Coni Notter — nail technician, aerobics instructor, and leotard designer — finds that locating her salon in a gym allows her to juggle three businesses.
Coni Notter (right) says she does plenty of men's nails, including client Brady Higgins.
While many women today are challenged to meet the demands of career and family, Coni Notter, owner of A Finer Touch in Lake Mary, Fla., juggles three careers. Operating her nail salon out of Gold’s Gym and Family Fitness, Notter schedules her services by appointment only at times convenient for her clients. When she’s not doing nails, she may be teaching aerobics, wearing one of her custom-designed leotards. (Teaching aerobics classes helps her pay the rent for her space in Gold’s Gym.) If she’s not at the gym, she’ll probably be at her sewing machine making her custom leotards and biking shorts — until a nail client needs her.
Working out of a gym allows Notter to pursue her three loves and still be available when her nail clients need her, and the lively gym atmosphere matches her own personality.
“I was born in June, which means I’m energetic, bored easily, and enjoy constantly dealing with new situations,” says Notter. “Every day is different. I teach every day, I get exercise, I consult with people on their diets — everything I do has a purpose. I do nails on five to six people per day and rarely have a slack day.”
AVAILABLE WHEN NEEDED
An average week has Notter spending 30 to 40 hours doing nails, 15 hours sewing, and nine hours teaching aerobics. By keeping her hours flexible, she not only keeps her three businesses rolling, but is able to put her clients’ needs first. “I felt there was a need for a competent nail technician in my area who was willing to be there when it was convenient for the client,” explains Notter. “Lots of nail techs take their clients for granted and only schedule when they feel like working. Therefore my salon is by appointment only and I make myself available from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. until late on Saturday.”
Offering such a range of availability and dedicating up to 40 hours a week to doing nails means that Notter is constantly switching activities. But when she’s away from her station, Notter makes it easy for her clients to reach her. She keeps business cards at the table and has her own an swering machine separate from the gym’s. A note tells clients where she can be reached, and she returns phone calls two to three times a day. “I also have an open desk policy,” says Notter. “My desk locks except for one area so that clients are able to use the nail polish when I’m not here. They know to keep the area clean and up to my sanitation standards.”
CLIENTS CROSS OVER
A Finer Touch has a storefront window, which means clients see Notter even before they see the sweating men and women in shorts and leotards. Gym members often stop by for manicures, and her nail clients often end up becoming members of the gym.
“Some people are intimidated by the gym, so I have a door off to the side so my clients can come in without having to walk through the gym,” says Notter.
Her clients often bring their daughters to the salon, and Notter does their nails for a special price. Clients who don’t want to leave their young kids home with a sitter can bring them along — Gold’s has a babysitting service that’s free for members, and $1 an hour for non-members who visit A Finer Touch.
“It eliminates stress for my clients. They don’t have to leave their kids home with their husbands,” says Notter. Members of Gold s Gym receive discount nail services from A Finer Touch.
Coni Notter doesn’t just tend to the women who are working out. Even the men at the gym are getting manicures. “I do a lot of men,” she says. “They were shy at first. When they came in, they’d make a joke, or if they saw another man getting his nails done, I’d say, ‘You’re just jealous because you don’t get to hold my hand for an hour.’ You just get on their level.
“Also, I got into bodybuilding,” Notter continues. “When they saw me in the gym working just as hard as they were, they accepted me.”
Her clients who are fitness enthusiasts don’t usually need any special nail care, Notter says. “Most come in weekly, and I’ll give them a paraffin treatment for dry hands. Of course, I don’t use polish on the men. I just buff their nails.”
STRESS IS A THING OF THE PAST
Several years ago, Notter was a member of Gold’s Gym while working as a paralegal. The job gave her so much stress that her boyfriend (now her husband) told her he’d pay her bills while she learned another career. After completing her nail training in two weeks of 12- and 15-hour days, Notter found a traditional salon and soon developed a following.
When the salon doubled her rent, Notter had to leave. She took her clients home with her for a period of time, then came up with the idea to approach Gold’s Gym and ask for a small space to set up a manicuring table. “At the gym, people are already getting into shape,” Notter explains. “Getting your nails done is the finishing touch, which is why I called it A Finer Touch.”
The gym’s only restriction was that Notter wasn’t allowed to have any “stinky stuff’ in the gym. She learned to use odorless products, and now offers her clients natural manicures and pedicures as well as no-light gel and wrap systems. The smell of nail polish isn’t a problem. “Most clients wind up not wearing polish,” Notter says. “They want their nails to look natural.”
While Notter worked on clients’ nails, she developed a bodybuilding program. After winning her first bodybuilding contest, she decided to maintain her shape by teaching aerobics. Gold’s Gym takes the salon rent out of her pay as an aerobics instructor, and Notter says she rarely has to write them a check.
While she was teaching aerobics, Notter was inspired to try sewing her own leotards. The compliments she got from her students gave her the confidence to launch a part-time business selling leotards and bike shorts, which she displays in her salon area.
Notter applies the same craftsmanship at the nail station as she does at the sewing machine. “I do each set by hand, except that I clean the underside of the nail with a drill,” Notter says. “Some people are intimidated by the drill, but I’ve never nicked anyone.”
When she started doing nails, a full set took her two and a half hours to complete; now she can finish a set in an hour. “Once I learned to talk and do nails at the same time, it became less tedious,” she says. And with all she’s doing now she has plenty to talk about.
The stressful days of the paralegal are now long behind Notter. “I’m having a great time and love my job,” she says. She feels that salons should make themselves available, and accessible to all types of clientele — perhaps by locating themselves in a corporate building, next to a tennis or racquetball club, or near a hotel. She herself has found such a secure niche in the industry that the only thing she worries about these days is finding time to do everything she loves.