The owners of the largest salon in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, owe their success to specializing in a service they do well, keeping track of every dollar, and thinking service before money.
Early in 1992, Rosie and Robert Wells’ dream of owning a large nail salon nearly ended when a water pipe burst during construction of their facility. It was only one of many challenges the Wells family faced. But thanks to the determination of family and friends, not to mention countless 16-hour workdays, Just Nails & Faces has now fulfilled all its goals.
“By the end of 1992 our revenues had doubled,” says Rosie. “The number of technicians had grown to seven (four full-time and three part-time) and I hired two receptionists (one full-time and one part-time). My husband, Bob, is developing computerized accounting, recordkeeping, and form systems. Best of all, we are now the largest nail salon in Sheboygan.”
Eight years ago, Rosie Wells had virtually no experience in the nail or beauty industry – she just wanted to help out a family member. She ended up with a new career.
“I kind of got talked into apprenticing at my sister-in-law’s salon because they needed a girl to fill in here and there. Well, in three months I was full time. I started taking classes in Milwaukee and suddenly I was doing manicures, fills, gels, acrylic and nail art.”
Two years later, this “fill-in girl was ready to open her own nail salon. And talk about an aggressive entrepreneur – practically before the polish dried on her first client, Rosie was already experiencing growing pains.
Says Robert, who handles the salon’s business affairs, “We were renting a room from a salon that was only a little bit bigger than a two-car garage. We had just hired a fourth technician and had outgrown the space. Plus, Rosie wanted to expand into offering makeup. We began looking for a building that would allow six stations and have room for makeup.”
In September 1991, the dynamic duo found the ideal building located on a major Sheboygan thoroughfare. While the high-traffic location met their space requirements and would certainly help attract new customers and walk-ins, it needed a serious facelift. The Wells family met the challenge head on.
“While we worked on the new salon, the other salon was still open. We were here every night, weekends, and more nights. We have three kids and they were sick of being here. Not only did we design the new salon, we built it ourselves. We never could have afforded to have done it this nicely if we had hired someone,” says Rosie.
“Myself, a friend, and my brother, who is a carpenter, put in a lot of hours,” says Robert. “We had to gut out the inside and knock out the front where they had blocked up the old windows. We put in new windows, new walls, a ceiling, electricity, and a furnace. Now we have six stations, a retail display area, a reception area, a special rooms for makeup, a pedicure area, and we’re adding a drying bar.”
When Just Nails & Faces’ doors opened in April 1992, space wasn’t the only thing to have taken on new dimensions. The salon’s interior and façade were decked out in mirrors, dramatic neon, and deco accents.
“At night, the neon looks like a spaceship. It’s deco but with a modern twist, not like the 1920s. About our mirrored retail area the neon stops and spells out ‘Just Nails’ and continues again. We have black wallpaper with raspberry and silver and our carpet is teal. I thought it might get too harsh but it looks terrific. Sometimes when everybody leaves I just sit here. It’s so gorgeous I don’t want to go home,” says Rosie.
Where did Rosie find her designing inspiration? “I always wanted neon,” she says, “so I went to the library and got some books on deco styling and we started drawing our own designs. Little by little it started to come together. People are really impressed by the flow of the lines and the colors we used. They thought it was all professionally done.”
TRUST YOUR GUT
Trusting her instincts has fueled Rosie’s success since the first time she picked up a manicure file. She’s always listened to that compelling inner voice, then put her plans into action. At one point in her career she made the decision to switch from doing acrylic nails to doing fiberglass nails. She had never regretted it.
“I was working with acrylics and was getting lifting no matter what I did. So I tried gels, but I was happy with how much time it took to do repairs. I was at a show in Minneapolis to learn airbrushing and happened to buy a fiberglass kit, so I tried it.
“I did it all wrong because I waited five weeks to look at the girl’s nails again. But when she came back, I couldn’t believe how nice they looked. There’s no way an acrylic nail could have gone five weeks, so I thought there’s got to be something to this stuff. I started playing with it by doing just one nail on clients. They came back and said they loved it. Now all but one of my customers has switched.”
And what were her clients’ reactions to fiberglass? “They said it held better and was thinner. Because they could go three weeks rather than two between fills, clients found them more affordable. They also thought they were more natural and lightweight.”
Rosie strongly recommends the “one free nail” approach for getting clients to make the transition from acrylics to fiberglass, or any new system for that matter.
“Anyone can come in and have one free nail put on. The truth is in the use. Whenever a ‘new set’ calls we say the same thing – look before you invest your money. I don’t want somebody spending $50 and then coming back saying this isn’t for her. I say wait two weeks, then call and book an appointment for the full set.”
But what about the time and money you spent providing the complimentary nail? “Clients never wait two weeks – it’s more like three days,” says Rosie. “Once they have one of those on and they look at the rest of their nails, they’re going to be back. You’re still charging them for the full set and doing one less nail.”
Besides Rosie’s personal fortitude, a well-conceived sales, marketing, and operational strategy has also largely contributed to Just Nails & Faces’ phenomenal growth. Their “10 Secrets for Success” (see page 106) are not just and empty declaration, but a philosophy deeply imbued in the salon staff’s everyday work habits.