If you ever wanted evidence that nails are a recession-resistant industry, I have a compelling case study for you. I found myself in Detroit for a wedding this year, less than two months after the once-bustling Michigan city made headlines for filing for the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. But when I asked nail tech Tamika Johnson — who works out of still-bustling Kut ’Em Up hair salon in the heart of Detroit — how the regional economy is affecting her, her answer startled me: The city’s bust has had no consequences on her nail business. “Before choosing a profession, I Googled ‘recession-proof incomes,’” Johnson told me. “I chose nails. It’s inevitable that people will want to get their nails done. Especially in an urban environment, this is what people live for. It’s entertainment.”
I found Johnson via Instagram — and I’m not alone. More of the tech’s clientele finds her via social media than hear of her through word-of-mouth. She started her Instagram account in 2012 and posts new nail designs there throughout each work day. She started her Facebook business page in 2009, the same year she earned her license.
Johnson opted to work in a hair salon because the referrals are amazing. With five stylists and five barbers, she gets so many clients she sometimes passes them along to the second nail tech, such as a mother-daughter pair the techs serviced the day before.
Competition comes from the spas located at the casinos, such as Immerse Spa at the MGM Grand in downtown Detroit, but Johnson isn’t too worried — after all, if her business can thrive through the Great Recession, it can survive practically anything.
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