How to Open a Nail Salon When…

These five tales of survival prove that timing isn’t everything. Hard work and determination can make almost any reason for delaying the fulfillment of career goals seem like a paltry excuse. Take inspiration from these salon owners to surmount your obstacles in 2014.

… You’re Battling Cancer

I have been battling thyroid cancer for the last nine years. Stubborn like me, it just won’t seem to go away. The first treatments were radioactive iodine treatments, so I was in the hospital in solitary confinement for three days. The whole thing was a bit scary, but the second time wasn’t as scary because I knew what to expect.

Unfortunately those treatments didn’t work. The cancer returned three years later and required surgery. Surgeons removed more than 20 lymph nodes. I took only one week off, and even though that was too soon to return to work, it helped me feel more normal by getting back to my regular life. I have amazing clients, family, and friends, and they all helped to keep me positive.

 I made the plunge to go out on my own five years ago. I started out renting space from my girlfriend in her hair salon, and a year later I renovated a cute 850-sq.-ft. home and opened a full esthetic and gel nail salon. It was scary growing my business while my cancer was up in the air, but I had an amazing staff that I could count on. I knew if I had to be away for surgery or treatment they’d pick up the slack and take good care of my clients and the salon.

Three years later I now have a 2,800-sq.-ft. salon, where I also do training for Akzéntz and Nubar Infinity Gel. Over the years I’ve had plenty of obstacles in addition to the cancer. I maxed out every credit card I had to be able to open my first shop. One year into my new location a dear friend lent me the money to pay off the debt. Positivity and hard work has gotten me where I am, and I’m so grateful to be able to do what I love. I stay positive because negative energy will only do more damage to me.

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring so I enjoy each day, stay positive, and keep moving forward with my salon. 

Brandy Coull

Pink with Envy Nails & Esthetics, Kamloops, B.C., Canada

<p>&ldquo;Positive energy will help keep me healthy. Being negative is exhausting,&rdquo; says salon owner Brandy Coull on opening and expanding her salon while battling thyroid cancer.</p>

… You Have Zero Knowledge of the Nail Industry

I became the owner of Polished Elegance after having been an elementary school teacher for 10 years. One day, while attempting to enjoy a pedicure at a local salon, a thought popped into my head: “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a place where we could go and feel truly relaxed, pampered, and appreciated? Someplace eye-appealing, impeccable, and law-compliant?” My husband agreed and jumped on my bandwagon.

Everything happens for a reason, and some people are put in our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. I stumbled across Vicki Peters’ website, and I reached out to her for permission to mimic my salon decor after hers. At the time, I had no idea she was one of the best nail professionals in the industry. From there I cultivated a support group that included Karen Hodges, and these two ladies were available for me every step of the way. Karen even graciously trained my head tech in the art of acrylic nails.

When I started, I had zero knowledge of the nail industry. I did, however, know what I wanted in a nail salon. I knew that cleanliness was a priority. Skimping on quality of service was not acceptable. We aim for 100% satisfaction.

While I was incredibly lucky to have a wonderful husband who funded my dream, there were obstacles. We have now been in business a little longer than seven months. I do have to say the good times have managed to cancel out the not-so-good times. We opened our door and our hearts to a community that immediately embraced us. Because our community has been so amazing to us, we try to give back as much as we can, whether it’s in monetary donations or simply visiting local nursing homes and providing the residents with complimentary manis.

Our clientele has been growing at an incredible rate. We could not be more blessed! I don’t have any regrets, nor do I second-guess my decision to change careers. I think those 10 years as an elementary teacher taught me the value behind a smile, a “have a great day,” and ultimately making sure that when the individual walks out the door, she absolutely cannot wait to come back!

Cristy Hill

Polished Elegance Nail Salon, Del Rio, Texas

<p>Cristy Hill sets her salon apart with quality nail services and customer service excellence. </p>

… You’re Allergic to Acrylic

I opened my salon eight years ago with my mother-in-law. We had gone through Hurricane Charlie here in Florida, and the community was just beginning to recover. Ann, my mom-in-law, started wearing sculptured acrylics in 1995 and decided to become a licensed nail tech in August 1999. She started specializing in sculptured acrylics and was fine for almost a decade, but then she began suffering from peeling, redness, burning, and itching on her left hand, plus sinus issues and eye infections. An allergist performed patch tests and found that Ann is allergic to many salon products, including acrylic monomer, primer, nail polish, and acetone. The allergist advised her if she didn’t stop wearing and doing acrylics, she’d have to have skin grafts on her hand and could cause permanent damage to her health.

I became a nail tech in 2003 with a specialty in sculptured acrylics. I am also licensed in massage therapy (since 1999), skin care (since 2007), and cosmetology (since 2012). I started to develop allergies in 2007. When Ann gave up offering acrylics in October 2009, other nail techs, including myself, continued to offer acrylic services in the salon. Then we switched to only offering gel enhancements in June 2010. It was not until 2011 that my doctor recommended I discontinue the exposure to all enhancements. At the beginning of 2011, we stopped offering nail enhancements.

When we decided to stop offering acrylics, most of our clients were pretty supportive. This was a major change, especially since we had  quite a clientele of acrylic clients. Most of our clients switched to the gels we were offering. But over time, we were not able to offer the gel enhancements either. But we found we could offer CND Shellac, plus natural nail care services. When we made this switch, most of our clients stayed. We did have a few clients not continue with hand or nail services, but we were able to keep most of them as salon clients with other services such as pedicures and massage.

