The Tech Hub’s Nail Techs
In its original incarnation, Pamper Nail Gallery was meant to be a tech-oriented company providing on-demand nail services for corporate events in Silicon Valley, for which owner and software engineer Vivian Xue developed the application. She pitched the idea to countless executives while looking for funding, but in the male-dominated tech world, she was stunned to find many of them wondering if there was even a market for nail art among women.
“They’d call out to their secretaries, and ask, ‘Hey Karen, do girls really want to get their nails done?” Xue recalls with a laugh. “So after getting rejected over and over, I decided to put pen to paper and figure out what it would take for me to self-fund the company I envisioned.”
She had worked for a similar on-demand massage app, but she was disheartened by the way the service professional was “nickled-and-dimed.” Xue set out to defy that standard by establishing a brick-and-mortar location instead. When Pamper Nail Gallery opened in May 2017 in Fremont, Calif., she offered every technician hourly pay, plus commission and medical benefits.
“The nail industry right now is so unsexy in a lot of ways, and consumers don’t necessarily perceive the profession how they should,” Xue says. “But to me, manicurists are so bad ass! Doing nails is something that should be applauded because it really is an impressive craft.”
Narrowing in on a Niche
Pamper provides services that exceed expectations: The team only offers sculpted nails, they only use products sans MMA, and nail art is remarkably intricate. The Pamper Instagram (@pampernailgallery) has already amassed 38K followers, and that has played a pivotal role in establishing its loyal clientele full of nail art enthusiasts who say the salon is “like Disneyland for nails.” While the salon’s Instagram feed is ruled by gorgeously sculpted long nails, Xue says it’s not uncommon for clients to push the boundaries and request detailed nail art on “tiny nails.”
“We’ve also taken a lot of timid clients and made them pretty brave in their nail choices,” Xue says. “We really work with the client, and I like to think of Pamper as a collaborative experience.”
In an effort to add an additional layer to the salon experience, Xue classified nail art levels using terms from art movements: minimalist, classic, and hyperreal. She was inspired by Starbucks’ usage of “tall,” “grande,” and “venti” for its sizes. (Back when she was seeking investors, she found comfort in the biography of founder Howard Schultz, who was similarly doubted during the early days of his business.)
But now that Pamper is thriving as a nail-focused salon, its former potential investors are likely regretting their initial skepticism. Their steady stream of clients is willing to drive a distance to the salon, despite its location in a residential suburb an hour away from San Francisco. (One client even flew from San Diego!)
Style and Precision
What matters more than location to Xue is the strength and consistency of staff members who’ve all gone through a week-long nail boot camp. Some techs are also brand educators, so Pamper is a constant learning environment.
“As a group, we wanted to become stronger together,” Xue says. “It’s crazy how passionate these girls are, and a lot of the time, we’ll all stay after work to delve into how to improve certain techniques or speed.”
Style and precision can also be seen in the clean and modern decor that features a simple pink and purple theme featuring reclaimed wood, DIY’d brass rod chandeliers, and a mural by local hyperreal artist who goes by the pseudonym Weirdocult (@weirdocult).
“We tried to do what we could with what we had,” Xue says. “We put our hearts and souls and minds into it. Our clients love it and so do we.”
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