Has it always been a dream of yours to start your very own nail salon but you don’t know where or how to start?
You have come to the right place.
Learn how to start a nail salon and avoid the most common mistakes that startup nail salon businesses go through. This comprehensive step by step guide will walk you through all the questions you have of starting you own nail salon.
Don’t be discouraged by the long checklist that comes with starting a business. Use the information below and begin to turn your dream into a reality. So, without further ado:
Starting a Nail Salon
There are all kinds of nail salons: the trendy nail art types, the nail + spa ritsy kind, and of course the minimalistic ‘I just need a beautiful mani/pedi’ type that we all love. Before we talk about the type of nail salon that you should consider, read the 31 FAQs of starting a business including:
- How much money do I need to get started?
- Is this business right for me?
- How should I hire qualified employees?
- AND MORE!
Step 1: Learn How A Nail Salon Works – Under the Hood
While it seems fun and awesome to run your own nail salon, it’s important to be grounded. Understand at the end of the day, you need to make that cash register ring in order to keep the lights on and have a fun and awesome nail salon to come to everyday…
…Speaking of everyday, it’s also a lot of work. You’re the owner, you’ve got to be there and set the systems and lead by example. I hope I haven’t scared you away…if I did, it’s probably for the best. Owning a business isn’t for everyone. But if you’re ready to get into the trenches (or cuticles?)
The best way to learn is by actually working in one. Give yourself a few months. Start as a nail technician, see how the boss runs their salon, find out what you’d do the same and most importantly, what you’d do differently.
Here are the areas of the business to learn:
How does the business manage their files and customer information? Does the business have a special way of hiring and retaining its nail technicians and artists? What employee policies are standardized? Which functions of the business need systems?
In addition to those operative questions, it’s important to observe and figure out the following areas of the business that need systems and written documentation:
- Document organization
- Inventory management
- Insurance and license regulations
- Produce sourcing
- Customer service
- OSHA standards
- Employment Rules and Regulations
- Hiring/firing staff
- Customer Satisfaction Policy
- Performance reviews
This area is certainly not the most fun part of running the business but obviously quite crucial. How will the salon handle payments? Will you use a P.O.S (Point of Sale) system? How much revenue can you expect to make in the current month?
These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to tracking your financials properly, but here’s a shortlist of the important things to prioritize:
- Payroll & Gratuity system
- Payment system
- Invoices and Receipts
- Sales projections by month and season
- Sourcing funding for build out of nail salon
Ahh, marketing. Often the lifeblood of any company…with nail salons it’s no different. Effective marketing is critical for a business to get new customers, and increasing the revenues per customer. Marketing has a relatively bad rap sheet because of how much BAD marketing there is out there.
HAVE NO FEAR! Startup Jungle and I are here to help. Learn about effective marketing by working backwards.
- What’s the end goal?
- Is the end goal to get new customers OR to get old customers coming back?
- Have a singular goal, try not achieve more than 1 goal per campaign/promotion. That way you’ll focus on the 1 goal, and put measures in place to determine it’s effectiveness
- How do you want the promotion to look? What’s your style?
- Perhaps it’s contemporary?
- Perhaps it’s more traditional?
- What’s your message? Will you have a tagline or customer commitment?
- Finally, what’s your budget? Can you spend anything on ads, flyers, or social media banners?
Here are some campaign goals to be considering:
- New client acquisition
- Existing clients referrals
- Upsells during service
- Client retention programs
Step 2: Create a Business Plan
So, how to start a nail salon business plan from scratch? Before we get into that, let’s answer this FAQ that we get all the time here at Startup Jungle:
Why do nail salons fail?
Just like any other business, nail salons can fail for a number or combination of reasons…knowing what the leading cause of failure will prevent you from making the same mistakes.
Although predicting future problems may be impossible, being prepared from the get go, with a solid foundation of policies and systems, can significantly reduce the risk of failure and keep your business afloat. Here are some things to put in place in order to get that solid foundation:
Secure capital and permits
- Create a top-down, soup to nuts, 100% complete nail salon business plan
- Estimate startup costs, and stick to a budget!
- Obtain capital to start business
- Secure local, state and federal licenses, and operating permits
- Obtain a health department permit
Find and furnish your space
- Find the perfect nail salon location
- Clean and remodel your space to make it your own. Again, find that style that makes this nail salon YOU.
- Purchase all necessary equipment to provide services and make that cash register ring!
