After a successful career as a makeup artist, Vancouver salon owner Mika Morris segued into nails. Social media, creativity, and flexibility helped this beauty industry entrepreneur rise to the top.
The 800-sq.-ft. salon is lined with floor-length mirrors to open up the space.
Mika Morris took an untraditional path into the nail industry. After working as a trained makeup artist for more than five years under the moniker “Mika Does Make-up,” Morris realized she wanted to do more within the realm of beauty.
Her boyfriend Jay McInnes encouraged her to open her own salon knowing it had been a dream of hers for years. The two entered the business together after finding a prime space in downtown Vancouver. “I run the show,” admits Morris. “Jay helped with the design but has another job, so he’s more of a silent partner.”
Named The Studio (by Mika Does Make-up), the salon offers everything from St. Tropez Tans to eyelash tinting. But it wasn’t until recently that Morris realized the impact nails in particular would have on her business.
“Whereas getting makeup done professionally is only for special occasions, nail maintenance is a service that happens every day,” says Morris. “People constantly want to keep up with nail fashion, get their gels filled, and fix chipping manis.” Morris began to invest in the service, familiarizing herself with popular products and trends. She hired four nail technicians, one with a background in nail art and design, and she also expanded the nail treatments offered. Now nails are the dominant service at Morris’ salon, accounting for more than 50% of The Studio’s business.
APPEALING TO A DIVERSE CROWD
The Studio’s manicure area features bright red tables that give the corner a modern color pop. During services, clients sit in ghost chairs, or transparent seats, made from plexiglass.
Walking distance from the business district, a prominent gay community, and Vancouver’s entertainment district, The Studio has a diverse clientele. And unlike your typical salon, over 30% of its customers are male, and about 60 brides-to-be per year hire Morris and her staff for their weddings.
Gradually, Morris’ business evolved to better serve these crowds. She created the “MANicure” series for men who want a relaxing manicure or pedicure experience, but without the polish. Rather than paying full price — which would be around $35 for a basic The Studio manicure — men pay $20.
Since The Studio is only a few blocks from Davie Street, which is located in the West End of Vancouver and known for its gay subculture, drag queens are a fairly large group The Studio serves as well. “We do a lot of makeup and nails for drag queens before a big night on the town,” says Morris. “It’s fun for us to provide those kinds of services for both men and women.”
From the start, The Studio also appealed to brides. Morris believes it is the atmosphere, which feels more like a spa due to its outdoor patio area and high-end amenities, like complimentary boutique coffees. The Studio is also convenient for brides-to-be as it offers hair, makeup, and nail services all in one location.
After a while, Morris put together different bridal packages for clients, such as “The Ultimate Bridezilla” and “Her Royal Highness,” most featuring gel manicures and pedicures. By the end of 2011, the amount of brides per year nearly doubled.
AN AMBIANCE FOR ALL
The salon’s decor goes hand-in-hand with its accommodating menu. Morris has kept the colors and furniture fairly gender-neutral. “It’s not overly feminine, just classic and clean,” says Morris.
She mixes modern design principles with vintage-inspired furniture to create a shabby chic feel. Pedicure customers sit on elegant velvet chairs raised by a platform with their feet resting on antique wooden chests.
And almost everything — from the ornate frames and embellishments to the curtains and walls — are white, except for a few accent pieces: oversized champagne-colored pedicure chairs, red manicure desks, and purple vintage seats in the waiting area. “I always think white looks clean and bright and bigger,” says Morris. “It’s good for The Studio because the space is small and hard to work with.”
A plethora of mirrors also helps open up the space. Morris also uses ghost chairs, or transparent plexiglass seats, at the manicure tables to create the illusion of more space, which is a tactic borrowed from designer Philippe Starck.
Lining the storefront window is The Studio’s waiting area, which is decorated with mirrored furniture, eye-catching nail polish displays, and royal purple chairs.
Being situated in such a bustling area comes with a high price. Many customers have demanding schedules, and can’t meet traditional salon hours. Therefore, because Morris couldn’t beat her clientele, she joined them, extending her hours to make their lives a little easier.
“We try to be as accommodating as possible,” says Morris. “We know people have jobs, so we stay open until whatever time they need, usually closing anywhere between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.”
The salon also has iPads for clients to use either while they’re waiting or getting a service. “I got them to cater to our business clientele,” she says.
When revamping the nail branch of The Studio, Morris decided she didn’t want her treatments to be a once-a-year splurge for clients. Accordingly, she keeps her salon’s prices affordable while still maintaining spa-like luxuries.
Express manis and pedis ($25-$35) include nail upkeep essentials — cuticle and nail care, filing and shaping, moisturizing, and polish.
Studio manis and pedis ($35-$45) include everything offered in the Express but with an added sugar scrub and massage. Clients can choose between five different scrub scents — papaya-mango, very berry, lime zest, white tea, and dark chocolate.
Morris also creates seasonal treatments, such as the Sweet Escape for winter. Its popularity led her to keep it on the menu year-round. The service features a cocoa soak, cocoa sugar scrub, and a cocoa body butter massage, all over a cup of hot chocolate.
The Studio also offers $60 gel manicures and nail art starting at $5 per nail.
All products used in the salon — such as OPI polishes and gel polishes, Shellac gel polish, organic skin care products, China Glaze polish, SpaRitual, and Akzéntz — are sold as retail, which accounts for 15%-20% of The Studio’s income.
SOCIAL MEDIA BRINGS CLIENTS FROM FAR AND WIDE
Almost every piece of decor in The Studio — including the curtains and wall embellishments — is white, except for a few accent pieces, such as these velvet champagne-colored pedicure chairs.
Over the years, Morris has worked hard to expand her online presence. She is a beauty blogger, has a YouTube channel, updates the salon’s Facebook page, and tweets. This has made her goal of attracting an ever-expanding customer-base a reality.
“I have a significant following through YouTube now, which helps me access people with every avenue,” says Morris. “When people from out of town visit, they will stop by and meet me or get a service done at my salon because they know me through YouTube.”
On her YouTube channel, Morris posts how-to videos for all things beauty, and she blogs about nails regularly on her website, mikadoesmakeup.com. “I really enjoy it,” she says. “I love doing blogs every day on nails, and I do features on all of my employees.”
Morris also uses social media to train her employees. During their monthly meetings, the team watches YouTube videos together to learn new beauty techniques or how to pump up sales. “Online is the best place to look to see what’s new,” says Morris.
Salon Name: The Studio (By Mika does Make-up)
Location: Downtown Vancouver
Owner: Mika Morris
Square Footage: 800
Opened: September 2010
Number of Nail Techs/Total Staff: 4/8
Specialties: Custom manis/pedis, gel nails,
and nail design