Business Management

Salons Without a Storefront

Ever dream of leaving the four walls of your salon behind to forge your own path? Mobile businesses and home-based salons offer alternative career opportunities — and challenges.    


Michele Carroll understands a client’s desire for the personal connection. “I am blessed with loyal, consistent, and reliable clients who prefer personalized services.” Instead of traveling to clients’ homes, Carroll welcomes them into hers. As the owner of Michele’s Nail Nook, her home-based salon in Fort Collins, Colo., Carroll has found leaving the traditional salon for her home-based oasis provides her an ideal working environment. “The commute is amazing; sometimes I giggle as I stroll down the hall to work each morning,” says Carroll.

Home-based techs list a common set of advantages: a quiet atmosphere, an intimate setting, one-on-one attention, no staffing drama, time to start a load of laundry, start dinner, or greet the kids after school. Though loaded with perks a tech would forfeit if she worked outside the home, working from home comes with a unique set of drawbacks. “For one thing, working from home means I give up the increased clientele that would come from a salon’s advertisement or walk-in traffic,” says Carroll.

Nail Taxi’s Cinnamon Bowser says you never know what to expect when you arrive at a mobile location.
<p>Nail Taxi&rsquo;s Cinnamon Bowser says you never know what to expect when you arrive at a mobile location.</p>

Lori Tomancik, owner of Lori’s Skin Spa in Vestal, N.Y., has built her home-based salon beyond the point of needing to advertise. Her challenge comes from outgrowing the space she’s allotted for the salon. “I offer manicures, pedicures, waxing, and facials,” says Tomancik. “Sometimes I look around, and I feel like I want my home back.”

The home-based tech bears the responsibility of wearing every hat. Maintenance issues, such as shoveling the driveway in the morning (and keeping it clear all day), are a concern that would not likely cross the mind of a salon employee. However, the biggest complaint heard among home-based techs is the issue of getting clients to understand that changing appointments at the last minute, or missing appointments altogether, doesn’t give the tech a chance to “relax for an hour.” A cancelled or missed appointment is as disruptive to a home-based tech as it is to a tech working in a traditional salon. “Sometimes it’s an issue to get clients to view their appointment in my home as they would an appointment in a salon,” says Tomancik. “Clients will cancel quicker, because they figure I’m already home so it won’t matter.”

Another situation often surrounds the first and last appointment of the day. Kim Hope works from her home-based salon, The Nail Shoppe, in Binghamton, N.Y. While she loves working from home, Hope has had to educate clients about appointment times. “Clients knock on the door at 9:40 a.m. for a 10 a.m. appointment,” says Hope. “Sometimes my hair isn’t even dry and the doorbell is ringing.” Clients linger at lunch time and at the end of the day, too. “Clients will tell me to just go do what I need to do, that they’ll let themselves out,” says Hope. “But I feel uncomfortable leaving them, even though I do have somewhere to go or something to do, because they’re guests in my home.” Hope says she feels it’s unprofessional to leave the salon area of the house while the client is still there. “Every once in a while, I just won’t be able to wait as long as the client wants to wait, and I’ll leave to do something upstairs,” says Hope. “When I hear the client yell goodbye to me as she is leaving, I cringe. I think it’s so unprofessional that I’m not down there with her.”

Tomancik shares Hope’s concern. “Sometimes the kids come down into the salon,” says Tomancik. “My clients never mind it; in fact, they usually love it. But to me, that’s client time, not kid time, and I see it as an issue of professionalism.”

Carroll notes two other issues that affect home-based techs: “I have to include my home address when I promote via the web or print, which sometimes gives me a sense of vulnerability.” Additionally, selling retail items from home doesn’t have the earning potential it would in a larger salon. “After three weeks, essentially my entire clientele has seen the inventory,” says Carroll. “It’s difficult to keep things fresh and moving.”

Having a home-based salon allows Michele Carroll to provide personalized nail services in a professional and peaceful setting.
<p>Having a home-based salon allows Michele Carroll to provide personalized nail services in a professional and peaceful setting.</p>

To home-based techs, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. The relationships that build in the casual and intimate setting, the ability to get house work done during 10-minute breaks, the freedom to schedule around personal events, and the ease of the commute are all selling points that make it a good choice for techs who enjoy a quiet work environment and who prefer to have total autonomy in the workplace. Techs who enjoy the energy of the salon, an ever-changing clientele, and the interaction and support of coworkers would not see a home-based salon as the best choice.

Of course, some of the points we’ve listed as drawbacks of having mobile and home-based businesses may appear to some techs to be the benefits of the job, and vice-versa. The perfect fit for one tech could be viewed as unimaginable to others. Whichever work environment suits you best, be sure to understand the potential drawbacks. Then develop a plan to overcome the challenges so you can make the most of the opportunity.  


You can find out if mobile and home salons are permitted in your state by visiting NAILS’ State Board Directory at

 Read past articles on mobile salons at Find home salon stories at


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