Seeing clients away from the salon has been a part of our industry for as long as there has been a nail industry. In the early days, beauty professionals always went to their clients. We use the term “mobile” to describe them, though most are not “mobile” in the strict sense of the word, meaning they don’t work in a vehicle. Instead they visit the client at home or wherever she might want care. In an emerging trend, services performed away from the salon may become known by a new name: concierge manicuring. The term “concierge” is taken from other professionals who provide a highly customized level of service. Concierge physicians, for example, are easily reachable by clients and may go to their homes to treat them. Nail techs delivering concierge services hope the new name brings a boost in cachet and sophistication to this business model.
Care for the Chronically Ill
A special opportunity exists for concierge manicurists to provide routine hand and foot care to the chronically ill. Most physicians and podiatrists don’t provide home visits and can’t attend to patients who are homebound or restricted in their mobility, and other substitutes — like visiting nurses, home care professionals, and relatives — are rarely trained in safe foot care. This is essential in this population where something as simple as an accidental cut can ultimately have severe consequences. In many states it is illegal for homecare professionals to perform this care. This opens the door for concierge manicuring and pedicuring to develop into an important and lucrative area of expertise.
The homebound are not the only clients to benefit from concierge services. White Plaines, N.Y.–based nail tech Alexia Villanueva opened her business, The Nail Concierge, in 2011, catering to a mix of homebound and luxury-loving clients. Now rated the top salon in her area on Yelp, Villanueva’s business grew quickly and she can barely keep up. “About 50% of my clients are homebound; the rest want pampering concierge services,” she says. Her business caters to clients from the bridal, corporate, fashion, and entertainment worlds, and takes her to private homes, offices, hospital rooms, nursing homes, hotels, and private events. Her appointments are made online and she has a staff of on-call estheticians and nail technicians for large parties she can’t handle on her own. She also maintains a room at Solo Salon in White Plains.
Concierge manicuring can take many different forms. Karen Hodges, MNT, the owner of Morning Glory Salon in Fort Myers, Fla., goes weekly to the business campus of apparel-maker Chicos FAS to perform beauty services for its busy employees. “I have a legal set-up there, provided by Chicos, to exclusively perform their manicuring and pedicuring services on campus,” says Hodges. “The employees are happy to slip away from their desks for a few minutes. I’ve styled my menu to offer express services that get the job done in minimum time.”
The concierge business model varies from a full set-up that remains at the location, like Hodges’, to the technician bringing in all necessary equipment and supplies for each visit. Tricia Turner, MNT, owner of Senior Feet in Virginia Beach, Va., loves her concierge manicuring business and centers it on chronically ill clients who need her care. “These are wonderful and special people and they appreciate everything I do,” she says. She travels to their homes or wherever they need her. Her clientele has grown steadily over the past two years — faster than she expected, in fact. “Physicians and podiatrists have been very supportive and are referring their patients to me because they know I am trained to perform safe services,” she says. Turner, like many others delivering specialized home care, has received advanced training and certification that sets her apart.
Manuela Ceglinski, ANT, owner of Healthy Nails in Tonawanda, N.Y., was formerly a nurse and a social worker and is also a cancer survivor. She acquired her manicuring license to be able to help those with chronic or serious illnesses with their foot care. “I feel these people need this care and I want to help them,” she says. She also gives seminars to seniors on how to care for their feet. Ceglinski is experiencing the same steady growth as Turner, though most of her referrals come from word of mouth or from people who attend her seminars. Her goal is not to have a large clientele, as she is physically not able to meet the needs of a heavy clientele; it’s more to comfortably serve this niche clientele she is dedicated to.
High-level infection control is necessary with a vulnerable clientele, but easily managed. “I have enough sets of implements that I can use my autoclave at home to sterilize the implements in pouches and then take them in clean storage to the clients,” says Turner. “The rest are disposables, including disposable liners in my pedi bath.” Ceglinski also uses disposable liners in the pedicure bath, but for implements she takes a different approach. She purchases inexpensive packaged implements for a few dollars and then throws them away after a single use. Both technicians throw everything away at the client’s location so they can see it being done.
