Planning a Nail Salon

Starting your own business takes a great deal of time, money, and hard work. Before embarking on this difficult but rewarding journey, one of the most important steps is to consider your business vision. This vision can serve as a framework as you make your way through each stage of business planning. Understanding why you want to be a business owner, how you see yourself running your business, and what you hope to achieve both personally and professionally will keep you grounded even when things get tough.


What are Your Goals?

There are many good reasons to start a business, but before you get started it’s critical to know why you want to be a business owner. Opening your own nail salon will come with a number of rewards, but will also affect your personal and professional life in many profound ways. At this stage, take some time to consider both your short-term and long-term personal and professional goals. Doing so early on will help keep you focused along the way.

Personal Goals

Going into business for yourself is a deeply personal experience. Crafting an entirely new organization is almost like creating a piece of art. Before you begin, it is essential that you establish what you hope to gain personally from this endeavor.

If you have spent many years working in the nail salon industry, you may feel ready to bring your own vision to the table, address an unfulfilled need or demand in your community, or take on new and broader roles and responsibilities. If you are new to this industry, perhaps your personal goals revolve around bringing your own strengths and talents to a new trade.

You should also consider your personal financial goals, how involved you see yourself being in the day to day operations of your business, and how owning your own business will fit into both your individual and family life. Some questions to consider include: Do you see your business becoming your sole source of income? Will you work full time for your business or oversee others during its day to day operations? How will owning a small business positively or negatively affect the time and attention you have for friends, family, and other commitments?

Professional Goals

Your personal goals can help to inform the goals you have for your business overall. A nail salon can take on many forms. Some remain small, single locations that cater to specific local demands, while others expand regionally or even become national brands. Some nail salons focus on a niche population of service and others appeal to a wider audience by offering a broad slate of services.

Particular things to consider when pinning down your professional goals include, how many employees you would like to have, the size and nature of your clientele, how many locations you would like to open, your specific focus, and how you hope your brand to be received.

Vision Statement

Once you’ve considered your vision and your goals, it is helpful to sit down and write a formal vision statement. Putting your vision in writing will help keep you focused through the planning and execution of your business. Consider your vision statement a living document that will change and evolve as you go, but maintain its core features. Importantly, what starts as a vision statement early on can easily grow into a solid mission statement for your business down the road.

The Different Types of Nail Salons

One of the most critical parts of your business planning will be choosing what specific type of nail salon you’d like to open. If you are still trying to decide, the guide below may help you narrow down the choices and find the category that works best with your vision and goals. As you consider these categories, it is also helpful to begin canvassing your area, speaking to prospective clients, and determining the specific demand in your community.

Traditional Nail Salon

The traditional nail salon offers some or all of the basic services you would expect from a nail salon. These include manicures, pedicures, acrylic overlays and extensions, UV gel overlays and extensions, dip powder nails, SNS nails, silk/fiberglass overlays and extensions, nail design, nail art, shellac nails.

Children’s Nail Salon

Although many traditional nail salons will provide services to younger clients, more and more salons are opening to cater specifically to this demographic. A children’s nail salon, sometimes combined with other spa services, creates an atmosphere specifically suited to young people. A child-focused salon will appeal to young people with both its atmosphere and services.

Green Nail Salons

As people become more concerned about the effect their behavior has on both their health and the environment at large, green nail salons have become more popular. This type of salon may also be called a non-toxic nail salon or an eco-friendly nail salon. Typically this type of salon uses products free of harsh or toxic ingredients and takes steps to reduce its overall environmental impact.

Mobile Nail Salons

A mobile nail salon is a wonderful way to open a smaller-scale salon. Mobile salons are typically run out of large trucks or buses refitted to create a salon experience on the go. These salons are often hired for group events like bachelorette parties, weddings, or birthdays. They offer fewer but more personalized services.

Home Nail Salons

If you have the appropriate space, you may consider opening a nail salon in your home. Most states have regulations regarding how to run an in-home business, from offering separate entrances and restrooms to who you can employ. If you live in a favorable state, though, this can be a lower-cost way to get into the nail salon business.

Men’s Nail Salon

Nail salons are becoming more popular among men, prompting entrepreneurs to begin targeting their services more specifically toward this demographic. From atmosphere to products, a men’s nail salon provides the same services found in a typical salon in a way that makes its male clients feel more comfortable and welcome.

Your Skill Set

As an aspiring entrepreneur, one of the most important things you can do is realistically assess your strengths and weaknesses. Your personal skill set will play an important part in the direction your business takes, what role you play in both the planning stages and day-to-day execution of the business, and where you need to seek outside support.

Understanding this from the start can prevent early missteps or long-term failures.

Nail Salon Experience

Previous experience working in a nail salon is invaluable. Any exposure to the industry can give you a better understanding of how things operate day-to-day, how to establish an efficient employee-to-client ratio, and how to keep clients coming back. It can also illuminate the less obvious parts of running a salon, from how often you’ll need cleaning services to how quickly certain supplies run out.

