They’re young, restless, extremely enthusiastic, and easy to please. They’ve seen their mothers, aunts, and sisters get manicures, full sets, and fills for a few years now. They love bright-collared polish and Am nail art. Who are they? The clients of tomorrow... kids.

Forget about balloon-blowing clowns, Disney characters, or Chuck E. Cheese; your salon should be the place kids go for beauty themed parties.

Attracting these younger clients to your salon and getting them excited about future regular nail services is relatively easy—wow them with nail art, easy-to-do hairstyles, and special party favours. They may be little, but don’t discount kid-powered trends — these young consumers will help dictate next year’s nail fashions.

At the Salon or at Home?

Once you decide to cater to this market, preparation is the key to your success.

If you plan to hold the parties in the salon, closely examine your days and hours of operation, standing bookings, and the availability of nail technicians (makeup artists and hairstylists) to determine the best time to offer party services.

For instance, Mondays and Wednesdays are down time for Fantastic Sams in Queensbury, New York, so salon owner Deanna Morehouse books parties on those days for girls ages 8-12. “This is the best use of our down time, because even though we are not making a lot of money with these parties, we are not sitting around trying to fill the time,” she says. 

 At a loyal customer’s bidding, Kimberly Grandinetti, president of Nail Express Inc., opened her Sunrise, Fla., salon on a Sunday (ordinarily the only day the salon is closed), to book a private birthday party for the client’s daughter. “By doing this, the nail technicians and hairstylists have an opportunity to earn some extra money and the guests at the party have a great time,” she says.

An oasis of color and character, Framingham, Mass.-based Snipits, was designed specifically for a younger clientele. The salon is open seven days a week and accommodates parties at one or more of the colorful stations. Because the salon’s business is relegated to haircuts, nail services are only a part of a specially booked event.

However, nails are the main and only event at parties worked by nail technician Elsbeth Grutter Schutz. Schutz, a talented nail artist, works her magic to the delight of young party goers.

While Schutz may host events in her salon, many take place at the residence of the birthday girl. Because California’s state laws allow nail technicians to perform off-site services within a 50-mile radius of their salon, personalized party service is easy for Schutz. If you decide to go off-site regularly to work a party for clients, be sure to check your state’s mobile salon laws to see if you need to register as a mobile salon or if such salons are prohibited by state law. (You can also check NAILS’ guide to home- based salons, mobile salons, and remote service rules on page 130 of the August 1996 issue.)

When it comes to nail services on children, nail technicians agree it’s best to keep it simple. Skipping some of the steps you might normally include during a regular manicure service (such as cuticle work or an extended massage) will save some time (young kids are restless so keeping them moving through the services is important) and avoids any potential problems or accidents. “Younger girls usually have not had a full-scale manicure before so they do not know if any steps are missing,” Morehouse notes. Fantastic Sams nail technicians sanitize the kids’ hands, file the nails, wash off the filings, and apply the colored polish of their choice — without base or top coat.

At Grandinetti’s salon, party manicures include filing, base coat, two coats of polish and a top coat, but no cuticle work is performed.

Schutz may not do any filing unless the nails are particularly ragged, then she polishes the nails with two coats of colored polish (“usually something really bright,” she notes), and then it is time to apply nail art She finishes the whole service off with a quick-dry top coat to reduce the risk of spirited kids marring their freshly applied polish. She never uses a base coat, so the polish dries in time for nail art or other perks.

While the trend toward daring polish hues allows the guests a true rainbow of nail colours to choose from, the most popular part of the nail services at parties is often the nail art or simple nail jewelry.

Planning for Fun and Profit

Next, decide how many girls per party your salon can handle and how much you will charge.

This figure is going to be based on a number of factors, such as number of party attendees in total; whether you or the parents will be providing food, decorations, or take-home “goody” bags; how many technicians will be working; how complicated the services will be; and whether you will close the salon for a private party or just book certain stations during normal business hours.

At Morehouse’s salon parties are held dining regular business hours and are booked depending on the number of invited guests. For example, the salon’s first party for 14 girls between the ages of 8 and 12 required 45 minutes at three nail tables. Seven employees did both hair and nails. Morehouse explains why so many: “This keeps the kids moving quickly so they do not get bored,” she says. “Sometimes they have already had cake and ice cream so they are extremely energetic.”

Morehouse’s salon does not charge the birthday girl for her services, but each guest pays about $7 to $8. “We don’t make a lot of profit doing these parties — we see it as more of a com­munity service,” she explains.

The parties help solidify current client relationships and bring in new clients — moms, sisters, and family friends of young party attendees. With such an exciting introduction to salon services, there is no doubt that the girls, as they get older, will be inclined to return for regular services as well.