- Chose Point-of-Service (POS) system/software
- File Cabinet with lock (trust me)
Prepare for the opening
- Hire amazing nail technicians! Have them audition their nail tech/art skills before you hire them.
- Invest in good payroll software
- Train staff to your standards of getting nails done
- Train staff on company policies, time frames per customer by service, and etc.
- Consider advertising grand-opening or soft-opening
- Have a digital strategy such as e-mail marketing or a website.
All in all, you’ll have to create your own nail salon business plan. Here is a solution for a complete fill-in-the-blanks solution for opening your own nail salon business plan.
Is now a good time to start a nail salon?
The nail salon industry is one of the most stable industries there is. In fact, NailMags suggests 82% of nail salon goers return to get their nails done again.
There’s a lot of things that can help your nail salon business be successful and knowing the basics is key.
Look, the economy has had its ups and downs…But one thing is clear– if you have a unique selling point, that nobody else can offer but YOU ALONE…chances are you’ll not only stand out from the crowd, but you’ll also last. So yes, definitely do your diligence research on the economics of opening up a nail salon. Most importantly though, figure out what you can do/offer/style/design to make your nail salon sing louder than all the other noise.
How big is the nail salon industry?
The nail salon industry is very steady and provides a constant, consistent revenue stream for nail salon business owners. the beauty of this business is that it’s recurring. It’s not a one-and-done kind of service, you have to get it done and redone, and redone steadily.
The number of nail salons that are open in the United States has grown nearly 70% in 2015 alone. It is a multi-billion dollar industry, so it is about time you consider taking a piece of the pie.
Over three million nail salons in the US alone are operating in this space, and let’s make yours # 3 million and 1.
You’ll want to make sure your logo is created for use in the business plan. We highly recommend 99designs. You set your price and the designers compete for your budget as their prize. What’s really cool about 99 Designs is how you can go through a few rounds of revisions with your favorite designers, and give them feedback so that you get exactly what you want. They also have a logo store where you can shop for logos (just replace text with your business name) for as little as $99. How efficient!
Step 3: Discover Earning Potential
Nothing is sweeter than seeing your revenues generated after long hours, and hard work. So before you being, let’s explore how much you can expect to earn as a Nail Salon Owner.
What are the average earnings for a Nail Salon owner?
The earning potential for a Nail Salon varies tremendously depending on location, price and work habits. Although there is room for exponential growth, the average Nail Salon owner makes roughly $40,000 to $75,000 yearly. However, there are many ways to increase business revenue as well as personal income.
Click below to download our popular “14 Ways to Increase Revenue in your Nail Salon” Infographic:
Step 4: Set A Budget
What are the starting costs for a Nail Salon?
Costs will vary when starting a nail salon based on many different factors. Things like permits and state license fees, overhead, startup supplies, staff compensation and inside décor (you want to make your salon appealing to your customers). The best advice given to all entrepreneurs is to create a business plan and a budget. Below are just a few costs to consider when planning your budget.
Costs to consider:
- Liability Insurance
- Payroll Expenses
- Operation Fees and Licenses
- Supplies and Equipment
- Advertising and Marketing expenses
Questions to consider:
- Is now a good time to open a Nail Salon?
- His big is the Nail Salon industry and is it profitable?
- How much do I have to make a day to break even?
- How much do I have to make a day to make a profit?
This is a very interesting nail salon that was very budget friendly. The owners of “La Laquerie” turned an old trailer into a breathtakingly quaint Parisian nail salon that is, get this: MOBILE. Check out this amazing nail salon unlike you’ve ever seen. Now that’s what I call: Unique Selling Point!
It travels around making stops in business parking lots, schools and universities, and sometimes the occasional house call (remember to get the right permits when operating a business out of a moving vehicle).
Step 5: Decide Which Products/Services To Offer
Before finalizing your products and services, make sure it’s in line with the location and neighborhood demographics. Are you in an affluent area with frequent spa-goers? Definitely offer the packages, vanity treatments, and upsells with the services…maybe even that 24k goldleaf to go along with their immaculate nails…
On the flip side, if your salon is in an up-and-coming area, I would offer mostly a la carte services at modest prices that attract customers in your area. It’s important in this case to keep clients moving. Perhaps instead of a 45 min manicure, you limit the time to 30 minutes.