Business Skills

Even if you have no experience working in a salon, you can put your general business skills to use during your preparations. A degree in business or previous business experience can help you establish a successful business plan and make you feel more comfortable navigating the world of business ownership.

Filling the Gaps

Most entrepreneurs will bring some combination of business and real-world skills to the table when starting a business. Understanding your strengths and weaknesses will help fill the gaps in your knowledge and experience.

Perhaps you have an MBA but have never set foot in a nail salon. Take this time to visit salons in your area and speak with nail techs, salon managers, and others in the industry to learn as much as you can about running this type of business. Canvas your community to see where the most successful salons are located. Research these salons and read reviews to see what they’re getting right or wrong and how you can avoid any obvious pitfalls in your own business.

On the other hand, you may have years of experience in a salon, but little to no business sense. In this case, picking up a few business classes at a local college or consulting with business leaders in your community can provide invaluable insight as you get started. Speak with small business owners to get a sense of the climate in your area. Regardless of industry, successful entrepreneurs can provide advice on starting and running a business that you will not find anywhere else.

Mentor

Beyond simply speaking with industry experts, finding a mentor to help guide you through the process of starting your business is an excellent resource. Keep this in mind as you meet and talk with business owners in your area. If you feel an especially close connection with someone you’ve met, do not hesitate to reach out and ask if they are willing to mentor you through this journey. Many will jump at the chance to help guide an aspiring business owner in their community.

Establishing this type of relationship will also help throughout the life of your business. Beyond the start-up phase, having a trusted person to contact when unforeseen issues arise or someone to simply to bounce ideas off of as your business evolves can give you a true leg up in your industry.

Investment

Understanding the investment required to get your business off the ground is critical to your success. No matter how solid your business plan is, your salon will never succeed if you are unable to properly fund it or do not have enough time and resources to dedicate to it.

There is no one-size-fits-all list to tell you exactly how much money and time you’ll need to put into your business. However, the proper research and planning can help you anticipate your largest expenses and prevent surprises down the line.

Money

When it comes to the financial commitment of opening a nail salon, you will need to consider both initial start-up costs and on-going expenses. Although the cost for most items on your list will hinge largely on your geographic location and the personal vision you have for your salon, the basic requirements will be the same across the board.

Your start-up costs will need to cover an initial deposit or downpayment on a space for your salon, any improvements or renovations done to this space, the furniture and equipment needed to outfit the salon, initial inventory, and all major business expenses such as licenses, insurance, marketing, and legal fees.

Ongoing expenses for your business include employee wages, any salary you plan to take for yourself, rent or mortgage payments, utility payments, insurance payments, ongoing inventory requirements, and marketing.

For a more in-depth look at what you should expect to budget for both in the short and long term, take a look at our Nail Salon Business Plan article.

Time

Funding your business is essential, but all the money in the world will not help if you don’t have the time, energy, or drive to get your business going. Understanding the true time commitment required to do things right will help protect you from burning out before you’ve reached your goal.

In the start-up phase, consider how many hours each week you will need to dedicate to looking for your space, meeting with business owners and industry experts, filling out documents, planning your budget, hiring employees, and doing general research. Purchasing business insurance may sound like a simple task, but an entire day can be lost reading reviews of different insurance companies. Be realistic about the true time commitment needed to do things right. Overestimating is far better than underestimating during this phase.

Beyond the start-up, consider how much time you are willing and able to give to the business on a daily basis. Will you work as a nail tech, scheduler, or manager, or do you prefer to take a more hands-off approach? How many hours per week do you plan to be in the salon and how many hours per week will you need to dedicate to basic business needs like monitoring inventory and handling payroll? The answers to these questions will also help inform your staffing decisions.

Are You Ready to be a Business Owner?

With all this in mind, take some time to consider if you’re ready to take the leap into business ownership.

Starting a Business is Difficult

Starting your own business is not something to take lightly. As you can see, it takes a great deal of time, money, and personal commitment. However, it can absolutely be done. The Small Business Association estimates that there are over 30 million small businesses in the United States making up 99.9% of all American businesses. With the right planning and foresight, your business can succeed.

Mindset

You started this journey by combining your personal and professional goals to create a vision statement for your business. Throughout all of the technical steps involved in your planning, keeping this vision in mind remains critical. Planning and financing will only take you so far if you don’t keep your head firmly in the game. Belief in yourself and your vision will keep you focused even when things get hard, guide each important decision that needs to be made, and ultimately attract people to your business.

Action Steps

If you’ve read through this article and are ready to move forward with your planning, now is the time to start taking some concrete steps. 

  • Start brainstorming the perfect name for your business
  • Once you have a name picked out, purchase your domain name. This is a quick win and will start your momentum!
  • Create a vision statement for your business. What do you want it to look like when it's ready to go?

Find a Domain Now

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After registering a domain name, consider setting up a professional email account (@yourcompany.com). Google's G Suite offers a business email service that comes with other useful tools, including word processing, spreadsheets, and more. Try it for free

Once you have completed these steps, you can move on to the next guide in this series: forming a Nail Salon Business Plan