When Susan Aflak was an accountant and investment banker, she worked 100 hours a week and she found herself wishing for a nail truck downstairs from her office just like there was a food truck stationed for lunch. “I am religious about getting my nails done,” she explains.
She quickly came to realize, after developing a desire for the entrepreneurial life, how busy working women can get. So she purchased an Airstream trailer and while she waited for her permits for the vehicle to clear, Aflak attended beauty school. In January, La Lacquerie, the mobile nail salon serving San Francisco and San Jose, Calif., was born.
Sitting 26 feet long and seven-and-a-half feet wide, the Parisian themed and decorated trailer serves both corporate clients and private events. The bright pink exterior of the trailer makes the salon a “walking billboard,” while the more modestly decorated interior creates a relaxed environment.
How It Works
Aflak explains that as long as there is enough employee demand for an entire day’s worth of appointments, companies interested in becoming corporate clients can schedule services anytime. They just need to provide parking and, ideally, electricity. Depending on the company’s size, La Lacquerie is scheduled to visit campuses or parking lots weekly, biweekly, or even monthly. Right now, the mobile nail salon is visiting Google’s campus weekly, but most companies are seen biweekly. Smaller companies that can’t quite accommodate minimum booking can either be booked monthly or have an individual nail tech sent to their conference room. If techs drive themselves to these types of clients, they become commission-based rather than earning the usual hourly rate.
Those who would like to book a private event for a birthday party, shower, or bachelorette party are able to reserve the mobile salon for three hours, with three nail techs. Included in the package is OPI or Essie polish favors, beverages, cupcakes, and a pink balloon bunch. Additionally, La Lacquerie offers house calls for other types of services, such as manis and pedis for photo shoots and commercials.
What Mobility Offers
Since La Lacquerie is a mobile nail salon, traditional manicure and pedicure services can be cumbersome. Instead, she and her techs offer waterless services in order to ensure the best hygiene. The mobile salon uses Bodipure’s keratin gloves and socks, which can be a new experience for some clients.
The mobile salon often sees professionals who are getting their nails done during their work day, which means they don’t necessarily want nail art. Plus, they are busy people who want to get in and out as soon as they can. Therefore, the services offered are very straightforward: traditional and gel-polish manicures and pedicures. “We don’t do any nail enhancements. Glitter or a French manicure is about as crazy as our clients get,” Aflak says.
She also explains that since the tech world is predominately male, companies have a harder time recruiting women. La Lacquerie’s services are a free perk these companies could offer to entice female employees and make their lives easier. And while she didn’t expect to appeal to many law firms at first, there has been a definite demand from female attorneys.
Because the salon can be anywhere a company is, Aflak’s nail techs are able to be in multiple places at once. While the Airstream could be on a campus in San Francisco, an individual nail tech can be at a conference room in San Jose. This allows for an extreme amount of flexibility for nail techs who can set their own schedules and their own travel radius.
In a little less than a year, La Lacquerie has acquired nearly 15 corporate clients with a handful of private parties under its belt. Aflak’s clientele is vast, and her male customers are some of her best. The female clients particularly love that the mobile salon plays movies “that their boyfriends won’t watch with them,” such as “Clueless” and “500 Days of Summer.”
The biggest challenge Aflak has seen wasn’t building a client base, but rather acquiring nail techs who are willing to travel. She mostly recruits from beauty schools, taking on newly licensed technicians. While these young women know how to perform a mani and pedi, occasionally they are nervous for their first few services and may take longer than the advertised 35 minutes. So Aflak has them train with more senior techs until they are confident enough to perform their services quickly and well. It can also be difficult to make sure every site is covered with enough techs when those sites aren’t within employees’ travel radius. “It’s a ton of moving parts,” Aflak says.
But, with new clients being added daily, and nail tech referrals coming in, Aflak explains that she’d love to move into the East Bay, and eventually franchise the trailer model to other cities. When asked where she’d like to go, she says, “Anywhere I can find a good team!”
Salon Name: La Lacquerie
Location: San Francisco and San Jose, Calif.
Owners: Susan Aflak
Nail Techs/Employees: 8/9
Compensation Structure: Hourly to move into commission
Square Footage: 195 (in Airstream)
Signature Services: Signature manicure and pedicure