Concierge manicuring services usually center around natural nail care, though there are exceptions. Ciglinski reports that 90% of her clients get pedicures. Hodges does mostly soakless gel-polish manicures. However, a concierge manicurist’s menu can offer any service as long as she is willing to carry the equipment and the client is willing to pay for it.
Benefits and Drawbacks
The concierge manicurists we spoke to say that for them, the many benefits far outweigh the negatives. They have the freedom to set their own schedule, choose and design their own services, choose their clients, and charge what they want. Techs who are drawn to this type of work usually love one-on-one time with clients and the informality of the settings. They seem to be more into caring for people than into the artistic side of manicuring — though many of these clients are eager to get nail art — and they love spending time with people who are so appreciative. The drawbacks are the travel and its cost, and the fact that they see things salon techs do not, such as hoarders and extremely ill individuals, though these occasions are few.
In the interest of personal safety, several concierge manicurists have purchased a high-tech bracelet that sends out a help message if the tech feels threatened and hits it. Though none have reported having to use them, wearing them makes the techs feel more confident about their safety.
How do you get into concierge care? First, check the regulations in your state [see our chart at www.nailsmag.com/mobilerules] to learn the regulatory requirements. A concierge professional must adhere to her state’s regulations, and each state regulates homebound services differently — from being totally illegal, to requiring a salon home base or mobile unit, to having few restrictions at all. If you decide you can work within your state’s guidelines, you may wish to get specialized training on how to work safely with chronically ill clients if you plan to serve this niche clientele. [Editor’s note: You can find providers of this type of training and certification in NAILS’ Guide to Nail Education at store.nailsmag.com/e-book.] “I took a certification course so I can perform services safely; that’s vital to the chronically ill,” says Ceglinski.
A moving experience when she was a spa director played a part in Denise Baich’s decision to look into concierge manicuring for clients who are unable come into the salon. Baich, an MNT based in Ballwin, Mo., received repeated pleas from one of her personal salon clients to go to her father and trim his nails since she could find no one willing to perform the service. Baich finally gave in and went to the nursing home where he lived. “He desperately needed his toenails trimmed and the facility had no contract podiatrist or nail technician. His simple nail trimming was becoming dangerous,” she says. “When it came time to be paid, I told them to just make a donation to their church,” says Baich. But as she was walking out the front door, someone at the front desk called her over and handed her $100 – “a tip from the patient,” they said. So the patient had been willing to pay for the service and would still have given a $100 tip from the front desk.
“It is obvious concierge services are needed,” says Baich. With that in mind, after she did some research, Baich opened a concierge business called Pedicure Plus. She has a space in a salon suites location because, according to Missouri law, she must perform 51% of her services there. “I am now in control of my own destiny, but I am also performing a service for clients who genuinely need me,” she says. As the business expands, she will be seeking other manicurists to work with her. They will be “safety-trained nail technicians,” she says.
Baich was booked even before she opened. “The physicians and podiatrists I called on were all pleased about my services being available,” she says. “They were ready to refer right away.” The doctors hand out brochures and recommend her services to their patients. Her healthy clients and ambulatory patients come to the salon for services; the chronically ill, homebound clients, and others receive concierge visits.
So How’s the Money?
Concierge manicuring clients represent a wide spectrum, from the chronically ill who cannot leave their residences to those who can afford to pay for licensed professionals to come to them just for the pampering. All clients should be charged appropriately and many technicians ask them to pay up front; most clients expect to pay more for their special care and appreciate the technician coming to them.
Concierge manicurists do charge more, and must because of the travel time, wear and tear on their car and equipment, and other service inconveniences. They do not have rent (unless they are in a state that requires a salon as a home base), utilities, and other expenses, but they have to buy gas and can perform fewer services per day. Since these clients usually expect to pay more, the concierge manicurist can be bold in her pricing.
The concierge manicurist must charge appropriately and market the business if she wants to succeed. “The clientele of these technicians grow quickly if they market,” says Villanueva. Depending on the region, pedicures might run $100 to $150, though those who are motivated more by altruism may charge less. Also, many concierge manicurists feel confident charging more because of the advanced education and certification they’ve received.
As diseases like diabetes increase and our population ages and becomes less healthy overall, the need for off-site services is growing. The opportunity to provide safe and necessary services, as well as pampering care, means the field of concierge manicuring is likely to expand.