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Salon Diorama Teaches Students About Real-Life Budgeting

At Royal Beauty Careers in South Houston, Texas, pupils take a hard 3-D look at what goes into opening a nail salon.

Barbie’s Dream House is a fixer-upper compared to the dream salon dioramas constructed for instructor Madelyn Johnson’s nail class.

As part of a lesson on the salon business, the Royal Beauty Careers teacher requires all of her students to draw a blueprint of their ideal workspace, replete with a reception area, washer-dryer, bathroom, wall art, and everything else that’s on the pupils’ must-have lists. She then charges them with building 3-D models out of cardboard.

As a final touch, Johnson implores them to create start-up and monthly budgets for this aspirational building. The results astound — not only due to the lifelike qualities of the models — but to the lessons students learn from the exercise. “Their mouths are on the floor,” Johnson says. “In general, $25,000 is the bare minimum needed to build out one of these salons. In their heads before this exercise, students tend to think ‘Oh, I’ve got $5,000; I’m going to open a nail salon.’”

Not only do students realize $5,000 isn’t going to open any businesses’ doors, but Johnson’s astute analysis also reminds them of overlooked budget items. Commonly students ask if items like artwork need to be listed, to which Johnson’s no-nonsense reply of “Are you getting them for free or are you buying them?” quickly causes additional budget lines to be added. Other commonly forgotten items include polish remover, health insurance, and a salary for the salon owner herself.

Johnson finds this hands-on exercise fits well when teaching chapters 20 through 22 of the Milady textbook, which focus on the financial aspects of running a salon.

It’s key to conveniently not tell students they’ll be running a budget for the diorama salon until after the model is turned in, Johnson says, as, if students know beforehand, some are tempted to tone down amenities. “If I did it the other way, the salon would be equipped with only one chair,” Johnson says. “Telling them afterward, students frequently have five manicure tables and five pedicure spas” — a lofty goal these aspiring entrepreneurs may one day reach, thanks to Johnson’s hard-hitting lesson.

(Shown: A diaroma by student Seno Gonzalez — great job and the team at NAILS wishes you well!)

Related Help:
If your students are gung-ho on opening a nail salon right after graduation, be sure to refer them to NAILS Salon Start-Up Guide. This six-chapter digital book includes details on business planning, equipment, services, marketing, and much more.

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