We marketed our new menu and service changes as part of an overall “healthier alternative” salon to our customers, including promoting the FootsieBath disposable liners in our pedicure tubs. By taking the time to pamper our clients, including offering hour, hour-and-a-half, and two-hour pedicure services, we set our salon apart from the average salon.

Since then we have added CND Brisa Smoothing Gel to our service menu, which has helped us regain most of the clients who left our salon due to the changes from acrylics. Overall, we’ve gained more clients since we have started offering natural nail care and Shellac than we had lost in changing our services from acrylics. We’ve gotten so many positive responses to the changes from our clients and wish we had made the changes sooner for our clients and us.

Angelina Pullen

AA Serenity’s Touch Inc., North Port, Fla.

<p>Not being able to offer acrylics hasn&rsquo;t stopped this mother- and daughter-in-law duo from running and expanding a successful salon and day spa.</p>

…You Have No Disposable Income and Are Already Working a Full-Time Job

I had a body wrap once and couldn’t get the visit out of my mind. I thought it would be wonderful to open a body wrap business in North Mississippi. I opened European Body Wraps in August 1995. I rented two rooms in the back of a hair salon and body wraps were the only service I offered. Well, it took about eight months before I realized I couldn’t support myself by just offering one service. I decided to go back to school and become a nail tech. That decision was both difficult and easy — it was difficult because I didn’t have the funds to go back to school (a friend gave me the money to enroll) and easy because I was so excited at the thought of becoming a nail tech.

It was so challenging to go to school all day and work late at night in the salon. At least I didn’t lose any clients because I stayed open all day on Saturdays to accommodate the ones who needed day appointments. Most of my clients worked during the day so they needed evening appointments anyway. (I still work later two nights a week for the ones who need evenings.) I went to school for eight hours Monday through Friday, then I would work four to five hours each weeknight and 10 to 12 hours on Saturdays. How did I do it? I was young! And I believe I had my Dad’s genes. He worked a full-time job and then would work a few nights a week with the sheriff’s department. 

During this time, I spent all of my savings and took a boarder into my home just to make ends meet. Accepting a housemate was a hard decision to make. But I was at wit’s end and was afraid I would not be able to make my house note. A childhood friend had a boarder. She called me asking if I would consider taking her boarder in since I had extra room. I would not have been comfortable with a total stranger renting a room.

I have never regretted the choice I made to enroll in nail school. As soon as I earned my nail license, I started gaining new clients, plus body wrap clients started getting their nails done! They would get wrapped, then have their nails done while in the wrap. 

I love my job, I love being a nail tech, and yes, it was well worth the hardships. I am no longer renting rooms from a hair salon or at my home! I have my own salon now and oh, how our menu has grown. But I do want to say: Give yourself two years in your business to give it roots. I did not become a success overnight.

Vickie Meador

European Body Wraps, Olive Branch, Miss.

<p>Starting with only one service offering in 1995, Vickie Meador (right) has since added gels, gel-polish, pedicures, massages, and more to European Body Wraps. Here she smiles with Aimee Craig, a client of 15 years.</p>

… You Have a Prison Record

My parents were 16 when I was born, and my mother died of leukemia two years later. There were some issues with my father refusing to relinquish his rights, but ultimately I was placed in foster care. But my new mom died when I was 13 and my new dad died two years later. At that time, I moved from New York to Delaware to live with a family relative, suffered abuse, and spent my teen years running away. I became pregnant at 19 and had two kids by the age of 24. I turned to having relationships with drug dealers and found ways to make fast money illegally.

I was caught and went to prison for theft and forgery offenses, a combination of misdemeanors and felonies. When I was sentenced, handcuffed, and shackled, I realized I would be in prison and away from my kids for up to seven years. That was an a-ha moment. I knew I had to do things differently.

In prison, I studied self-image psychology books to help myself, and I documented each part of my process, which I later dubbed the “Prison Break Success System.” I now share this system with others through coaching (, especially with other salon owners who are in “prison” without realizing it, whether they’re struggling to overcome unfulfilled dreams or bad relationships.

Once released, I was determined to be productive and successful. Of course, having crimes of dishonesty creates a barrier for pretty much any type of work you can think of. I overcame that issue by being upfront about my record and giving individuals an opportunity to accept me just as I was. My first salon job came four months out of prison and was with Currie Hair Skin and Nails in Kennett Square Pa. While the owner Randy Currie was impressed with my resume, he wanted to know what I had been doing for the past few years. I decided to be honest and share with him where I came from. I expressed my fear of what clients may think. His words — “We can’t worry about that now, can we?” — were life changing.

I didn’t work on my mobile spa business while I was working in a salon as it would have been a conflict of interest, but Pamper Perfect Mobile Spa was a business that was started and failed years prior to my prison sentence. I have great business sense but had never been responsible enough to make good decisions to have a successful business. When I was able to focus on Pamper Perfect again it was a great business because it had such little overhead (just supplies). I built it one gig at a time. I went to friends and family to host spa parties and little by little it grew tremendously! Pamper Perfect Mobile Spa now operates in 11 markets in the U.S.

I don’t regret my time in prison. It provided me with a time of isolation. I call it freedom. Without the experience I wouldn’t have been guided in the direction that led to having a successful life in all areas. It has created such freedom and liberation not only for me but for my entire family.

I would love for people to know that no matter where you have come from or what obstacles you are confronted with, opportunity is on the other side of every one of them.

Allison Moore
Pamper Perfect Mobile Spa, Wilmington, Del.

<p>After a prison sentence, Allison Moore turned her life around and now runs a successful mobile spa business that&rsquo;s both financially rewarding and provides an amazing experience for her clients.</p>


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