Salon Name: Sanorm’s Free Edge Salon

Location: Brentwood, Tenn.

Owner: Sanom Brackin .

Square Footage: 650

Years of Ownership: 1

Number of Nail Techs/Employees: 3/4

Specialties: nail art Forever French acrylic, pedicures

Other Services: massage, competition nails, sport manicures and pedicures, waxing Compensation Structure: booth renters

WINGING IT: Sanom Brackin is a lucky lady. It seems that she has a knack for being at the right place at the right time — and having the presence of mind to recognize these opportunities and run with them — literally. Her good timing, cool head, and competitive spirit initially led Brackin into the nail industry—and ultimately into successfully opening her own salon, Sanom’s Free Edge Salon, in the afflu­ent town of Brentwood, Tenn.

Upon arriving in the U.S. from her native Thailand in 1989, Brackin took a job as a hairstylist at a salon. While her background is in cosmetology, Brackin recognized a need for a nail tech in the salon. “They didn’t let me do hair, so I took up nails instead,” says Brackin of her life-changing decision.

Since formally beginning her career as a nail tech in 1990, Brackin has worked hard to learn her craft and find enough time to “play” — compete in marathons, races, and nail competitions. An avid athlete, Brackin cherished the freedom and flexibility being a nail tech offered her to pursue outside interests. “I was not planning on opening my own salon because I thought it would be too much work,” she says. “Being a booth renter allowed me to work a little bit and playa lot. I thought owning a salon would mean I would have no more playtime.”

GOING THE DISTANCE: While Brackin viewed her hobbies as separate from her professional life, the two soon began to run together. Competing in nail competitions for a change of pace from the everyday salon scene gave Brackin great technical experience and helped her hone her skills. Her success in competitions and her innovative nail art helped win Brackin a good reputation and loyal clients.

“I live to learn more and I think the best way for a nail tech to learn is to go to competitions,” she says. “You see what’s new, who is doing what, you learn new techniques, and you share ideas.” Her involvement in athletics also gave Brackin insight into the special foot and nail care needs of athletes, which she used to tailor pedicures for her athletic clients and attract more clients.

While she was content with her life, enjoying success as a nail competitor, and reaping the benefits of being a sought-after nail tech, Brackin recognized a great opportunity when she saw it “I stumbled into this space and the rent was only $200 more per month than what I paid as a booth renter,” she says of the space that would eventually become Sanom’s Free Edge Salon. With her customary cool head, Brackin says simply, “I took a chance.” While the decision may seem spontaneous, Brackin seriously considered the benefits and consequences of opening her own salon before taking the idea and running with it.

BUILDING IT: Determined to create a stellar salon without compromising her personal life, Brackin carefully planned the development of every segment of the salon — from its physical design to its booth rental policy.

Beginning with the space itself, Brackin set out to make Sanom’s Free Edge a stylish, comfortable, professional — and flexible—work environment for herself and her staff. The business that previously occupied the space was also a nail salon, but according to Brackin the 650-square-foot space was in dire need of remodeling. “It was ugly and had a bad layout. I remodeled the whole thing and designed the salon from scratch” says Brackin, describing how she moved walls and enlarged storage closets to create separate massage and facial rooms.

Brackin attended to every detail and even went so far as to design the nail tech tables and chairs and paint the walls herself. “I didn’t want a typical salon, and I didn’t want a typical look — so I designed it all myself,” she says. Adding to the unique feel of the salon is the vibrant art on the wall. Brackin recruited a local artist to use her wall space as a gallery. The art adds a sophisticated touch and Brackin notes, “It benefits both of us: their work is shown, I don’t pay for the art, and I make 10% if it sells.”

The completed look of the salon is meticulous, clean, stylish — a perfect complement to the team that Brackin has gathered around herself. A mixed group of old friends, coworkers, and new faces, Free Edge’s staff is small, but versatile, comprised of three nail techs (including herself) and one massage therapist While Brackin worked very hard to create the look and feel of the salon, she knows that of even greater importance are the work and sanitation standards that run the salon. Determined to maintain high work and sanitation standards in her salon, Brackin trained her staff with these goals in mind.

“Clients appreciate our attention to sanitation. I think it is one of the main reasons they come to us. They know they can trust us and feel safe in our salon,” says Brackin. And judging by its fall book, clients also appreciate the variety of services the salon offers. While the majority of Free Edge’s clients are businesswomen, the salon also caters to athletes, housewives, and men.

Approximately 10% of the salon’s clientele are men. “Pedicures are very popular among men because they can’t do it themselves, and a lot of them are athletes and need to have their feet taken care of,” says Brackin.

Keeping her booth renters happy is also very important to Brackin. “I have the best people, and I want to keep them,” she says. “I provide them with a nice, clean facility, the best equipment in town — we have the latest model of everything—and I treat them as equals. We are very straightforward with each other and we help each other—we treat each other like friends.”

As it turns out, owning her own salon has not cut into Brackin’s playtime. “I still get to play because the salon is small enough for me to manage it easily. I don’t see it as a challenge anymore,” says Brackin. “Every day is the same—which is why I do nail competitions. My clients love that I compete because I learn more and get great experience.” The future of the salon is bright — even if Brackin does not know exactly where it is headed. “I never plan anything. I want to create some new products and implements. It might just happen.”

By Erin Barajas

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