Growing your business typically means an increase: in space, in product, or in staff. But some techs have learned a narrow focus sometimes brings the greatest success. We asked five nail techs to tell about their “small solutions” in their own words.
Owner to Renter
Brenda Gibson, Brenda Gibson Center for Nails, Perrysburg, Ohio
I owned a large salon called Trendsetters, where I managed six stylists, five nail technicians, a massage therapist, and a retail section that included a boutique. It was a lot of work. After nine years, I knew I wanted to downsize. Rather than having a space where I controlled everything — the atmosphere, the staff, the merchandise — I wanted a place where all I had to worry about was me and my nail business. I closed that location and moved with two other service providers to a new storefront. I called it Brenda Gibson Center for Nails. We all worked as booth renters: two nail techs and one stylist. Eventually, my daughter bought the business and renamed it the Beauty Lounge. I stayed on as a booth renter, and I love it! I still work at my desk as Brenda Gibson Center for Nails, but now I don’t even have to worry about keeping garbage bags restocked. The big salon worked for me for a season of my life, but I’m much happier now with less stress.
Take away: I would tell other techs who are thinking about downsizing to go for it. They may be scared because they think they will lose money, but that was not the case for me. Overall, it was a very good decision.
Streamlining the Menu
Kiki Taylor, Kreations by Kiki (IG: @kreationsbykiki)
I went from working in a salon and offering all nail services to my clients to working out of my home and removing pedicures from the service menu. My enhancement business, with full sets, fills, and designs was keeping me busy, and I found whenever I had a pedicure scheduled, I would lose money. It took up too much time to step away from the desk, fill the pedicure bowl, perform the service, and clean the pedicure area when I was done. When I realized how much my pedicure services were taking away from my bottom line, I told my clients I had to downsize my menu options. I have wonderful clients, and I didn’t lose any of them. Downsizing for me meant more money and less stress.
Take away: I would tell other techs to focus on investing in yourself. Find what you really love to do and become the best at it. So many techs try to be just like everyone else. They see what other salons are offering and think they need to copy it. Be unique — even if it means removing or modifying a service.
Less Retail, Fewer Hours
Michelle Pheonix, Wet Paint Nail Spa, Cambridge, Mass.
After a few years working for someone else, I went out on my own, adding independent contractors as business increased. My salon grew to five nails techs with a good-sized retail section, selling nail and skin care products because two of the techs are dual-licensed and also work as estheticians. Unfortunately, we had to downsize our retail section. Nail clients just didn’t want to do at-home care, no matter how much we tried to educate them. Without sales, it became too expensive to keep the retail shelves stocked, so I reduced the merchandise. Now we sell skin care products, but the only nail-specific item we have is cuticle oil.
We’ve also reduced our hours. At one point, we were open seven days a week, but as lives changed, so did the hours the nail techs were willing to work. Currently, we’re open five days a week. We chose Wednesday through Sunday, because it’s crazy to close the salon on a day when so many clients aren’t working. I’m disappointed that we aren’t open every day, but business is going well and my techs and clients are happy. At some point, we may grow again, but for now, this arrangement works for us.
Take away: Be flexible. Avoid being rigid, since circumstances change in business and in the lives of the techs and clients. Do what you can with what you have and find a solution that works for everyone.
Boss to Solo Tech
Alecia Mounixay, White Koi Nail Studio, Wilmington, N.C.
I dreamt of owning a nail salon even before I got my license, so when I moved to Wilmington and realized there was an opportunity to open a high-end salon with strict sanitation standards, I jumped at it. I went in thinking, “If you build it, they will come.” I started with myself and four other techs, but within just a couple of the weeks, two of the techs moved away and left the salon. That left me with one other nail tech and a part-time massage therapist. I was working all the time just to break even. I couldn’t find experienced nail techs, so I tried bringing in girls right out of school. Because of my workload, I didn’t have time to train them properly. It was very stressful trying to take care of my clients, find staff, train them in technique and customer service, and also run a business. When it was time to renew my lease, I said no.
I downsized into my own space in July 2015. It felt like I was going backwards. In my mind, the larger, safe salon was something I could give back to the public. Life is less stressful now, and financially, it’s better working alone, but I’m sad the salon didn’t work out.
Take away: I would tell other techs if you fall down, keep trying. This isn’t the end of my story. I did have to downsize, but I’m already looking for an assistant to help with pedicures, and I hope to own a salon again someday.
Hustle-Bustle to Quiet and Serene
Lourdes Darling, Lourdes’ Nail Studio, Sarasota, Fla.
I owned a large salon for five years. We did nails, hair, facials, and massage. It was a lot of fun, with great energy and constant activity. But after a while, I wanted a quieter place to work. I wanted to connect one-on-one with clients and I wanted our environment together to be serene. I opened Lourdes’ Nail Studio with two pedicure chairs and two tables, so I could have one other nail tech working with me. It’s a beautiful, relaxing spot, with lounge music playing quietly all day. In the four years we’ve been open, I’ve had nail techs come and go, and I realize I like it both ways. I like having another person here, but I also enjoy being alone. It’s the perfect setup. It’s also better for me financially. Running a large business meant carrying more insurance and paying more taxes. Working alone, it’s more manageable, and I have a lot more freedom and flexibility.
Take away: Don’t think of downsizing as a step backwards. If it gives you what you ultimately want in a work environment, then it’s the right move for you. Bigger isn’t always better.