At Snipits, birthday and other theme parties run very similarly, but are set up as group appointments at one or more stations, explains owner Joanna Meiseles. The parties, which usually include 5 to 9 girls between the ages of 5 and 8, are usually a precursor to a birthday lunch in a restaurant or a party back at the birthday girl’s home.

The salon may host one or two parties a month, setting aside time for hair- styling, nails, and makeup for each girl, and charging between $7.95 and $9.95 per guest. Meiseles says that she makes sure she has three staff members to work the party: two to apply polish and makeup, and one to style the girls’ hair, usually in French braids or twists.

While Grandinetti charges more’ her services, she uses only four members to service 10 to 12 girls during the party—one performs hair updos, another applies makeup, and two more, including Grandinetti herself, do mini-manicures for the girls.

Grandinetti charges $10 per party guest, figuring that for 12 girls, it should take about two hours, netting her staff $120. She divides the money evenly and the staff nets $40 each (not including tips) for two hours’ of work. “Before our first party, it was hard to come back to work on Sunday after a 65-hour week, but we really enjoy it,” she explains.

Because she is working alone during parties held off-site, Schutz minimizes the manicure and concentrates most of her efforts on nail art, usually to match the party’s theme.

Schutz says, “I charge $10 per girl, which I feel is fair because I devote my whole day to the event,” she says, adding that she came up with the fee by comparing her services with another type of birthday amusement. “A friend of mine entertains at kids’ birthday parties and dresses up as some of the popular female Disney characters, like Cinderella and the Little Mermaid. She only stays for about two hours to play with the kids and she charges $250.”

In the past, Grandinetti has offered to decorate the salon, buy a cake (some salons, like Snipits, prefer that food and drink not be a part of in-salon activities), and have all the necessary trimmings ready for her clients’ party “I wouldn’t mind having everything ready, but we would have to charge $14 15 a guest to make up the cost.” She explains. While some moms want to forgo the extra-cost, some prefer to plan and decorate themselves, especially if they have a theme in mind to best suit the birthday girl’s taste.

Show Me the Party Favors

Party supply stores can be your best friend if you plan to give out party favors toward the end of the event “Many stores have cosmetic-themed or glamour-themed bags that will hold pol­ishes, miniature files, and other items,” says Morehouse, who also provides a bouquet of balloons for the birthday girl in honor of the occasion.

You can retail small ½- oz. sized bottles of polish, files, or other products to the birthday girl’s mother or include the price of polish and similar gifts in the per-head charge. “I hand out one full-sized bottle of a bright-colored polish with a ribbon or a piece of chocolate attached to it as a party favor” Schutz says.

As a nice touch to her salon’s parties, Grandinetti stocks up on Polaroid Party Film and shoots “after” tots of every girl once their glamour transformation is complete. She then sends the photos home with the guest as a party favor. In addition to her snapshot, the birthday girl also gets her choice of three or four new polishes to take home. Like other salons, Grandinetti chooses not to charge the guest of honor for her services.

Playing the Pied Piper

Most of your salon marketing efforts probably concentrate on targeting teenage and adult clients, but there are some easy, low-cost methods to market your party services to children and their families. “Parties for kids could be very lucrative if nail technicians take the time to promote the service effectively,” Schutz says. “Someone could have a very profitable niche business.”

For one, inform your current clients, especially those with children, about your exciting idea. Promote past parties with anecdotes and pictures.

Grandinetti took extra Polaroid photos from her salon’s first party and created a sign for her salon. The sign tells about the party services and prices, and shows clients what they will get for their money — excited, happy kids.

Tuesday is “Kids Day” at Fantastic Sams, so Morehouse uses the focus on younger customers to tell mothers of young girls who are already clients of her salon about the party services. She has also made overtures to local Brownie and Girl Scout troops, hoping to host a troop birthday or other theme party.

Jayne Morehouse, president of Morehouse Communications (Brunswick, Ohio), says one way to attract kids to your salon may be to retail professional product lines designed specifically for this age group. These products, such as Jungle Care (a professional line of hair and body products) utilize gentler ingredients and are marketed to children up to age 14.

Develop a simple, bright, informative flyer that outlines your services and includes a photo from the latest party if possible, to attract new clients. Post fliers in locations you would expect to see children and moms: supermarkets, restaurants, skating rinks, arcades, movie theatres, clothing stores, and schools. You might even partner with a restaurant or other nearby business, especially if you do not plan to allow food or drink in the salon during the festivities.

While preparation, planning, and marketing are essential to throwing prosperous parties, so is teamwork. “The key to a successful party is having a great staff that works well together,” Deanna Morehouse emphasizes. “It is important to have a good atmosphere in the salon when you work with kids.”

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