Business Management

Getting Started: A Checklist for Future Salon Owners

The following is a list of questions to ask yourself and points to consider before opening a salon. This list is meant to be a starting point. Your next step is to use this information to guide you in doing your own research and drawing your own conclusions.

We receive numerous letters and phone calls from nail technicians who are interested in opening their own salons. They contact NAILS Magazine because, frankly, they don’t quite know where else to begin. We routinely direct such requests for information to organizations such as the Small Business Administration.

However, there are some things which a nail technician needs to consider before starting a salon that are peculiar to the nail industry. The following is a list of questions to ask yourself and points to consider before opening a salon. This list is meant to be a starting point. Your next step is to use this information to guide you in doing your own research and drawing your own conclusions.



  1. Are you the kind of person who can start a business and make is succeed?
  2. Do you have sufficient skills as a technician?
  3. Do you have management ability?
  4. Have you had any business education in school?
  5. Do you plan to be owner/manager/technician all rolled into responsibilities together?
  6. Do you plan to be an owner/manager, without servicing clients? Will your skills get rusty if you do so?


  1. Will you hire employees or lease space to independent contractors?
  2. How big a staff do you want to start with? What size staff do you eventually want to have? (This will affect the size of your facility.)
  3. In addition to technicians, will you hire a manager receptionist, booker, or anyone else?
  4. Can you handle hiring and firing people?
  5. Can you set up specific salon policies and guidelines for employees to follow?
  6. How will training be handled and by whom?
  7. What about incentives, performance evaluations, raise, and rewards?
  8. What do you think your labor costs will be?


  1. Determine what kind of clientele you want to cultivate
  2. Carry out reliable market research in your area.
  3. What is the size of your market area?
  4. Where are your potential clients?
  5. Evaluate local competition. Will you be competing for the same clients? Is there enough business to go around?


  1. It may seem odd to include times of operation under “people,” but it’s important to consider what is convenient for your clients. If the majority of you target clientele are working women, they will need your salon to be open in the evenings and on weekends, while if you plan to work mainly with women who don’t work outside the home, weekday hours may be more convenient.
  2. Your staff may also have specific need to consider. You may or may not be able to accommodate them, but you do need to be aware of them.
  3. The landlord, building manager, or shipping center association may have specific requirements for opening and closing times.


  1. The banker
  2. The accountant or CPA
  3. The legal advisor
  4. The insurance agent



  1. Check zoning codes first before consider a location.
  2. Determine whether a shopping mall, strip center, or standalone location would be most advantageous for your salon.
  3. What other businesses are nearby?
  4. Study statistics on traffic levels at the location and consider how visible your salon will be.
  5. Is parking convenient? Is it free, or will your patrons have to pay?
  6. Consider how safe the location is. Lighting, dark corners and alleys, landscaping, and parking structures should all be carefully examined.
  7. Do police patrol the area regularly? Are on-site security personnel provided?
  8. Will the salon’s sign be clearly visible to the public?


  1. Square footage should be in proportion to the number of employees; work stations; other services offered; and specific areas such as the reception/waiting are, storage room, restrooms, employee break room, etc.
  2. Door, windows, heating and cooling systems, and over all ventilation are very important considerations in a nail salon.
  3. Determine the image and ambiance of the salon and how to achieve it through the décor, particularly the color scheme and style.
  4. Carefully budget for and select furnishings.
  5. Plan for necessary equipment in work areas, especially if you want a separate pedicure station or additional services such as skin care and make up.
  6. Give special attention to décor details such as paint and wallpaper, window treatments, carpets and flooring, lighting, accessories, and plants.
  7. Consider the possibilities of leasing vs. buying, new vs. Used when looking for furnishing and equipment. Shop wisely.


  1. Rent
  2. Utilities
  3. Maintenance
  4. Insurance. Be sure the landlord’s insurance covers external and structural damage to the facility. Your insurance should be sufficient to cover interior property damage in case of fire, flood, or other disaster. While you’re at it make arrangements for premises liability; product liability and malpractice; workman’s compensation; life and medical insurance.



  1. How will you structure the business? Consider the financial, legal, and psychological aspects of a sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation. Seek sound advice in this area.
  2. As a business owner, you will be required to obtain most or all of the following: business license; fire department permit; air and water pollution permits as applicable; sign permit; local, country, state, and federal permits and licenses.


  1. Make provision for record-keeping, accounting, data processing, and investments for future growth.
  2. If you don’t have experience in these areas, enlist the services of someone who is competent and trustworthy.
  3. Taxes are unavoidable and require careful recordkeeping, planning, reporting, and payment. You will need an employer tax identification number. For employees, you must handle income tax withholding, Social Security (FICA) taxes, state payroll taxes, and reporting of employees’ tip.
  4. For yourself and the business, you must handle personal income tax, FICA, and/or corporate income taxes, depending on the type of business organization.
  5. If you retail products, sales tax must be collected and paid.



  1. Marketing research and analysis will be necessary to determine your target customers.
  2. The same information will also help you decide what image to present and how position your business in a competitive marketplace.


  1. Advertising must be budgeted and carefully planned to let the public know about your salon and services.
  2. Study local media and evaluate the most appropriate advertising methods: newspapers, radio, local television, billboards, yellow pages, direct mail, personal contact as appearances at local events, brochures, and handouts such as business cards.


  1. Publicity can often be ranged for your business, at no charges, and should be taken advantage of whenever possible.
  2. Learn how to write press releases for local media.


  1. Special events must have a budget of their own, and need careful attention to details.
  2. Such events may include a grand opening a grand opening; holiday, seasonal, or theme parties; retail sales promotions; and introductory offers for new clients or special services.


  1. Signage, which was mentioned above in relation and visibility, is a form of advertising which demands extra thought.
  2. Double-check local ordinances and your lease agreement before posting and signage.


  1. Determine whether you will offer all or just some services: manicures, specialized natural nail care, acrylics, tips, wraps, gel system, nail art, airbrushing, pedicures, paraffin treatments, etc.
  2. What auxiliary services will you offer?
  3. What products will be used in order the best quality services at prices that are cost-effective for the salon?
  4. What prices will be charged to customers, considering local demographics, income levels, and quality of services?
  5. What supplies will be needed in addition to products used?
  6. What products, if any, will be retailed to customers? How much revenue do you accept to generate?
  7. How much inventory must be kept on hand to keep on hand to keep things running smoothly? What will this cost and how will it affect your cash flow?


  1. For unexpected expenses, unforeseen circumstances.
  2. For the slow periods.


  1. If you are currently an employee, remember that the salon owner you work for doesn’t tell you about every problem that arises. Owning any kind of business involves responsibilities and headaches that you may be entirely unaware of from your experience as an employee.
  2. Are your emotional and psychologically ready for the multiple problem and responsibilities outlined here? Then go ahead and start working on…


  1. A business plan takes all of these elements into consideration and puts everything into perspective. Good luck!!

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