By combining the efficiency of Vietnamese craftsmanship with the American expectation of a luxurious experience, owner Samantha Hanby finds a way to offer customers the best of both worlds.
The open area of the salon houses nail tables, a retail area, and an additional sink for hand-washing.
In the Family
“I grew up around nail salons,” says Samantha Hanby. “I remember cleaning the polishes while my mother did nails to support us.” Originally from Vietnam, her family immigrated to California when she was 9, and later moved to Oklahoma. Hanby earned her certification and used her craft to help support herself while she attended Oklahoma City University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in international business and an M.B.A. in finance. Hanby had a vision for her own nail salon when she was in college, but always felt the pressure to choose the corporate world instead of the salon. At that point in her life she thought, “If I end up as a nail tech, I’ve failed.”
Hanby did pursue the corporate life, and she and her husband Benjamin moved to Tennessee to work for Dell. Though she loved working there, Hanby longed for the salon more than the suit and office, so they moved back to Oklahoma, where her husband continued his work with Dell, but where she chose to work as a nail tech in her brother’s salon.
Eventually she bought her brother’s business, Natural Nails, and all seemed to be going well. But she still held on to the vision of her own salon. When she realized she was pregnant, she decided she would sell Natural Nails and open her dream salon closer to home. “That was the idea,” she laughs, “but in the end, we kept Natural Nails and opened Polished Nail Salon, so now we have two.” Along with gels, acrylics, and natural nail services, Polished Nail Salon offers facials and eyelash extensions.
A separate room for acrylic nails helps reduce dust in the salon, while providing four additional chairs for nail services.
Making Her Way
Hanby says she was aware of the reputation of some Vietnamese salons, and she was determined to break the stereotype. “When a client walks in, I don’t hear ‘cha-ching!’” says Hanby. “I remind my staff that we need to value every customer who chooses to share time with us and to spend money here.” She asks her staff how they would want their mother or sister to be treated, and then tells them that’s how they should treat every customer. Though she has multiple staff members who speak Vietnamese, Hanby discourages them from speaking in Vietnamese in front of clients, because she knows it can make clients uncomfortable. “In my experience,” says Hanby, “if techs are speaking another language in front of the customer then the customer assumes they are talking about her.”
The fusion of Vietnamese and non-Vietnamese staff isn’t always easy. “It seems like we deal with some sort of communication clash daily,” says Hanby. But instead of getting upset, the staff has developed “coaching sessions” where coworkers have a safe place to express their thoughts about a misunderstanding and to try to explain what was said ... or what was perceived. “Sometimes we just have to learn to communicate in a more appropriate way,” Hanby explains.
Because of the unique working environment, Hanby is very particular about who makes the cut for the team. She knows one person’s attitude will affect the whole group, so she chooses her staff based both on their personalities and their willingness to learn. “If you aren’t willing to learn, you won’t fit in,” she says. Learning might be in the area of new technical skills or in the area of customer service skills. “I want techs to pull out the chair for the customer and offer them a drink,” says Hanby. These are ways techs can win customers over through attitude and service, which goes beyond technical ability.
Tiffany blue walls add a focal point and help create a bright, happy environment at Polished Nail Salon
A Perfect Blend
Clients walk into Polished Nail Salon and are greeted by Tiffany blue walls and a clean and simple design. In the receptionist area is a sink so clients can wash their hands when they enter the salon. “Germs are everywhere,” says Hanby. “So we want clients to wash their hands right away.”
Behind the reception area wall is an open room with retail products, another sink for washing, and four nail tables, with room for two techs at each table. Gels and natural nails are done in the open room, but a separate nail room is used for acrylic services in order to contain the dust. The acrylic room has additional ventilation. Behind the open manicure area is a pedicure room where 10 pedicure thrones line the walls. Clients are able to enjoy their pedi parties while maintaining privacy from the rest of the salon. Parties of five or more are treated to cheese and crackers, with the added bonus of the host getting a Classy Pedi for free.
Unique touches give the salon a personalized feel. Straight lines, warm colors, and an understated elegance provide an atmosphere of luxury, while nail-specific wall quotes add a touch of humor. Polished Nail Salon offers clients three manicure and pedicure options that focus on the care of the hands and feet. “We don’t do foo-foo,” says Hanby. “In my opinion, if you have too many options then quality tends to suffer.” So while clients won’t have 30 types of pedicures to choose from, they will leave with their skin feeling soft and smooth.
The pedicure room features warm colors and elegant decorations.
In the short time it’s been open, Hanby and her staff have experienced rapid growth from new and repeat customers. Hanby credits the success to the team’s commitment to learning. “You have to keep learning! I’ve been doing nails for 15 years, but if I go to YouTube and see a video of someone applying nails or designing art in a more efficient way, I practice until I learn to do it more efficiently, too.”
The tag line for Polished Nail Salon is clean. chic. creative. It’s what Hanby believes customers value in a salon — and, through the fusion of a talented and diverse staff, it’s what her salon delivers.
Samantha Hanby (second from left) poses with Polished staffers.
Salon Name: Polished Nail Salon
Location: Yukon, Okla.
Owner: Samantha and Benjamin Hanby
Square Footage: 2,000
Number of Nail Techs/Total Staff: 11/13
Specialties: Pedicure parties and Princess Parties (ages 3-13)