Here are the price ranges of services:
Common Nail Salon Services Price Range:
- Manicure $15-$50
- Pedicure $25-$75
- Gel Polish $20-$75
- Gel Removal $5-$15
- Gel Nail Repairs $3-$30
- Acrylic Full Sets $30-$100
- Acrylic Nail Fills $18-$50
- Mani/Pedi Combos $40-$150
- Gel Full Sets $45-$80
- Gel Powder Fills $30-$60
- Silk Nails $10-$40
- Kids Services $10-$25
- Gel Top Coat $5-$20
- Acrylic Nail Removal $10-$30
Should I sell items in my salon?
Selling products is a great revenue booster. Also, it gets you some great relationships with vendors, and after time may lead to some great opportunities for joint ventures and campaigns.
Vendors LOVE being featured as a Salon’s Go-To, so it’s important to establish relationships with vendors (and their distributors for better deals and negotiating power in the future).
Complementary items to sell in your Salon:
- Filing kits and Travel nail care kits
- Nail polish
- Nail polish remover
- Hand Care gloves
- Sandals (some women always forget to wear open toe shoes when getting pedis. Don’t make them walk out in those horrible foam slippers…let them buy some cheap (but cute) sandals!
Step 6: Decide On A Location
Part of the opening a nail salon checklist is to find the best location. Let’s look at the locations of these nail salons in my hometown, Austin TX.
Notice that most of the nail salons have quite a few blocks in radius next to another nail salon in the same city. The only exception to this observation is the Away Spa, Milk + Honey spa, and Laquer Downtown. This is because these areas if the hustling and bustling downtown entertainment district. The Away spa is actually in the W hotel– super swanky.
It’s important to keep this as rule of thumb when choosing the perfect location for your new nail salon: how close is the next nearest nail salon?
Where do nail salons have the potential to generate the most earnings?
There are so many decisions that come into play when deciding to open a nail salon, but one of the most important ones is finding the best location for your nail salon to MAKE MONEY. You most commonly seen nail salons placed in freestanding buildings, storefront properties and shopping centers like strip malls. Those areas provide the most visibility and tend to drive the most traffic.
Another tip: Make sure it’s easy for your clients to park! I cannot tell you how many nail salons that I refuse to go to because of horrible parking.
Another factor you want to consider when picking a location for your nail salon is your price point, target audience and who/where your competitors are. You don’t want to open a high-end salon in a low-income neighborhood because you might not be able to cover your profit margins.
Step 7: Find Supplies
Ahh, the shopping. Hard on the wallet, but truly the fun part.
What Basic Equipment Are Necessary to Successfully Operate a Nail Salon?
Opening a nail salon cost money but it doesn’t have to cost a lot of it. Sure it may not be the most luxurious at first, but start somewhere and work your way up. Here’s the nail salon supply checklist:
- Salon stations ($300-$1000)
- Salon chairs ($150-$300)
- Phone ($50-$150)
- Cash register ($80-$1000)
- Laundry equipment ($1000-$2000)
- Supply cart ($50-$300)
- Reception desk ($400-$2000)
- Waiting area chairs ($50-$150)
- Acrylic Powder Kit ($15-$30)
- Acetone ($5-$30)
- Gel Polish ($9-$15)
- Nail Polish ($8-$12)
- Moisturizing Lotion ($5-$20)
- Antibacterial Hand Sanitizer/Hand Soap ($2-$10)
- Electronic Nail Filer ($40-$100)
- Cuticle Pusher ($5-$10)
- Nail Buffers ($3-$10)
- Toe Separators ($2-$10)
- Cuticle Oil ($5-$10)
- Nail Clippers ($10-$30)
- Cuticle Nippers ($7-$12)
- Pedicure Foot File ($10-$20)
- Manicure Bowl ($10-$15)
- Dappen Dish ($3-$5)
Here are some great vendors I recommend for your supplies:
- Pedicure Spa USA – for pedicure furniture
- Salon Supply Store – for all the odds and ends including polish, dishes, tools, the works.
- Buy Nails Direct – who doesn’t love wholesale!
- Nail Super Store – for lights, fans, equipment, and etc.
- BuyRiteBeauty – beautiful and contemporary nail salon stations
Step 8: Promote Your Nail Salon
How do I Promote My Nail Salon?
Promoting your business is a key ingredient in sustaining a successful nail salon. There are many marketing tactics out there to advertise your salon but catering to your local market will be most effective. It’s important to constantly stay up-to-date with new customers, seasons and trends. Below are a few tactics you can utilize to achieve maximum publicity.
