Profiles

Finding the Middle Ground

Situated in an upscale Boston suburb, MiniLuxe Nail and Beauty Lounge bridges the gap between the small corner nail salon and the day spa, offering high-quality treatments in a clean, modern environment, while still keeping prices affordable for customers.

For Jill Kravetz, the idea for MiniLuxe Nail and Beauty Lounge was easy. As a mother of two, Kravetz was finding it increasingly difficult to set aside the time to treat herself to a manicure, and when she finally did, she was continually disappointed with what the local nail salons had to offer. “The day spas all required appointments,” she says, “and the treatments were too long and a bit more expensive than what I wanted to spend for weekly maintenance. The corner nail salons felt like little factories, and I wasn’t able to relax and be assured that the tools were clean. I just didn’t feel like I mattered as a customer there.”

So she approached her colleagues at The Cue Ball Group (a venture investment firm where she works as a partner) with an idea: Why not try to offer clients an in-between solution? She envisioned a place where people could receive high-quality treatments in a chic, clean lounge, yet still receive reasonable prices for frequent visits. Kravetz labeled the idea a sort of “Starbucks for nails,” and soon put the plan into action.

With an education in business (Kravetz holds an MBA from the Wharton School of Business in Pennsylvania) and eight years experience in business consulting behind her, Kravetz made up her mind to leap into venture capital and, along with her partners, decided to open the MiniLuxe Nail and Beauty Lounge. “I just fell in love with the MiniLuxe concept, so I decided to take it on as my primary project during the launch period.” MiniLuxe opened its doors February 24, just two years after Kravetz and her partners formed the idea.

Sophisticated Ambiance: MiniLuxe occupies 1,800 square feet in the suburban community of Newton, Mass. The neighborhood is considered well-to-do and offers many high-end clothing stores and other sophisticated retail in the surrounding area. MiniLuxe already has plenty of competition from local nail salons but has clearly marked out its niche in the mid-level salon market. Its prices are currently 20% higher than the local corner nail salons, and 30% lower than the day spas, and the decor and services offered are on par with many day spas.

MiniLuxe was designed by architects David Hacin and Elizabeth Whittaker and is structured to convey a theme defined by Kravetz as, “where style meets standards, and cool meets comfort.” MiniLuxe utilizes large pegboards to cover the walls with cutouts of hands and feet, and the overall space is designed to feel light, airy, and clean. There are large pedicure spa chairs that seem to beckon those with tired hands and feet to sit down and relax while professionals administer their soothing treatments. There is also a large window that allows customers to see the area where all the instruments are sanitized. Kravetz calls this the “window into hygiene,” and says it is there to really reinforce to the customer that MiniLuxe takes salon sanitation very seriously.

In fact, all of MiniLuxe’s instruments are sterilized in a hospital-grade autoclave. Technicians make sure to open the individual “steri-packs” right in front of the client, so they know the instruments are clean. MiniLuxe also has a policy of wiping down nail dryers with medical-grade antibacterial wipes in between uses. “These cleaning practices are not something we think will get people in the door here at MiniLuxe,” Kravetz says, “but we think it is something that will definitely keep customers coming back.”

Variety of Special Treatments: MiniLuxe offers an array of special treatments to help differentiate it from other salons. The most popular is the LaLicious Brown Sugar treatment, where a soothing scrub of brown sugar soufflé is rubbed over the skin and followed by a massage with LaLicious Vanilla Body Butter. Kravetz says of the treatment, “I’ve been using the Brown Sugar Scrub in the shower for about two years now, and it smells so good you want to eat it.” MiniLuxe also features the Preggie Pedi, a treatment initially designed for pregnant mothers that has since gained universal popularity. During the treatment, a bubble bath is first used to soak the feet, then an exfoliating salt rub is administered followed by a shea-butter-infused cream moisturizer. The signature manicures at MiniLuxe cost $18, and basic pedicures are $32. The most expensive manicures and pedicures go for $32 and $46, respectively.

Male clients are also catered to with the Anthony Treatment, where nails are trimmed short and cuticles neatly pushed back. The hands are then lightly buffed and prepared for a final moisturizing massage.

Retail Products That Make You Melt: In addition to nail and beauty services, MiniLuxe also carries a large array of boutique items. Beauty products such as hand creams, body scrubs, and soaps, are displayed alongside candles, CDs, handbags, and jewelry. “Some of our most interesting items include JimmyJane candles,” Kravetz says, “which are these wonderful candles that melt into body oils that you can use to moisturize or massage, and they’re just perfect for showers and baths.” Products range from mainstream brands to harder-to-find, specialty brands.

Even though MiniLuxe has a large retail section, it has not lost sight of its initial purpose, to provide customers with the best possible treatments and service. MiniLuxe offers nail technicians inhouse training sessions on customer service protocols, and nail treatments and sterilization procedures are gone over in detail. Kravetz is proud of the staff that MiniLuxe has been able to acquire thus far and knows that their happiness directly affects the customers’ experience. “As I know is typical of this industry, recruiting and retaining staff is our biggest challenge,” she says, “But I am so proud of this absolutely fabulous team of service specialists we’ve recruited, and we’re doing everything we can to retain them.” MiniLuxe currently offers staff healthcare and paid vacation.

To keep her staff up to date on new trends in the nail industry, Kravetz says she frequently talks with her customers to find out their needs and preferences, and tries to notice when they change. “We look at this business from the client’s perspective as much as possible,” she says, “because after all, that’s how we got this idea in the first place!”

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