The biggest Y2K issue Volpe Nails faces was getting back to its roots of technical training and salon management support and away from franchising its name and systems. With a new corporate location and a revamped salon satellite, Volpe pronounces itself “Y2K compliant.”
With 19 years’ experience as a nail technician, salon owner, franchiser, consultant, trainer, and product manufacturer, it’s safe to say Maureen Volpe has “been there, don that” in the nail industry. Yet not once in all those years has she been tempted to leave the industry even though it – and she – have had their ups and downs.
“It’s just a great business,” she says. “There are so many people I’ve taken out of high school who are making more than $1,000 a week after six weeks of education and a month or two of training. To me, nails are the best-kept beauty secret.”
A secret that Volpe has spent her career trying to make common knowledge. In 1984, Volpe began franchising her Volpe Nails salon concept based on demand from clients and technicians as well as on the advice of a lawyer who said franchising was the only way to control (and profit from) others using her name, products, and application methods. In 1991 when NAILS first profiled Volpe Nails, Volpe was still enthusiastic about franchising and had grown the chain to 55 salons concentrated mostly on the East Coast between Connecticut and Florida.
But even then, notes her son and vice president, Gary Donson, they found that legal and business fees were costly, and collecting royalty fees was problematic, to say the least. “We always got phone calls from people wanting our training and our product and we had to say no because they couldn’t afford the cost of a full-fledged franchise,” Donson adds.
In 1993, Volpe turned over the day-to-day operations of the franchising company to relocate to Sarasota, Fla., where she had bought out a franchisee’s salon. Donson remained in Endicott, N.Y., to run the company, but soon decided to move the corporate offices to Florida as well. Around the same time, he consulted with a marketing expert about the company’s future goals and plains. On his advice, Donson and Volpe decided to convert the franchises to a satellite salon program and focus on training, consulting, and product sales, where they had originally had their best success.
Today, the two split their time between managing their two corporate locations (the second in Bradenton), servicing the 60 salons that purchase products and training from them, and adding the final touches on the new Volpe Nails Satellite Program. With a master’s degree in business management, Donson handles the company’s management and finances, while Volpe does the hiring, training, and day-to-day running of the corporate salons. Her two daughters and husband work in the salons as well: both daughters work as nail technicians (one in Sarasota, the other in Bradenton), and her husband helps run the front desk. Additionally, nieces, daughters-in0law, and longtime friends operate their own locations. “I consider us all a family,” Volpe adds.