As an aspiring business owner, Canada Lytle originally contemplated opening a cupcake bakery and a trampoline park. But after having numerous negative nail salon experiences as a consumer, she realized just how many subpar salons are out there and had an epiphany: She’d open a salon of her own.
Lytle already had experience in the beauty industry — for years she was the district manager of 15 Regis Salons in Las Vegas. But she grew fed up with “playing the game of corporate politics” and left to start her own insurance business. Though she says she made phenomenal money while writing insurance policies, it wasn’t something she wanted to do for the rest of her life. So she sold the business and moved to South Dakota to be closer to family.
It was there she had the frustrating realization that no nearby salons provided the ambiance and experience she desired — high-quality natural nail services and a social atmosphere that many nail salons seem to neglect.
“I thought to myself, ‘I can’t be the only person who’s looking for a different experience,’ and I was right,” Lytle says.
She opened A Perfect 10 Nail & Beauty Bar just 60 days later with more success than she could have imagined.
“Within the first six months, our biggest complaint was that people couldn’t get in. Our books are full every day — no one is ever standing around.”
Since opening in 2011, A Perfect 10 has added a new location each year, and Lytle is currently working on plans to expand even further, though she’s yet to determine where.
For now, there are two salons in Rapid City and three in Sioux Falls. These may be the two most populated cities in South Dakota, but, says Lytle, they still have a strong sense of community and a stable economy. The salons attract clients from beyond the cities’ borders; the surrounding farmers and ranchers may drive up to two hours to run errands in town.
While neither city is known for its fashion-forward citizens, Lytle sees this as an opportunity and advantage, especially when most of the rival salons are geared toward acrylics.
“Maybe South Dakota is a little behind the times with trends, but that’s one of the reasons we do so well,” she says. “We keep our fingers on the pulse of what’s popular now so customers don’t have to wait a year for the latest trends to come here.”
The average customer is a middle-class working woman or stay-at-home mom, Lytle says, though they also see children and occasionally men in the salon.
“We have a couple who has been coming in for four years, and they come every three weeks religiously,” Lytle says, though she notes most of the men in the area are “cowboys” who are uninterested in grooming.
She attributes much of their initial success to the salon’s enthusiastic clients, who told their friends about A Perfect 10 and its unprecedented atmosphere and level of quality.
“As easy as it sounds, it truly was word of mouth. Women love to tell their girlfriends about this new experience, and that had a huge impact in the beginning,” she says.
Just as much as the customers love to chat, so does the Perfect 10 team. Lytle refers to the nail technicians as stylists, and talks about how they’ve all become close through the years.
“We have a lot of fun and we’ll mess with each other in good humor and play little pranks on each other,” Lytle says. “We’ve become a work family and I watch these girls grow up and mature.”
Though they may joke around, Lytle says her mission is to provide professional, consistent, and quality services.
Lytle requires about one week of training before allowing new stylists to perform manicures on customers to ensure that her team is executing each service correctly and consistently, especially when they host larger groups for events such as baby showers, birthdays, or family holiday outings.
All the locations are modeled after an actual bar and have bar-height manicure tables accompanied by black leather stools, which makes A Perfect 10 perfect for social gatherings.
But this isn’t your average sports bar decor. A Perfect 10 salons are sleek, modern, and sophisticated. There are glass chandeliers hanging from the ceilings and dark gray laminate wood floors.
The open setup encourages customers and staff to participate in the same conversation, allowing people to “check out from the real world and just have a fun, upbeat experience.”
No artificial services are offered by A Perfect 10 and the most popular treatment is a gel-polish manicure with nail art. All of the stylists are talented with freehand nail art, and can paint anything from football logos to holiday themes to intricate designs brought in by customers. All of the salons also offer waxing, and some even offer hair and massage appointments, though Lytle says her main priority is nails.
Of-age customers can enjoy a glass of wine or beer with their service — the beer starts at just $3.
Clients can participate in a membership program, which provides discounted services for a monthly fee. The concept is modeled after a gym membership, a technique Lytle says is aimed at creating loyal customers. “One of my favorite parts of the job is seeing happy customers who can’t wait to come back,” she notes.
Lytle constantly receives requests from former customers to expand A Perfect 10 to places like Washington, North Dakota, and even Canada. “Ten salons was my goal — but I’ve opened five faster than I’d ever anticipated so the sky is the limit at this point,” she says.
As far as 2017 goes, Lytle is focused on opening her first out-of-state salon, and establishing A Perfect 10’s own polish line, 10 Polish.
Salon name: A Perfect 10 Nail & Beauty Bar
Location: Rapid City and Sioux Falls, S.D.
Owner: Canada Lytle
Square Footage: 1,500 (on average)
Number of nail techs/employees: 45/61
Specialties: Gel-polish and natural nails
Compensation structure: 40% commission plus some health benefits