Two semesters before graduating with her undergraduate degree, Candice Idehen, the owner of Bed of Nails Nail Bar, realized that she needed three extra credits to graduate on time. She began to search for classes that could fulfill her requirement and found an unspecified black studies class. It lacked a description, but she figured that whatever the class ended up being, she’d be able to handle it.
It wasn’t until the first day of class that the professor would inform the students of what class they were in: Black Entrepreneurship. It was the first time the professor was teaching this class, and as part of the class, Idehen would need to develop a viable business plan.
This was when the idea for Bed of Nails Nail Bar was born.
As she continued to develop the business plan for her class, Idehen soon began thinking about the viability of actually opening up a nail salon. Although she grew up going to nail salons and loved them, Idehen knew she needed to learn more about nail salons if she was going to open one up. So she began going to nail school at night during her last semester of college.
In 2011 Idehen graduated from both her undergraduate education and nail school. She spent the next two years working in nail salons and building up contacts. With the help of her family, Idehen opened Bed of Nails Nail Bar in 2013.
Bed of Nails Nail Bar is located in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood — historically a mecca of African-American culture. Although New York has many luxurious nail salons, most of them are located south of Harlem, closer to downtown. Idehen opened her salon in Harlem because she was tired of traveling away from Harlem, where she lives, to get her nails done at a quality salon.
“I thought, ‘I like nice things too. Why don’t we have places here that are really good and provide excellent services?’” Idehen says. “People didn’t like the kind of services they were getting in the neighborhood. I thought I could bridge that gap after seeing how the neighborhood was changing.”
She notes that many new businesses were opening up and more and more people were moving to Harlem because of the sense of community that can be found there.
“People know people by name and have lived here their whole lives,” Idehen says. “It’s why people from other parts of Manhattan are moving to Harlem — they like that when you see a person in the morning they’ll say ‘good morning’ or ‘have a nice day.’”
Idehen wanted to build that same sense of community into her salon. She felt the salons she went to growing up were too impersonal and sacrificed friendliness in order to get people in and out as quickly as possible. She and her staff make it a point to know their clients. Her clients appreciate the sense of the community they get when they enter her doors and will oftentimes turn off their cellphones because they know they won’t need them — they’ll be too busy chatting with the women in the salon.
Bed of Nails has all of the basics you’d expect at a nail salon, but one of their most popular services is the Make Them Kissable Signature Pedicure. This pedicure uses a rose petal-infused milk bath, a chocolate-infused exfoliating scrub, and a paraffin wrap.
“I had a client once who thought it smelled so good she wanted to eat it,” Idehen says.
Idehen also offers services for children and men. Younger girls are usually brought in by their mothers looking for a fun way to get some mother/daughter bonding time. Whether they come in on their own or are brought in by their wife or girlfriend, most men opt for the manicure. All the services at Bed of Nails are priced higher than the nail salons in the surrounding area, but Idehen says that she provides a completely different level of service than those salons.
Idehen has six nail techs on staff and says that finding the right ones was a lot harder than she thought it would be. Each nail tech that is hired is expected to come in with a certain skill set, but all new hires still receive about a week of training after they’re hired, depending on how much they know coming into the position.
Every nail tech is paid hourly, but as a nail tech learns new skills, she has the potential to increase her earnings. Idehen will consider increasing the pay for nail techs who perform more high-ticket services like nail art and specialty treatments. Idehen recently hired a manager for her shop so she has been able to lessen her own workload. She still sees clients personally, but plans to reduce the number of clients she takes on in order to devote more time to growing her business.
Idehen made her salon look almost like a bedroom, a play on its name. Her pedicure chairs were custom designed and resemble a throne more than a chair. Nearly every piece of furniture is black, but that’s intentional. She didn’t want her salon to look overly girly; she wanted both male and female clients to feel comfortable there.
The occasional purple serves as an accent to the black decor. The only place where the purple serves as the primary color instead of an accent is in the waiting area, in the form of a big purple couch. The most unusual bit of decor in the salon is the bathroom door. “The doorknob for the bathroom is a black metal hand and you have to shake the handle to get into the bathroom,” Idehen says, laughing.
Bed of Nails Nail Bar doesn’t just offer nail services; it also has a massage therapist on staff. That service is still pretty new however, so it only accounts for about 10% of the salon’s business. The salon is also undergoing construction to raise the height of the pedicure stations to make it more comfortable for her staff to work, and to add a room for waxing services.
Salon Name: Bed of Nails Nail Bar
Location: Harlem, New York City
Owner: Candice Idehen
Square Footage: 1,400 square feet
Opened: October 2013
Number of Nail Techs/Employees: 6/7
Specialties: Nail art, pedicures
Compensation Structure: Hourly