Always trying to think of new ways to help differentiate your salon from the pack? Here’s a compilation of truly unique ideas from other salons to inspire and excite you.
1. Dream Big. It’s no surprise that staff morale at Diva Studio in Las Vegas is high; owner Steven Brooks reminds employees that the sky is the limit when it comes to their ambitions. All salon employees are required to create a “dream board,” a large piece of posterboard that has magazine cut-outs of their goals, both professional and personal. For nail tech Jennifer Favela, this meant cutting out an advertisement for her car, as a reminder to pay it off. She achieved her goal earlier this year.
2. Shop ’Til You Drop.SaVerne Smith of Nails by SaVerne in Los Angeles knows that women love to shop. So, on a Sunday (when her salon is usually closed) she used the salon’s courtyard to host a retail bazaar, inviting her clients who make crafts to set up booths. She invited friends, family, and the rest of her clients as attendees, then supervised as the shopping ensued. “Some of the vendors invited some of their regular clients to the bazaar. And many of them became my clients too after attending,” Smith says. Her first retail bazaar was so successful that she hosted another one during the holiday shopping season.
3. Meet & Greet.Med-spa SK Sanctuary in La Jolla, Calif., fosters a sense of community in the area — and for their clients and friends who may need it most. For the past six-and-a-half years, the spa has hosted monthly breast cancer awareness and survivor events, where about 30 women listen to guest speakers, enjoy select spa services, learn about community resources, and enjoy refreshments. The spa hosts quarterly melanoma and prostate cancer evenings as well. Recent speakers have included Jacqueline Marcell, an author and cancer survivor, and Bill Griffith, a local news anchor and cancer survivor.
4. Late Night Beauty Cravings. Nitespa in Venice Beach, Calif., finds success catering to the after-happy hour crowd. With regular hours from noon to midnight, the salon gives nail, skin, and massage services to night-owl clients long after other salons have closed their doors for the day. The trendy spa keeps with the late-night feel by offering clients a glass of wine with their service.
5. R & R. Elevating a pedicure to the level of a massage or a facial, manicurist and certified masseuse Ginny Franklin does her client’s pedicures on a massage table. Clients are free to doze as Franklin works her nail magic.
6. Big Brother — In A Good Way. Renee Borowy has eight security cameras in her salon, and she’d recommend this security measure to anyone. “I can’t tell salon owners how important it is to have these cameras, not only for security but for their own liability issues,” Borowy says. When her salon V.I.P. Salon & Spa in Riverview, Mich., caught on fire and burned to the ground, the cameras were the only thing left behind. “It filmed the whole thing and showed how the fire started in the dryer room where the vacuum cleaner charger overheated, proving it wasn’t a fraudulent fire,” Borowy says. On a more day-to-day basis, the cameras (which are monitored through Act Now Alarm Company) deter employee theft, and catch clients who write bad checks or use fraudulent credit cards. Plus, Borowy retains the ability to check in on her salon online, watching a direct camera feed.
7. Picture Perfect. Who says movie stars and models get to have all of the fun with professional photo shoots? Jennifer Peeler, owner of Jenniffer & Co. in Mentor, Ohio, organizes photo shoots (with beauty photographer Tom Carson) about twice a year for her salon’s nail techs and hairdressers. The inspiring photos are then used throughout the year in price lists, ads, and other marketing materials. “I’d really encourage other salons to hire a professional photographer,” Peeler says. “Clients feel the photos are more authentic than a generic photo-for-purchase and, since we keep the photo rights, it’s easy to reuse the photos however we want.”
8. Go Green. Salon owner Robbie Schaeffer doesn’t just talk the “save the planet” talk, he walks the walk. For ROB|B: An OPI Concept Salon (his soon-to-open salon in Studio City, Calif.), Schaeffer’s going for a “gold” rating in the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED certification program. This means the USGBC will independently certify that the salon meets certain environmental standards, in areas like water savings and materials selection. The salon is using plyboo (laminated bamboo plywood) for fixtures and plans to incorporate solar panels into the roof. “I really think this green movement is going to explode, and I think ROB|B can be part of it by earning certification,” Schaeffer says on his blog. He’s basing the gold-level certification on a LEED consultant’s preliminary evaluation of the salon’s location, materials, water use, and other site-specific criteria.
