The concept for Hoopla was dreamed up on a playground, where co-owners Megan Thornberry and Molly Maxwell met three years ago. They’d sat side-by-side watching their young sons play for weeks before bonding over a love for nail services.
Thornberry was a trial lawyer for 15 years and Maxwell had worked in New York as a clinical social worker. Both frequented salons but soon grew tired of what they knew and were sparked to change the market.
“We decided to open a salon that we’d personally like to go to; one that would be healthy, clean, and something new,” says Thornberry. “We wanted to offer people a different option.” In July 2012, Thornberry and Maxwell opened Hoopla in their hometown of Fairway, Kan., blocks away from Kansas City.
When clients walk through the door at Hoopla, they are given a sealed bag containing their own buffer, birchwood stick, and nail file to keep. While Hoopla uses stainless steel tools as well, the disposables help preserve personal hygiene and improve home care.
To expand on this value, Hoopla also offers clients its own brand of polish, which is “five-free” [meaning no dibutyl phthalate, toluene, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, and camphor], not animal tested, made in the U.S., and on the house.
“We want our salon to be ultra-hygienic and decided that we don’t like the polish-sharing that goes on in most salons,” says Thornberry. “We thought, wouldn’t it be great if everyone had their own small bottle?”
The polish comes in miniature .17-oz. bottles that look like a tube of ChapStick, says Thornberry. Before services, clients can sift through bowls of Hoopla’s 42 colors in a small polish nook. At the end of their treatment, clients take home the remaining polish and even receive two bottles if they get a manicure ($24) and pedicure ($40).
“It’s costly for us, but we feel it’s worth it for the experience,” says Thornberry. “Clients feel safer, and from that we’ve generated a lot of customer loyalty, which we’ve really benefited from. That’s our goal.”
At press time, Thornberry and Maxwell had plans to launch an e-commerce website within the next couple of months to sell their polish to a broader market.
“People like changing their color, so they often have a million half-full bottles of polish lying around their houses,” says Thornberry. “With Hoopla’s small size, you have the potential of actually finishing a bottle, so it’s appealing.”
BUILDING A LINE OF POLISH
Hoopla has a mixture of standard colors and colors that cycle in and out depending on the season. Shades are inspired by runway trends and also the general fashion of the region. Thornberry and Maxwell plan to expand their collection with each new year.
“Because we’re in control of the polishes, we can really give our clients what they want,” says Thornberry. “At the end of the day, we can examine our inventory and see which colors are popular and which aren’t doing so well.”
Thornberry and Maxwell name all of their own colors, drawing inspiration from their lives. “That part is very fun and very hard, but we name the polishes after things that mean something to us personally,” says Thornberry. Part of their marketing campaign for the coming year is to slowly release the stories behind the colors’ names on the salon’s website for the first time.
Currently, the most popular color is called Playground Dreams, which is a sheer light pink. It was named after the spot where Thornberry and Maxwell first met and began dreaming of opening a salon together.
“Sheer, barely pink is a great staple color — it was the first to sell out,” says Thornberry. “Coincidentally, it’s also our favorite shade and its name means the most to us.”
As of now, almost all of the salon’s clients opt to use Hoopla’s brand of polish, but it wasn’t an easy road.
“In the beginning there were a few times where a client would come with her own polish, but it’s happening much less now,” says Thornberry. “Over time people were drawn to the color choices we offer and the fact that our polish doesn’t have an odor.”
Hoopla also uses many of its own products for treatments, such as lotions and bath salts. They can be purchased in the salon’s boutique, in addition to Hoopla brand soy-based candles and natural lip balms. Fifty percent of the boutique’s goods are Hoopa products.
TARGET AUDIENCE MARKETING
Being located in the small town of Fairway, blocks away from the bustling Kansas City, Hoopla attracts a diverse client base. “Our clients are women of all ages — high school students through retirees,” says Thornberry. “But we’ve noticed our male clientele increasing steadily.”
Hoopla does heavy target audience marketing, in which parties or special services are offered to a particular group within its target audience to bring them into the shop.
Hoopla’s most recent slew of events was in light of its growing male client base.
“We had a very successful party right before the holidays called the Men’s Holiday Hoopla Happy Hour,” says Thornberry. “We closed the salon to the public and just opened it to men, offering free services for a two-hour period. Seventy-five men came in.”
Since the event, more male clients have booked appointments. “It was a non-intimidating way to welcome all men in to experience Hoopla,” says Thornberry. “The party changed the attitude and mindset for a lot of men. It’s great to see that manis and pedis are something relaxing for both genders. It’s also a health and hygiene practice, not just a luxury.”
Many men get the “In the Buff” manicure or pedicure, which includes soaking, trimming, filing, and buffing, without the polish.
Coming off of their men’s events, Thornberry and Maxwell told NAILS they will continue to host social events that target different groups.
As well as marketing events, the salon owners are big on social media. “We’ve had the most success with Facebook because it’s used the most across many ages,” says Thornberry.
But both owners agree you can’t beat word of mouth. “If you give someone a good experience, they’ll tell others they know,” says Thornberry. “Molly and I are out and about talking about our shop, and our husbands are our biggest promoters. That can’t be overshadowed.”
Salon Name: Hoopla
Location: Fairway, Kan.
Owner: Megan Thornberry and Molly Maxwell
Square Footage: 1,400
Opened: July 24, 2012
Number of Nail Techs/Total Staff: 9/12
Specialties: manicures and pedicures with Hoopla polish; Shellac
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