful natural nails that were meticulously cared for like m e t i c u l o u s l y still to this day (laughs), so I was always loved going to the nail shop with my mom and watching the process.
2. Please explain the story behind your business. (You know, like where did you get the idea? How did you set off to start? When did you decide you wanted to be an entrepreneur?)
When I was finally allowed to get my own "full set" I never looked back and fell in love with nails and nail polish. Before the nail shop, I had a ritual of looking for inspirational nail designs, I was always exploring some "weird" color, as my mom would say, I noticed that though color swatches were plentiful, the skin tones didn't change too much. I was determined to find the perfect nude, and not settling for these odd undertone nudes that just didn't come out how I imagined. Between trying to find the perfect nude in what seems like a timed race to "Pick your color," in a salon, and all of the disappointing outcomes I would regularly get with the nude shades I had to quickly select, I decided to make my own. I actually only set out to make a few nude shades based on my skin tone, but once I started mixing and pouring, I fell in love with creating unique colors that radiate on every skin tone.
3. I love your African history lessons and the ties of these great civilizations to your polishes. How and why did African heritage inspire you in your business decisions?
I’m Nigerian, so I’ve always been heavily involved in my culture, and my visits to Nigeria combined with having always loved the details of world history, especially the indigenous history of countries before the influence of European colonialism, it made perfect sense to name my nail polish collection this way. And, sharing a little world history inspires my customers to learn something new. I believe that education equals unity.
4. What was your career path prior to starting your own business?
I actually went to SFA in Nacogdoches, Texas, and graduated with a degree in Criminal Justice and Poli Sci. I had plans to become a corporate lawyer, but I quickly learned that the legal system here is not something I would want to participate in and quickly changed those plans. When I opened Triple O Polish I was a stay-at-home mom with 2 kids, but I’d always make time to perfect my nail shades and my passion grew from there.
5. What does your daily work schedule look like?
I’m now a mom of 3, so it’s getting the kids ready for school, head back to my home office, and since it’s just my husband and me, we usually check inventory, update the website, process orders, or doing one of the many jobs of a CEO. I’m happy I have someone I can share duties with or I’d be overwhelmed (laughs).
6. Work/life balance is difficult for anyone, let alone a business owner. How do you balance being a CEO of your business with your personal life? How do you prioritize yourself while being an entrepreneur?
As I mentioned before, my husband is super helpful; helps with my kid duties, and is my right-hand person in handling things with my brand. I have also created a very strict work schedule in order to ensure I have time for my kids during the week and weekend. I also believe in outsourcing as much as you can so I have a cleaning company, my daughter helps with laundry and dinner, and my weekends are usually work-free, which is usually when I pamper myself with a manicure and pedicure (laughs).
7. How many people do you have on your team? What are your plans to grow your business?
The team consists of my husband and me. I plan to continue to provide consistent quality unique shades and grow from there. I don’t have any specific plans or goals but just to be able to continue to be consistent and see where it takes me. That’s the hardest part of entrepreneurship that many people forget--consistency.
8. I, like you, was ALSO going to go to law school and pivoted into beauty. Do you have any advice for someone who is thinking about switching industries?
I don’t have any super-advanced advice except to just do it and follow your passion and interests. I always think about how many times we’re going to hear from older or elderly people to do exactly what you want to do in life and have no regrets.
9. ClothesPetals was created to support creatives of color within the beauty and fashion industries. How can creatives (and brand owners) of colors continue to support each other in their industry?
I think the best way to support is in whatever way you can. Share, purchase, spread the message by word of mouth. It’s really simple.
10. Also, I LOVE that on your website you provide a nail guide and ingredients. Why is it so important to you to create and promote nail health and ingredients?
It’s important to have healthy nails first, in order to achieve the manicure you desire. Many people don’t know that you’re supposed to apply cuticle oil multiple times a day and every day, and those small things really make a difference in ensuring you have nails that can take on nail polish without getting damaged in the process. Just like with any beauty product, a good and healthy foundation is key.
I'm excited to support and share this brand, because:
It's a Black, woman-owned business.
That's it. No further explanation is needed.
Triple O is a clean brand, and if you've read literally any one of my articles or follow clothespetals on Instagram, you know how I feel about ingredients. 75% of products marketed to Black women contain toxic chemicals, and in the nail industry, there are three main culprits found in many polishes: formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate (DBP). These chemicals are known as the "Toxic Trio" or "Big 3". I could write an article about these, and why we should all stay far, far away from them, but here is more information as to why you should avoid.
The African history!
Please follow Triple O's Instagram so you can see exactly what I'm talking about! Symantha has a whole series of videos in her "African History Before Colonialism" series, that explains the historical significance behind the polish names and colors.
The nail inspo!
The Triple O IG page is also full of incredible nail art and styles. I've definitely asked my nail tech to recreate some of the styles I've seen, and it's a great place to check if you're looking for inspiration for Fall!
Not all nail polishes are created equally, and by that, I mean not every color in a nail line will look to complement all skin tones. As a brown-skinned girl, I can't tell you how many colors I've tried thinking they would look good on me only to be disappointed. There's a need for diverse beauty in nail care, and Symantha is filling this need with beautiful polishes that are good for your nails, too. Triple O, she has said, is for all skin types, skin tones, and, quite simply, just some good ol' quality nail polish.
"Diversifying beauty in nail care means I specifically created a space for underrepresented skin tones/types and this safe space is made just for you and anyone who loves and embraces inclusiveness."
The Triple O nail polishes are all inspired by world history, especially pre-colonial African history, which, as we all know, is often uncharted territory when it comes to a typical history lesson in our American school system. These deep, untold truths are a part of us, though. The kingdoms and empires of African kings and queens are running through the very bloodlines we carry today, and the greatness of those civilizations are our origins.
So, while I love so many things about this brand, it's the education that might be my favorite, because Symantha does so much with nails. She's promoting nail health, but behind these very intentional names, is inspiring consumers to keep digging, to keep researching, and to continue the pursuit of self-discovery.
We often forget the richness of our history, especially when many of our schools start "Black history" on the shores of Virginia. The African diaspora begins in Africa. Our history begins in Africa. Our civilizations begin in Africa. And this is important knowledge for everyone. These kingdoms and empires are important for everyone. The African diaspora begins in Africa. Our history begins in Africa. Our civilizations begin in Africa. And this is important knowledge for everyone. These kingdoms and empires are important for everyone, but they often get lost when we start our studies with slavery and the Atlantic slave trade. It's important to know that these kings and queens and scientists and architects and mathematicians were thriving before Europeans ever set foot on the continent.
So, again, while I am in love with so many things about Symantha's brand, it's how she has found a way to weave the history, stories, and customs of cultures past into the artistry and color of present nail art that makes me keep placing orders. Even she mentions herself, that the growth of her brand has prompted the continuation of her own study.
Many of these stories, she found, are "purposely hidden or only told in bits and pieces, so," she says, "I even began learning things about my own culture when creating this brand that I hadn't been taught or even knew existed."
Yes, to that. Yes to more and more of us rediscovering all facets of our greatness. Yes to our beauty rituals being celebrated, and yes to our history being equated with beauty. Yes to our history being draped in gold. Yes to our nails matching our beautiful skin.
"We believe these untold stories have purpose and deserve to be known," says Symantha, "so our goal is to provide nail polish names with purpose. We believe education helps fuel unity."
Yes to us celebrating us.