9. The Great Outdoors. As part of its four-year anniversary remodeling, Salon Eclips in Arcata, Calif., opened a greenhouse-style pedicure area outside. The salon took its outdoor deck and enclosed it — it can get foggy on the northern coast of California — with a polycarbonate roof (a common greenhouse covering) and sliding glass door and window sides. Four pedicure stations sit in this area. “We do a lot of spa parties, so it’s a good way to accommodate more people and not stick them in the middle of the spa area,” says owner Bill Byron.
10. Nail Tech’s Little Helpers. Ever think your nail techs could use a helping hand when it comes to tasks like cleaning and disinfecting? The Nail Lounge in Costa Mesa, Calif., gives its nail techs more time to focus on their clients by hiring “preppers,” teenagers or college students who are hired strictly to keep the salon clean.
11. Calendar Girl. Many nail techs take photos of their nail art, but Yumi Shiraishi, owner of Studio Shiraishi Nail & Color in Tokyo, takes her photos a step further, compiling them into a yearly nail art calendar.
12. Optical Illusion. Nail tech Teresa Coffelt of Thoroughly Modern Millie’s in Concord, Calif., came up with a unique way to add dimension to her nail art. After painting the front side of a nail tip with a design, she then flips the tip over to paint another part of the image on the back — which can only be seen when the nail is held up to the light.
13. Money, Money, Money. E-mail newsletters are a great way to drum up business for your salon, letting you easily announce a pedicure promotion, a new hire, or your salon’s best retail products. For salon owner Bob Steele, of Bob Steele Salon in Atlanta and Alpharetta, Ga., e-mail newsletters are so valuable to the salon that he pays randomly selected clients $50 in salon services just for signing up. “It’s our most cost-effective method of marketing,” Steele says. Clients are automatically entered for the monthly drawing when they sign up on the salon’s website, and past winners (from 2003 – present) are proudly displayed on the contest page.
14. One Client’s Trash…Give a whole new meaning to nail “boutique” by opening a consignment shop inside your nail salon. Christy Martin, owner of Artistry Nail Studio & Boutique in Leola, Pa., did just that — asking her clients to bring in their unwanted clothes to sell in the shop. Clients get a credit of 50% of the sale price of their clothing toward their next service, and the salon keeps the other 50%. “Clients love it because they’re getting cash for their services, and I get the added bonus of selling clothing that was no cost to me while receiving 50% commission,” Martin says.
15. Room for Two. For client pairs who want a little privacy (please), like a romantic couple or a mother and daughter, Spa Space is happy to accommodate. The Chicago salon has a private pedicure suite that’s rented out by client pairs for an extra $5 on top of their service price. It separates the couple from the bustling atmosphere of the main nail room, and, if the clients want to bring in a bottle of wine, the salon will provide the ice bucket, bottle opener, and glasses.
16. Good Enough to Eat. Doan Hoelscher of DoaNails in Fort Collins, Colo., takes inspiration from everywhere — including off her desert plate. The winner of NAILS 2007 Cover Tech Contest, Hoelscher designed the nail art shown here with real strawberry seeds. She froze the strawberries, then picked the seeds off with a needle. She applied the strawberry seeds to the nail tip while the polish was still wet.
17. As Seen on TV. Toledo, Ohio-based salon Beauty Bar will be making its television debut this month. The salon’s custom-made body butters, 3-in-1 shampoo, body wash, and bubble bath will be appearing on the Home Shopping Network (HSN) in October, November, and December. Owner Sara Spallino says the salon went through a rigorous process to get on the network, including sending in their complete line of products and compiling all of their press coverage, then going to HSN’s St. Petersburg, Fla., headquarters for a face-to-face meeting. Spallino says, “There are very specific qualifications for even getting an appointment, so we feel extremely fortunate that they have chosen us as a new brand for their network!” Spallino herself will be appearing in the spots, which have been dubbed “Sara’s Beauty Bar.”
