Posted on January 18, 2021
Hadil Ankouny is the GIL Program Director at Berytech. She’s also an architect, maker, designer, inventor, and entrepreneur. Her latest venture is a thoughtfully designed product that spent months in the making to cover every functional aspect of it.
The Nail Shaper has one basic function: to perfectly shape your nails in the form you prefer the most; knowing that getting that one function right is a daunting task. We met with Hadil to understand her design process and her journey in launching her patented creation.
After graduating in Interior Architecture and acquiring a master’s degree in Landscape Architecture, Hadil moved to Barcelona to get another master’s degree in Advanced Design and Digital Fabrication. “It’s a program that teaches you everything about digital fabrication, technology, machines, programs, working with complex geometry and exposes you to the world of Fab Labs,” explains Hadil.
She came back to open Lebanon’s first Fab Lab, a large space, fully equipped, sparking the interest of local makers – a small community passionate about prototyping and innovation. “I didn’t know that this community existed. It was amazing for me to watch their inventions come to life using different programs and machines. I was very inspired.”
Despite her exciting journey, Hadil decided to close the Fab Lab two years later. “The Fab Lab was difficult to sustain financially and exhausting to manage. I spent every waking hour in it, I even slept there at times. I sold the business and took a break from it all. I started teaching digital fabrication in university and worked in consultancy. Out of nowhere, I found the inspiration to invent again. Taking that distance helped me clear my head, and ideas started flashing like lightbulbs. My true passion is designing and innovating products. I now have a notebook full of ideas and inventions that I want to make.”
“One day the idea of the Nail Shaper just popped in my head. Ideas don’t come from blankness; you would be thinking of the problem in the back of your mind and then you would have a moment where it comes to your mind. Mine came from my struggle with the simple task of shaping my nails.”
From there, Hadil dove into prototyping her Nail Shaper with scraps of plastic while taking all the different measurements to make it functional. She got a 3D printer and used it at home to perfect her prototype, putting hours of effort and analysis to get the measurements right and working on details and variations. One year later, with a lot of trial and error, she finished the design of the main holder and the different nail shapes that come with it.
“I launched into the idea very organically without thinking of how to make a business plan and how to turn my prototype into a product ready for the market. I loved the idea of designing something that could be sold commercially. With the nail shaper, I was sure that people would want it and would buy it, even though I did not ask. I was sure that I was not the only one with this problem. I assumed that there were people like me who couldn’t shape their nails properly. It was so obvious, I just wondered why it was not done already.”
After finishing the prototype, Hadil went on to register her invention. Her visit to the Ministry of Economy led her to the tedious task of researching the numerous requirements to file a patent claim. Two months later, she had done her legal research, written the product description, made the drawings, filled the document, filed the patent claim, and received it.
Similarly, she worked her way through production, packaging, barcoding, e-commerce, and online marketing.
“It took me another year and a half to finish the injection molds. Local manufacturers are used to producing common shapes like cups, plates and boxes and faced challenges in working with technical details and measurements. I visited the production facility, sometimes twice a day, just to get the molds right before the Nail Shaper was ready for mass production.
I also designed and created the website myself, researching the payment gateways and finding options to circumvent the problems with the local banks. I prepared the online platforms. I took pictures, edited them, posted them and priced them.
I worked on packaging for both the product and for shipping from scratch. I made the deal with the shipping company and set up the whole ordering and delivering system.”
“I believe in the process, that things evolve at their own pace. When I launched the Fab Lab, I went big, I rented a huge space, I bought all the machines. It was all there, but something was missing.
This time I did the opposite. I started small. I produced 1000 pieces and I planned to go online and just start selling. When I launched, the turnover and the feedback were very slow. Social media ads did not bring in what was expected, but I knew from experience that it takes time to build trust and a presence.
It took two months for things to pick up, the first week I only sold 1 nail shaper. The second month I sold hundreds. I was being very consistent in publishing, marketing, and working on my target audience. Beyond that, I was creating exposure for my product to the people around me, talking about it on every possible occasion, and that created word of mouth. I also listened to client feedback, edited my product offering to their suggestions, which proved successful.”
A lot of the tasks that Hadil had to go through to get her business running were outside of her comfort zone. “Besides designing and making, I felt uncomfortable with the other aspects of my business. Getting absorbed by these feelings will stop your progress. With a limited budget, hiring someone to do it for you might not be an option. By doing and repeating a task, it becomes easier. Setting yourself up for it gets you out of your comfort zone.
The scariest part for me is receiving feedback; but getting positive reactions and repeat customers makes me want to do more. I am continuing with the development of different aspects of the product, I’m working on a second edition and additional products to add to the line. There is so much to be done!
I have never considered myself an entrepreneur. To me, entrepreneurship is a means to an end, it is finding what you love to do and figuring out a way to do it. You also have to be agile, constantly developing your skills to reach your goal.
After The Nail Shaper, I have plenty of ideas lined up that I want to design and make.”
If you’ve been inspired by Hadil’s successful prototyping story, then we invite you to check out Berytech Fab Lab. From 3D printing to the creation of fully automated robots, makers across Lebanon have joining Berytech’s open-access digital fabrication workshop to create, prototype, and turn their concepts into reality. Hadil, Wael and Issa and more than ready to support you in your prototyping endeavor. It’s all about thinking it, making it and sharing it!