10 Local Promotion Tactics:
- Facebook Ads
- Local Contest Giveaways
- YouTube Ads
- Email Marketing for Existing Customers
- Phone Book Listings
- Yelp Ads
- Google Ads
Step 9: Create A Staffing Plan
Who works in a Nail Salon?
Finding out what type of workers you want to hire is step one. I recommend that you do not rush into hiring technicians. Get to know who you are hiring and don’t hire based on resumé alone.
Have them audition their skills for you. Maybe have one or two interviews before extending an offer letter. Confirm your applicant’s job history and abilities to ensure you’re getting what you were sold.
One of the most common mistakes made by nail salon owners is trusting an employee and not taking the time to vet, train and educate them on the newest industry trends.
- Technician (Salary Range $22,000 – $43,000)
- Reception Staff (Salary Range $17,000 – $29,000)
- Aesthetician (optional) (Salary Range $23,000 – $56,000)
- Manicurist (optional) (Salary Range $20,000 – $50,000)
- Salon Manager (Salary Range $21,000 – $47,000)
Step 10: Decide on a Style/Design
Resources and Inspiration
Nail Salon Name Ideas
[Your Name] Salon Nail Creations
[Your Location] Salon The Wizard of Nails
Stylish Nails The Nail Artist
Nail Salon Décor Ideas
First impressions are always important, the same goes for your salon. When your customers walk in you want them to be wowed by its beauty and cleanliness.
Pick a color scheme and build your design from there. When planning your décor and design, consider something that will last over time so you aren’t constantly redecorating. Make sure your nail polish colors are visible to your guests and your services provided are easily accessible. If you are still unsure of how you would like your salon to look, go to your local salons, look at their interior and make a list of what you like and dislike.
Here are some beautiful salons across the world:
The Beverly Wilshire Hotel Spa – Beverly Hills, CA
Classic contemporary cool.
The Caesars Palace Nail Salon – Las Vegas, NV
Opulence. I would feel like royalty here.
Varnish Nails – Los Angeles, CA
Super cute and quaint boutique style nail salon.
Speaking of design and style, you’ll also need some beautiful looking business cards. Here are some absolutely lovely business cards we made for nail salons:
Like what you see? We’ll send you the templates so all you have to do is replace the details. Click below to download the Adobe Illustrator files now!
Step 11: Create An Accounting Plan
Accounting software for a nail salon
One of the most important contributors to your salon’s success is how you keep your business organized and manage its books. There are many accounting software options available to business owners that will help you stay organized and on top of your salon’s finances. Programs such as Quickbooks, Kashflow, SageOne, and Xero allow you to minimize time allocated to your books on a day-to-day basis as well as during the rigorous tax season. We have included the links to the four popular accounting platforms to help you.
Step 12: Get into the Salon Owners’ Community
Best nail salon franchises
Owning a nail salon doesn’t mean you have to start from scratch. There are many other options out there. Opening a franchise or purchasing a current nail salon that’s on the market are also options, although owning a franchise may have a better survival rate and be easier to start up. The option is still out there to purchase a salon that is on the market — already staffed, furnished and stocked with product.
Nail Salon and Related Associations
Being connected to resources in your industry is the best way to stay on top of industry information and up-to-date with current trends. Joining professional associations also allows you to stay connected with other salon owners in the industry to seek out successful business tips, advice, and hacks for rapid growth. For your convenience, we have compiled a list of associations that you could join.
- American Beauty Association
- Professional Beauty Association
- Association of Cosmetology Salon Professionals
- Salon Spa Professional Association
Nail Salon Suppliers
Sourcing supplies to sustain your salon can be a long, draining process, so we have done the work for you! It’s always important that you choose suppliers that are reliable, supply quality product and fit your salon’s budget.
Nail Salon Pages on Social Media
Follow groups on some of the most popular social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram to connect with others just like you! Staying up-to-date on the latest and greatest ideas in the industry will help your nail salon flourish.
Here’s an infographic we’ve created to show you the 7 Steps To Starting A Nail Salon
The Bottom Line
Bottom line: Opening (and running) a salon is a lot of work.
But if you do it right, it’s not only rewarding, it’s a lot of fun.
I love being my own boss and I love having a business which brightens people’s lives. Hopefully, this article will give you a sense of what it takes to open a nail salon.
Are you ready to take the next step? If you are, StartupJungle.com has a 21 point checklist for starting your new business. Make sure you download this if you’re serious about getting started.
Simply click here to download this checklist now.