18. Give the Client What She Wants. Which, in this case, is designer shoes. Salon chain Dashing Diva gives away pairs of Manolo Blahnik, Gucci, and Fendi shoes to clients in its unique “If the Shoe Fits” promotion. During the promotion, clients who get a service worth $60 or more are entered into the nightly drawing (bringing business to the chain), they must be present at the salon to win (potentially bringing in business again). Once a client’s name is drawn, she must try on the shoes (worth between $420 and $850). The first client for whom the shoes fit takes them home.
19. Layer It On. Salon owner Bonnie Brennan doesn’t bother buying all the new polish collections to keep up to date on the latest colors; instead, she takes a decidedly DIY approach — layering colored gel polishes on her own. The owner of New Look Salon in Swoyersville, Pa., experiments every time she gets in a new gel color. “I begin by covering all 20 nails on a color wheel with the new color and curing it. Then I’ll apply a second shade — anything from reds to golds to frosted pinks — and see how it looks,” Brennan says. “If I don’t like it, I wipe it off and try another color combination.” So far, she’s created more than 1,000 custom-made gel polish colors.
20. Step Right Up: For Fabulous Toenail Art. Sue Schultes, a nail artist at Great Lengths Salon & Spa in Bridgewater, N.J., has her clients step up onto a ladder or even onto her manicure table when she does their toenail art designs. Schultes gets a better view of the toenails, and clients get a perfectly matching set of designs.
21. Love Thy Neighbor. Instead of just dropping off a stack of salon business cards at the store next door in hopes they might be kept on display, try organizing an official cross-promotion strategy with neighboring businesses. Kim D’Amato, owner of Priti Organic Spa in New York City, organized such a commitment with the nearby Whole Foods Market. Every Whole Foods customer who spends at least $50 at the organic grocer, gets a postcard at checkout that entitles them to 15% off a service at Priti. It brings in new clients, and, importantly, those who’ve already shown an interest in organic products. “It’s so great to discount to businesses that have a similar clientele as your spa,” D’Amato says.
22. V.I.C.s (Very Important Clients). For splurging clients who are used to the star treatment, a paid V.I.P. program can be effective in adding that extra something to their spa experience. ManKind, a men’s salon in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., recently launched “The Club,” an exclusive V.I.P. program that caters to this affluent crowd. Memberships range from $500 (Steam Only) to $2,500 (The C.E.O.) and perks include reserved appointments, a complimentary gift bag, a percentage off of products and private members-only events. “People in general like to be part of something, and it gives members a way to network and socialize with like-minded people,” says owner Lee Garipoli.
23. Jewel of a Nail. What do you do with your nail art once you’re done wearing it? If you’re Mary Jane Blackshear of Nice, Calif., you turn it into jewelry. “I didn’t want to throw away the tips or dissolve them, because it took me so long to create the nail art,” Blackshear says. Her tips feature embellishments, usually dried flowers, with an acrylic overlay. She soaks the nails in warm water, carefully loosening the edges until they release, then cleans them off to create the earring and necklace sets. She’s given away a few to close friends and is considering selling it in the future.
24. Snail Mail: A Lost Art. Salon owner Kimberly Setzer has a unique way of getting the attention of potential clients who’ve just moved to her salon’s area — sending them a letter and a coupon via old fashioned snail mail. “I think it’s the most effective program for us in this area,” says Setzer, owner of Allure Salon & Spa in Algona, Iowa. She buys a list from her local chamber of commerce, then mails the new residents a letter and a coupon for a free manicure or other salon service.
25. An Eye for Art. Inez Gray’s salon, Habitude at The Locks in Seattle, is a salon by day and an art gallery by night. The full-service salon opens from 6 to 9 p.m. on the second Saturday of every month to participate in the Ballard Art Walk. Passers-by can check out the featured artist, whose artwork will be hanging on the walls at the salon, enjoy snacks, and sample select salon services.