As the nail market expands, so does the age range of clients demanding nail care. This trend is obvious particularly in the younger end of the range; according to the Simmons Teen Age Research Study 1994, nearly 72% of girls ages 12 to 19 use nail polish.

Salon owners and nail technicians are working this emerging market to their advantage by creating a fun and festive setting for young girls to experience their first professional nail care visit. Having a group of girls together, whether they are celebrating a birthday or a special event such as high school graduation, makes the fact that they are learning secondary to the entertainment value of the event.

NAILS talked to three salon owners who do youth-focused parties. Follow Suzy Gilfillan, owner of SeaShells Custom Nails in Ft. Walton Beach, Fla., through the details required to prepare for her first makeover party; Lisa Pinkston, owner of Wizards Hair and Nails in Doniphan, Mo., to understand how to run a makeover party; and Jaime Schubert, owner of Je t’aime nail & body in Clarks Summit, Pa., who will show how hosting makeover parties improves her bottom line.


Gilfillan’s first party came to her incidentally. “I gave a manicure to a young girl, whose mother mentioned to a friend the fact that her daughter loved it. The friend happened to the youth activities director at Hurlburt Field Air Force Base in Ft. Walton Beach, and she approached me about teaching a class for girls at the base as part of their youth activities program.”

To prepare for her first party, Gilfillad had to put together not only the tools she would use at the party, but also a pre-publicity campaign. She sent a press release to the Commando, the base newspaper, to attract guest. Gilfillan and the coordinator, Sabrina Schinstine, are expecting 20 girls to sign up, so they assembled 20 manicure kits.

The tools in the manicure kit include files, nail clippers, cuticle pusher, and buffers. Each kit cost Gilfillan about $5, and the youth activities office will reimburse her for the materials. Each tool will be a part of the lesson; for instance, each girl will follow along with her nail clippers as Gilfillan demonstrates how to cut nails correctly, with her file as Gilfillan demonstrates how to shape the free edge of the nail, and so forth with the rest of the tools.

At the end of the party, the girls take their kits home with them. Gilfillan plans to include coupons; if the girl brings her mother to SheShells Custom Nails, the daughter gets any service (including extensions) at half-price. While the party is slated for girls ages 8 to 13, older girls are welcome, too says Gilfillan. It is older girls who will be most interested in wearing extensions.

Gilfillan is insured against liability claims; however, the air force base assumes liability for anything that might go wrong during the party.

This party is the testing ground on which Gilfillan will base her decision on whether or not to pursue future makeover parties. While she hopes the turnout for her party is large, she isn’t sure what the demand for makeover parties is in her area. Nevertheless, she has already contacted another nearby air force base, and party is on the books for this summer. Other places Gilfillan may approach are her local recreation center and day care centers.


This is Lisa Pinkston’s second year teaching the “Last Class” for Doniphan High School seniors. She got involve last year through the suggestion of one of her regular clients, who is chairperson for the graduation committee. The event is an all-night party for graduating seniors, and it’s held at the Doniphan High School gymnasium.

“It’s pretty cut-and-dried,” Pinkston says. “I take lots of files, base coat, polish, and top coat. I Bring manicure bowls and disinfectants, so everyone gets a clean manicure. What I don’t bring are cuticle nippers; I don’t need anyone cutting up their cuticles. Everyone gets an information sheet that describes the different procedures I tech.”

When the party begins, Pinkston gives the girls personal kits that contain manicuring tools. Like Gilfillan, she walks the class through each step of a natural nail manicuring and demonstrates the steps with the appropriate tools. After the step-by-step manicure, Pinkston lets the girls paint their own nails and some of the girls pair up to polish each other’s nails. “I do a few pieces of nail art for girls who are interested, but they do all the work for the most part,” she says.

The Dophinan High School senior class isn’t very large – under 100 students, says Pinkston, and about half of them are girls. But last year, more than 10 of the girls who went to the 1994 Last Class still come in for manicures. The party was not only effective for recruiting students – some of their mothers eventually became Wizards Hair and Nail clients, too.


Jaime Schubert has done enough parties to have the system down. She has found that having the party in the salon is the easiest way to maintain control.

Her first party was in 1992. “I rented out the salon for two hours for a little girl’s birthday party,” Schubert recalls. “It was such a success it resulted in two more parties. Since then it has snowballed; not only has it brought in more parties, but is excellent advertising to the mothers of the party-goers.”

Schubert charged $150 in 1992, but has since raised the price to $75. The flat rate includes the salon for two hours, a cake, decorations, and manicures for 10 girls. If the parties include more than 10 girls, the rate goes up $25 for each girl cover an extra technician. “The party reserves time in the salon, so our regular customers are not affected. I pay two nail technicians $20 per hour each for the party; the party goods and products cost me about $50, so I make about $45 off the event in profit,” says Schubert.

Because the parties are still considered salon services, Schubert and her nail technicians are covered by the salon’s insurance policy, but only on the salon premises. “I was approached to do a party off-premises, but because of the liability issue, I declined,” Schubert explains.

Aside from the two hours spent with the actual party, Schubert has found that preparing for the party takes about two hours as well. “Someone needs to pick up the cake, and the rest of us put up the decorations,” says Schubert.

Makeover parties have a tangible short-term effect as well as an intangible long-term effect, according to Schubert. “Some of the older girls who come in for parties come back for proms and special occasions,” she says. “In those cases, the parties were great advertising that cost me nothing. What I expect is a change in attitudes about nail care. Parents today don’t see nail care as a priority, but parties like these will have the next generation knowing that it is.”


The nail technicians and salon owners we spoke to about makeover parties for children rave about what a breath of fresh air they are from the usual salon routine, and how they are something that everyone in the salon looks forward to hosting. They also mention that children who come for parties are often better behaved than adult clients!

Whether it’s young people from a local high school or girls’ birthday parties, makeover parties thrive in unexpected places. Any salon owner or nail technician can offer makeover parties alongside her other services. All it takes is a little ingenuity in finding your market then, let your creativity loose!

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