Nail technician Jeany Perez had always dreamed of making it big in the beauty industry. So in 2003, at the age of 26 with $3,000 in her pocket, she opened Unity Nails and Skin Care along with a barbershop next door in Lake Mary, Fla. However, as the economy started to plummet, she was forced to sell the barbershop. A blessing in disguise, this hardship allowed her to channel her energy toward nails and understanding the business inside and out.
Perez became an educator for OPI and developed a palpable sense of determination to succeed against the odds. Through social media and networking, she attracted more and more clients until she decided to expand, moving Unity into a larger space one block up. On April 25, she had a grand reopening to celebrate Unity’s renovation, her new employees, and new services.
The improved menu has made wellness a major part of Unity’s concept, as it features progressive services, such as foot detox and whole body vibration machines, as well as personalized, hand-painted nail art and gel manicures, which have now become Unity’s specialty services.
CRISP, LIKE APPLE
According to Perez, Unity’s decor can be described as modern with a splash of color. Earthy, neutral browns and beiges are found at the salon’s core — on its dividers, furniture, and floors. However, scattered around are pops of bright pink, blue, and green either nestled in Unity’s boutique, or hung about the walls.
Prominently displayed on the salon’s all-white front desk is the Unity logo, which was created specifically for the brand and features three colorful interlocking rings. “The reception desk is one of my favorite pieces inside Unity,” said Perez. “My logo is everything I wanted. The font used to make it is called United just like the salon’s name, Unity. And the unity circles are all about what we stand for.”
Although the salon has attracted some high profile clients, such as the Kardashian sisters and Nicki Minaj, Perez makes it a point to ensure that every customer is treated equally. “When a girl sits down, you treat her like the princess she is because there’s no difference whether she has money or not,” says Perez. “I treat the local client the same as the celebrity.”
The store is very clean and crisp, as Perez takes much of her design philosophy from the software corporation Apple. “I like Unity to be like the Apple Store — very clean, efficient, and easy for everyone to understand,” said Perez. Elegant wooden dividers split the open space into five stations according to service. The arrangement is simple, uncluttered, and still provides privacy for clients.
“Like Apple, I constantly update my apps,” Perez adds. As new products or nail treatments come out, Perez and her staff go into training mode. There they evaluate what’s suitable for inclusion in Unity’s ever-expanding menu. Currently, the nail services available are manicures and pedicures, gel manicures with either Shellac or GelColor by OPI, pink-and-white sets and fills, polish changes, crystal rhinestone full sets, colored acrylic tips, French manicures and pedicures, gel overlays, and a variety of nail art ranging from basic to 3-D.
To that end, Perez ensures that her menu remains just as clear and simple as her design concept. For every type of service on the menu, there are only two options: basic or spa. If customers choose the basic option for their service, they will receive a water soak, cuticle treatment, filing, buffing, and a massage. The spa option includes everything offered in a basic service, plus a scrub, mask, and intense moisturizing treatment for which clients wear fingerless gloves filled with a butter-like lotion.
“The entire time we’re working on their nails we keep the gloves on our clients so the butter can penetrate into their hand for ultimate moisture.”
While Perez prefers using OPI, she allows her nail techs to use their personal favorite products as long as she can approve them beforehand. Popular brands include Tammy Taylor and Essie.
A FOCUS ON WELLNESS
An esthetician in addition to a nail tech, Perez is always interested in exploring the ways in which nail services act as a wellness treatment for people. “From 1997 to 2003, before opening Unity, I always found myself going back to my roots of doing nails,” said Perez. “I always wanted people to feel good about their image.” So, when reopening Unity, Perez initiated a major menu shift toward personalized nail art and specialized services.
For children, the salon offers Princess Services for VIPs — or Very Important Princesses — which involve more pampering than a regular mani or pedi. Unity also hosts VIP parties for birthdays and special events. For these events, Unity will shut down and become a private venue.
Since the April reopening, nail art has quickly become the salon’s specialty service, generating the most revenue. According to Perez, customers never walk out with just a basic manicure, and nine times out of 10 they will end up spending over $80 because of all the add-ons they choose.
“Our manicures are only $15,” said Perez. “Really, we fit in right between the small corner salons and the high-end spas in our pricing. We intentionally found the happy medium. Additional money comes from extra nail embellishments, other wellness services, and our boutique section.”
The other wellness services offered at Unity, which clients can receive for additional relaxation either before or after a nail treatment, include foot detox therapy, spray tans with a non-toxic vegan product, teeth whitening, facials, makeup services, waxing, and whole body vibration machines for weight loss.
“Nails, skin, and beauty are important because you can really match someone’s outside to their inside,” said Perez. “They walk out of here feeling amazing, and that’s truly why I do what I do.”
Perez’s wellness ideals transcend into Unity’s boutique section as well. All of the products that Unity employees use are sold in the boutique section alongside miscellaneous nail goods, jewelry, hand cream and lotions, and handpicked clothing from California shops.
NEW SPACE, NEW STRATEGIES
Recovering from the effects of the economic downturn served as an extremely motivating and essential challenge for Perez and her business.
“How I made it through is what I want to share with anyone who can learn from my mistakes,” says Perez. “I took the money I still had and reinvested it right back into the salon, this time with a clearer vision and a better space. I have learned that you must make time to market, and let guests see what makes your services different than others.”
The salon began using social media in addition to word of mouth to their advantage, starting on a local level. Perez put professional photographs of Unity’s nail art as well as their salon interior on Facebook to familiarize prospective customers with her concept. They also started distributing fliers around Lake Mary, handing out neighborhood discounts, coupons, and specials. “Advertising Unity like that was the only way I got myself booked solid,” says Perez.
A lot of Unity’s regulars are older women and mothers, according to Perez. However, from advertising on Facebook, Unity has now diversified its crowd by attracting younger clients as well. “We get dance teams and cheerleading squads from Lake Mary’s high schools and arts centers,” says Perez.
Unity also participates in and hosts outside events such as breast cancer awareness benefits and jobs for Bloomingdale’s. As Perez put the salon’s name on the map, she began receiving five to seven brand new clients per week.
Open Wednesday through Saturday, the salon’s hours are flexible as Unity caters to the individual client. “We are a little bit more exclusive and that’s how I’ve always tried to run this business,” says Perez. The salon keeps profiles on all of its clients, tracking personal treatment preferences.
“You can never stay down when you’re down,” advises Perez. “Use all of your downtime to build the business. It’s important to be patient and to learn the importance of putting in the energy so you can get back what you give.”
Salon Name: Unity Nails and Skin Care
Location: Lake Mary, Fla.
Owner: Jeany Perez
Square Footage: 850
Opened: April 2012
Number of Nail Techs/Total Staff: 2/5
Specialties: Hand-painted nail art
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