Case Study: Star Nails Bulgaria Ltd. / SME / Have partners in Japan

Star Nails – from BG   

Star Nails - Bulgaria Ltd. was founded in 1993. The company was inspired by the latest manicure trends and became an undisputed market leader. It was a first company that introduced the nail extension system in Bulgaria.

Business: Star Nails Bulgaria Ltd.
History in Japan: Business partners in Japan since 2014
Size: 48 employees in Bulgaria
Target market: Cosmetics/luxury goods

Star Nails is a member of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises of the Beauty and Healthcare Industry. The company is also a member of the Bulgarian National Association of Essential Oils, Perfumery and Cosmetics. In 2000, the company started its own production based in Plovdiv. In 2007, the company registered its trademark - SNB®. Today’s range of SNB products accounts up to more than 200 items and continues to grow.
In 2013, the company brand SNB Professional won the prestigious “Brand of the Year” award in the Category “Beauty” of the annual “Show of brands.” Since its establishment, the SNB brand has been getting a constantly growing interest from customers. SNB products are presented at various international and national exhibitions, such as Cosmoprof Worldwide Bologna, InterCharm Moscow, Fair Pedicure Rotterdam, Cosmetics, Beauty, Hair – Bucharest and others.

WHY JAPAN?

Firstly, Japan has a multi-million market with sophisticated consumers who appreciate cosmetic products with natural ingredients. Star Nails Bulgaria Ltd. has been trying hard to provide and implement natural ingredients in their cosmetic formulations and this has made them believe that their products will be accepted well in Japan.

Bulgaria is famous worldwide with Rosa Damascena products, also known in Japan. That was another reason why the company wanted to introduce their premium Rosa Damascena series for spa, manicure and pedicure treatments.

In addition, Ms Dinkova, a general manager of the company, has always admired Japan and considered a great challenge the opportunity to compete with their products on this highly developed market. According to her, Japan is a part of the world where consumers have highest demands and expectations for quality and effect.

Last but not least, in 2014, the company had the chance to participate in BeautyWorld Japan, the largest trade fair for the beauty & spa industries in Japan, thanks to the support provided by the Bulgarian Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion Agency. That was the first opportunity that kick-started their business ventures in Japan.

WHY HRTP MISSION?

Prior to Miss Svetlina Nikolova’ s participation in the Human Resources Training Programme (HRTP) organised by the EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation in 2015, Star Nails Bulgaria Ltd. already had some contacts with Japanese companies. However, it was difficult to understand the Japanese way of thinking, how they run their meetings and general decision-making processes. Mainly because Japanese business etiquette is so different from the European business style which tends to be more individualistic, in comparison to the collective decision-making in Japan.   

"Prior to my participation, I did not understand why Japanese businessmen are postponing their answers for so long or why they do not reply to me with certain choices or solutions, but then I understood that this is because of a different decision-making process as well as different hierarchies because it's very important who you are communicating with and who is the decision-maker" – Svetlina Nikolova.

STEPS TAKEN:

After the HRTP programme, Star Nails Bulgaria Ltd. focused extensively on developing company’s production and improving the packaging of their products. The experience that they gained in Japan was crucial in terms of trying to ensure the best quality for Japanese consumers. As suggested by Ms Nikolova, one of the many important insights learnt was that it is very important to pay attention to the product, to be unique and also be persistent in terms of ensuring the highest quality for the product and its packaging:

“I understood from lectures that in Japan, which is in contrast with other parts of the world, it is required to launch new products very often and products’ cycle is short, therefore we focused our energy and efforts to produce and invent new lines, in relation to the existing ones”.

CHALLENGES:

Prior to the mission, the key challenge was to meet high expectations of Japanese consumers and comply with Japanese market requirements. Previously, the company experienced several issues, while providing their production to the Japanese market, and thought that the cooperation will not last for much longer, but were surprised that the Japanese remained loyal to their initial agreement. Thanks to fruitful insights during the HRTP programme, Star Nails Bulgaria Ltd. was able to improve their products and ensure the smooth cooperation with Japanese partners for the foreseeable future.

According to Ms Nikolova, this was evidenced by the fact that the company is still in close collaboration with Japanese partners and they will participate in BeautyWorld Japan 2016, where Japanese companies will have a stand with their products on display.

CURRENT STATUS – NEXT STEPS

For now, the company is planning to sustain their current partnerships in Japan and ensure the best quality of their production, before they would be aiming for any other business collaborations in Japan. As normally it takes time to create, test the product and get a feedback from clients, until one can be absolutely sure and ready to expand within the Japanese market.

Finally, Miss Nikolova feels nostalgic about the programme and appreciates the support and guidance provided from the EU-Japan Centre in Tokyo before and during the programme. 

Interview made with Svetlina Nikolova