Nail Galleria in Pittsburgh takes home the Nail Salon of the Year title again.
Salon With 8+ Nail Technicians
Location: Pittsburgh, Pa.
Owners: Michelle Yaksich and Terri DeCort
Years in business: 4
Staff size: 16 (10 nail technicians)
They must be doing everything right. Co-owner Terri DeCort (left) will soon join the nail brigade as she has decicded to go back to school for her nail technician's license. Michelle Yaksich is busy learning skin care.
Winning NAILS Magazine’s 1994 Nail Salon of the Year (for salons with 8 or more nail technicians) was shocking. Bringing home the honor again for 1996, say Nail Galleria owners Michele Yaksich and Terri DeCort, was exhilarating and corny as it sounds, fun. “The first time we won we were too stunned to have much fun with it. This time, we’re having a blast with it,” says Yaksich. In celebration of the salon’s second straight win, Yaksich and DeCort threw a party for their clients, complete with a “sidewalk sale”in the lobby as well as sumptuous spread of exotic breads, cookies, flavored coffees, and wines. Later, they thanked their employees with a party at a local restaurant on the waterfront. The salon is also sending out press releases to all the local print and broadcast media.
Of the more than quarter-million salons in the United States, what makes this one a two-time winner? Nail Galleria starts by attracting the best and brightest nail technicians in the area with a sliding pay scale that rewards technical expertise, retail sales commissions of up to 20%, and paid vacations. Once hired, each technician undergoes extensive training that covers acrylics, gels, and linen, silk, and fiberglass wraps as well as health and sanitation issues. One-on-one training is supplemented by support materials, including a “speed training” chart, which describes each step of a service and how long that step should take to complete. Yaksich also trains technicians on her own filing system, a four-page illustrated brochure which shows step by step how to contour and shape artificial nails.
On the business side, Nail Galleria’s expectations and policies are clearly outlined in an employee handbook, a simple yet concise pamphlet that covers pay scales, vacation accrual, attendance, meetings, lunch and break policies phone etiquette, dress code, salon cleanliness, supplies, handling complaints, and sanitation procedures. The back cover of the handbook contains a chart of topics and suggested questions and ideas for clients. A separate reception guide gives employees detailed instructions on how to answer the phones and book appointments, while the “Sales Talk That Sells” pamphlet provides personal selling strategies for nail consultants.
Additionally, the owners hold in-house classes on techniques and retail products as well as motivational seminars. Bimonthly memos keep the staff up-to-date between staff meetings, and Yaksich and DeCort encourage their staff to attend continuing education outside the salon. To that end, Nail Galleria pays half the tuition costs for outside nail classes and provides the opportunity for employees to raise the other half of tuition and tradeshow expenses through the Nail Galleria Education Fund.
The salon is likewise dedicated to educating its clients. Clients learn about the salon’s activities and services through a bimonthly newsletter mailed to their homes; they also receive professionally printed brochures written by the staff on subjects such as “Fungus & Mold,” “Care of Acrylic Nails,”and “Nail Art.” Nail Galleria also has referral relationships with a local dermatologist and podiatrist.
When it comes down to it, however, Yaksich and DeCort attribute their winning streak to a much simpler reason. Explains Yaksich: “We’re just having so much fun. You have to love this industry. If you don’t love it or don’t want to have fun with it, you won’t want to put the time into it. I don’t think we’ve ever sat down and said, ‘This is what we need to make.’ Money has never been a goal---our goal was to have the best educated nail technicians in the city and receptionist who spoil our clients.
“Most of all, we’ve stuck to what we’re all about. We’ve never gotten wrapped up in what’s around us and how to make the money. It’s easy when you concentrate on what you think is right and why you went into the business in the first place.”