BACK TO THE BASICS: A self-pro- claimed “high-tech refugee,” Fetish Nail Salon and Beauty Boutique owner Malka Phillips says her background includes a little bit of everything except for the nail industry. “The closest that I’ve come was working with Revlon in New York City,” she explains. “But I wasn’t even on the product-testing side.” Relying on her strong history of business-oriented work, Phillips opened her own software company and relocated to Aspen, Colo., with her husband.

“I was used to living in the city, where I could just walk into a nail salon, at my convenience, with no appointment, and walk out with a manicure and pedicure for under $50,” she says. Phillips was flabbergasted when she was unable to do the same in her new hometown.

“That’s when the light bulb went off. I thought, ‘This a void that needs to be filled here in town.’”

Aspen has a local population of 6,000, but in the winter and summer months, as many as 600,000 people come through town, making it nearly impossible to get an appointment at the many salons and spas. “I realized that the people who lived here were driving an hour away to Glenwood Springs to get their nails done,” says Phillips. “And I wondered why people were driving so far to get their nails done.”

Phillips did her research, and found three main reasons for the exportation of these potential clients: affordability, availability, and attitude—the three As, as Phillips refers to them. She concluded that addressing these three items would be the sure-fire formula for the success she was looking for. And on June 1, she tested her theories.

IN THIS ECONOMY? [ARE YOU CRAZY?:] Phillips realized that a new business venture was a risky decision, regardless of external circumstances. The past year was a difficult one for already-established businesses, much less those just setting out. But Phillips was confident in the potential success of her salon and shook off questions about new business and the economy. “If anything, it’s Conducive to the financial market right now,” she explains. “Because it’s affordable, it’s friendly, and it’s comfortable.”

Comfort and appeal are two aspects Phillips has emphasized in the salon’s design. The funky environment is an eclectic mix of colours and fabrics, making it a place to hang out, relax, or catch up on the latest gossip. The floor is painted in lemon-lime stripes, accent walls are hot pink, and a faux zebra couch keeps clients comfortable in the waiting area.

Salon Name: Fetish Nail Salon and Beauty Boutique

Location: Aspen, Colo.

Owner’s Name: Malka Phillips

Square footage: 797

Years of ownership: opened June 1, 2002

Number of nail techs: 3 full-time, 2 part-time

Number of employees: 7

Compensation structure: contract employees earning a percentage (60-40 split), plus 10% commission on any products sold Guarantees full-time nail techs $130 a day between commissions, tips, and percentage. 

Fetish has four manicure stations, all red laminate, with purple chairs and tall green and gold lamps. The salon’s two pedicure stations have white pleather tufted cushions. “Nothing is matchy-matchy here,” says Phillips.

The salon is centrally located in the heart of downtown Aspen—away from the hotels with spas — making it easily accessible to both locals and visitors. “I’ve got a corner on the market,” says Phillips. “There are a few other places, but none that specialize in nails — a couple of hair salons, and a dermabrasion salon. But other than that, it’s just me.”

HELP WANTED: Even in this difficult economy, Phillips says finding and hiring quality employees still posed a problem. “I never anticipated it would be as challenging as it was,” she says. Phillips ran advertisements in the local paper and got no responses. “Then I added a sign-on bonus for full-time employees and I got a couple of calls.”

From there, it was process of elimination. Phillips was looking for employees who would complement the style and spirit of the salon. “This is really happy, upbeat, fun, fast-paced stuff]” she says. “And I wanted to find people who would thrive in that environment.” She also placed ads on different Internet sites (including NAILS), and visited three nearby beauty schools for fresh talent. The hard work paid off. Phillips’ Internet advertisements attracted a slew of potential employees from all over the U.S. “I actually have a woman moving here from Minneapolis,” she says.

TRAINING AND MARKETING MAKE THE DIFFERENCE: A robust marketing campaign was key to introducing the salon and holding people’s interest. Phillips placed ads in the local newspaper and on radio stations, as well as a few local magazines, including Aspen Magazine and Aspen Guide. The response to the salon’s opening was incredible, she says. “People have been calling non-stop; the phones have been ringing off the hook with people trying to make appointments.”

The salon’s extensive list of services and products justifies the fan-fere. A manicure is $17, and a pedicure costs customers $29. Local Aspen residents receive an extra 10% discount on everything — services and products.

Phillips is a firm believer in continuing education. She emphasizes that her technicians will also remain on the cut­ting edge in terms of the services and products they’re able to offer. “Styles are always changing,” she says. “And whether it’s nail art, airbrushing, or whatever else, I understand the importance of updated training on a regular basis.”

In this spirit, Phillips will be offering brow re-dos and consultations using famed Beverly Hills eyebrow guru Anastasia’s line. “The folks who work for me are not only nail technicians, but also licensed estheticians and cosmetologists. They’re going to Beverly Hills to train with Anastasia. It’s an exciting new opportunity for them to make additional money.” Also, Phillips will be teaching a class at Glenwood Springs Beauty School, one of the schools she visited when looking for potential new hires.

Phillips describes herself as a “very reactive person,” and she likes to stay on top of what’s developing in the industry. “I like to have all the latest, hottest stuff,” she says. “So trade magazines are a big resource for me. And I also go to a couple of Internet sites on a regular basis.” Phillips says she plans to take advantage of her proximity to Denver, and attend industry trade shows there.

But her confidence for success comes from a deep love and appreciation of the beauty industry. “The reason I got into this was because I love the beauty realm,” says Phillips. “I love the beauty industry. I love beauty products. I love fashion. And I love talking to people and getting to know the community.” It seems like a perfect fit.

By Amy Carter

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