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Many people want their nails to look beautiful and better than they can make them look at home. A nail salon provides manicures, pedicures and other nail treatments to make customers’ nails look great. Customers may come to have their nails done on a regular basis or for a special occasion.
Who is this business right for?
The ideal nail salon owner is someone who appreciates fashion and beauty. In addition, a nail salon owner must be personable and friendly, as providing customers with a comfortable, pleasant atmosphere assures that they will return in the future and increases the chance that they will recommend your salon to those in their social sphere. It is very helpful for business owners to either possess prior business knowledge/experience or the willingness to educate themselves about business practices.
What happens during a typical day at a nail salon?
A nail salon business owner may spend a portion of their time providing services for customers, which involves:
- Scheduling appointments for customers
- Giving customers manicures, pedicures and other treatments
- Restocking supplies as they’re used
- Cleaning equipment between customers
Most salons, however, employ nail technicians who also perform these tasks. Having technicians gives business owners time to focus on other tasks, such as:
- Forecasting sales and scheduling technicians as appropriate
- Recruiting and training new technicians as needed
- Managing all technicians employed by the salon
- Marketing and growing the business
- Ordering supplies as they’re used
- Overseeing the operations of the nail salon
Even when performing tasks like these, owners still have chances to (and should) connect with customers. Many of these behind-the-scenes activities are still done within the salon, so owners regularly see their salon’s customers. Talking with customers both builds connections with them and helps owners know their salon better.
What is the target market?
A nail salon business’ ideal customer is someone who cares about their appearance, appreciates fashion and has some discretionary income. Such a person is likely able and willing to spend money to make their nails look good. Most salons’ customers are primarily women, but salons also serve men.
How does a nail salon make money?
A nail salon makes money by charging customers for manicures, pedicures and similar treatments. Some also sell premium nail care products.
What is the growth potential for a nail salon?
A nail salon business can be as small as a single location, or it can be as large as a national chain. Successful salons sometimes open multiple locations within a single city or geographic region.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful nail salon?
A nail salon business owner should be knowledgeable in nail care and treatments. There are many courses available for nail technicians that cover topics such as infections, infection control, pedicures, manicures and nail art. The New York Institute of Beauty offers one program, but there are schools throughout the country. The Professional Beauty Association also offers courses. How to Start a Nail Salon Business is a useful book for those who don’t want to take a class.
What are the costs involved in opening a nail salon?
Most nail salons are at least 1,000 square feet, and building out a salon typically costs between $75 and $125 per square foot. This comes to a total build-out cost of $75,000 to $125,000 for a 1,000-square-foot salon.
Business owners who are looking to reduce the startup costs for a nail salon may be able to purchase used equipment from a previous salon owner, or even lease space that has previously housed a salon. Finding a location where a salon closed will greatly reduce buildout costs.
Alternatively, business owners might be able to find a location where a property owner will build to suit. In build-to-suit agreements, property owners usually build a facility to the tenant’s specifications, and the tenants agree to a lease.
What are the steps to start a nail salon?
Once you're ready to start your nail salon, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:
- Plan your business. A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are your initial costs, your target market, and how long it will take you to break even.
- Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your nail salon is sued.
- Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
- Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your nail salon keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
- Set up business accounting. Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
- Obtain necessary permits and licenses. Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
- Get business insurance. Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
- Define your brand. Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
- Establish a web presence. A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Where can I find a business mentor?
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
How to promote & market a nail salon
Because nail salons primarily serve a local area, marketing efforts should focus on reaching residents and workers in the nearby community. Discounted services are one way to get customers in the door initially, but this strategy may only attract one-time customers who are looking for a bargain.
Another way to get customers in is by partnering with another local business, such as a DJ or new caterer, to host a little party. Customers may be willing to pay for a treatment during a special event that includes music and light refreshments.
One of the best ways to consistently grow a nail salon’s business is through word-of-mouth advertising. For this reason, it’s important to provide excellent service so that people will mention your salon to friends and family. Encouraging customers to leave online reviews can also help draw people to the salon.
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How to keep customers coming back
Nail salons can develop loyal customers by consistently providing excellent service and following proper hygiene protocols. Offering loyalty cards that give customers a free treatment after a certain number of services is a way to keep customers coming back more frequently.
How and when to build a team
Most nail salons have several nail technicians on staff when they open. Multiple technicians are needed so salons can be open every day (or almost every day) and throughout most of the day. Technicians typically make between $22,000 and $43,000 annually, with their compensation being largely commission based. Technicians often make between 35 and 60 percent of the value of the treatments they perform.
As a salon grows, it may become expedient to hire the following additional staff:
- Receptionist(s) (with a salary of $17,000 to $29,000 annually)
- Salon manager (with a salary of $21,000 to $47,000 annually)
- Aesthetician (with a salary of $23,000 to $56,000 annually)
- Manicurist (with a salary of $20,000 to $50,000 annually)
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a nail salon. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
In particular, most states require retail businesses to obtain a seller’s permit. A seller’s permit allows states to record and collect taxes from goods (and sometimes service) sales.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
In addition, certain local licensing or regulatory requirements may apply. For more information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources
Nail salons are regularly inspected by local health departments. Standards that must be met during inspections vary accordingly. Here is an article about one salon owner’s inspection experience.
Maintain Personal Asset Protection
Don’t think that just forming an LLC, or any other type of business, will save your personal assets in case of a lawsuit or other matter by itself.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your LLC is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Two of the simplest steps that will protect your business, and yourself, are to:
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
In order to play music in a business setting, permission must be acquired from the composer or license holder. Typically, it is possible to obtain a “blanket” license allowing a businesses to play music owned by a large catalog of artists and recording studios. Such licenses can be obtained from Performance Rights Organizations, such as ASCAP or BMI.
Certificate of Occupancy
A nail salon is generally run out of a small retail location. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a retail location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a nail salon.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a nail salon:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your nail salon business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
How much can you charge customers?
Nail salon businesses offer a number of different nail services. Manicures typically range between $15 and $25, and pedicures are usually between $25 and $45. Other major treatments include:
- Full gel sets ($45 to $75)
- Full acrylic sets ($30 to $60)
- Silk nails ($10 to $15)
Fillers, polishes and repairs are needed between full sets. These kinds of services range from $3 (for some repairs) to $30 (for gel polishes).
What are the ongoing expenses for a nail salon?
The ongoing expenses for a nail salon business include supply costs, employee’s wages (whether salaries or commissions), taxes, rent, maintenance on equipment and insurance. Supply costs are usually between 2 and 8 percent of sales.
How much profit can a nail salon make?
A single nail salon business might bring the owner between $40,000 and $75,000 each year. The business model is easily scalable, though. Some nail salon owners have lots of locations and are millionaires.
How can you make your business more profitable?
A nail salon business can increase its revenue by upselling customers with additional services and selling premium nail care products. Since salons already use high-end products, it’s easy to sell these to customers who want to take better care of their nails at home.