How to Start a Nail Salon Business

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Yes, it is very possible for you to start a successful nail salon business. Your success will be based on several factors such as your salon equipment, the quality of nail care services you offer and your location. In this article, you will find important starting points that will help you start and grow your nail salon business.

Importantly, a critical step in starting a nail salon is to complete your business plan. To help you out, you should download Growthink’s Ultimate Nail Salon Business Plan Template here.

How to Start Your Very Own Nail Salon

The first step is to nail down a nail salon business plan. This includes conducting market research for your targeted area and writing a solid business plan to help you succeed.

The next step is finding a suitable location for your nail salon. You want to find a location that has good public transportation and accessibility because this will attract more clients. Some nail salons choose a downtown location or a busy street with traffic flow instead of being stuck out in the suburbs where people do not travel often due to lack of public transportation access.

Make sure that the nail salon area does not have any other nail salons nearby. Finding an affordable nail salon business space or nail salon storefront is very important. You want to make sure that the nail salon building does not have any major structural problems before you sign a lease agreement.

If you cannot find an ideal nail salon location then consider starting a mobile nail salon instead. Mobile nail salons are becoming more popular these days due to increased environmental concerns about waste products being thrown away, so it might be worth looking into.

Another important factor when beginning your nail salon business is furnishing the nail salon with furniture. You can find used nail salon furniture and equipment fairly inexpensively if you look online or contact local salon equipment suppliers.

If you already have some nail equipment such as manicure tables, pedicure baths, and footbaths, you will want to decide on what services your nail salon offers based on market rates for the area/region you are targeting before sending out proposals to suppliers for both equipment rental and nail care service fees. Nail salons are also often included in large spa complexes so many times the salon manager has the majority of nail equipment necessary to run nail care treatments.

Last but not least, nail salons need a steady supply of nail polishes and nail supplies for their clients. Nail salons often run out of certain colors quickly, so be sure to stock up on them when they are in season.

For example, dark polish colors are very popular during the winter months, while lighter nail polishes such as pastels are in high demand during the summertime.

Remember, nail salons are very competitive due to nail polishes and salon equipment being similar across the board, so be sure to do research on all nail salon services that you offer to your clients, including competitor pricing.

Offering a wider range of services will attract more clients. Be sure to stock up on quality nail supplies and polish colors in order to attract and keep customers coming through your door.

how to start a nail salon business infographic


How Big is the Nail Salon Industry?

Nail salons are a sub-sector of the beauty industry taking up 15.9% of the total market and generating close to $8.5 billion dollars annually on nail care services.

The nail care industry is expected to see continuous growth over the next few years due to increasing disposable income and trends toward polish use. Consumers will also continue to spend more money on services such as manicures and pedicures at high-end salons rather than purchasing polish at drug stores.

The industry is highly competitive and fragmented, with nail products companies selling polish to nail salons directly or through distributors.


What are the Key Market Segments of the Nail Salon Industry?

The nail salon industry is composed of the following key segments:

Nail Care Services

Nail treatments include manicures, pedicures, and other nail care services such as nail extensions, polishing, and nail art.

Merchandise Sales

Merchandise includes nail care products such as nail polish, nail care tools and equipment that nail technicians use to give nail treatments.

Other Beauty Care Services

This includes nail salons that offer nail care services and also provide other beauty treatments such as hair care, skin care, massage and waxing.

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What External Factors Affect the Nail Salon Industry?

Nail salons are affected by external factors including consumer discretionary income and spending, polish trends, and the economy.


Who are the Key Competitors in the Nail Salon Industry?

The direct competitors for a nail salon are other nail salons in the same geographic area.

Nail salons also face indirect competitors including other spas, salons, and cosmetic and convenience stores that sell polish and care supplies.

Other competitors may include nail supply companies, nail product manufacturers, and retail nail stores who may sell directly to the consumer allowing them to complete nail services in their own home.


What are the Key Customer Segments in the Nail Care Market?

The nail care market consists of three consumer segments: nail polish consumers, nail salon customers, and nail product manufacturers.

Nail polish consumers purchase nail polishes at various locations including drugstores, grocery stores, department stores, discount retailers, and online retailers. They may also prefer to use nail salons to get their nails done; they might also purchase nail products such as nail art and nail polish remover.

Nail product manufacturers sell their products directly to nail salons and online through websites.

If you’d like to quickly and easily complete your business plan, download Growthink’s Ultimate Nail Salon Business Plan Template and complete your business plan and financial model in hours.

What are the Typical Startup Costs for a New Nail Salon Business?

The costs to start a nail salon include:

  • building out your salon space
  • salon equipment
  • disposable nail files and buffers
  • nail polish
  • furniture
  • signage
  • advertising
  • marketing materials
  • training programs for employees
  • business license and permits
  • business insurance
  • rent

The initial costs can vary depending on the amount of customization you do to your salon space, the equipment you purchase, and the location of your nail salon. However, you will need enough money to cover all of your nail salon start-up costs until your business becomes profitable. Typically, you need at least $50,000 – $250,000 to get started.

To minimize nail salon startup costs, consider starting with equipment that is less expensive or borrowing money from family or friends. It may help to partner up with someone who has experience in running their own salon business.


Is Owning a Nail Salon Profitable?

Yes, owning a nail salon can be profitable for business owners who take the time to learn how to spot potential problems and fix them before they become an issue. In order for a nail salon owner to be successful, he or she needs to have a team that is willing to work together with him or her towards their common goal of getting more customers through the door and keeping them coming back.


What are the Keys to Launching a New Nail Salon Business?

Building a successful nail salon can be done, but the following are the keys to your success:


Start by writing your nail salon business plan. This should include details on how much money you will need to launch your nail salon plus the costs of all salon equipment that will need to be purchased or rented. This business plan is your roadmap to success and will help you prepare for unexpected expenses and target new market opportunities.

Purchasing Nail Salon Equipment & Supplies

You need to find quality nail art supplies and equipment at affordable prices. Doing the proper research on various suppliers and pricing will reduce excess spending.

Make sure the nail art items, polishes, and other products are delivered on time before the nail spa opens. This will help ensure your salon is up and running as soon as possible without delays. As nail trends emerge, make sure you are ready with the proper supplies for customers seeking the newest and greatest nail art designs.

How to Finish Your Nail Salon Business Plan in 1 Day!

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How to Start a Nail Salon FAQs

Any professional nail salon should invest in equipment that would save time and money at your nail spa business. Some examples include:

  • Manicure Tables & Pedicure Chairs: Whether you're using traditional nail chairs, pedicure chairs, nail bed dryers, or nail lamp nail spa stations your nail salon should have a nail salon table to place your tools and polish.
  • Nail Drying Lamps: These are optimal for speeding up nail drying time by hydrating the polish with LED lights.
  • Polish Racks & Organizers: It's very important that every professional manicurist has nail polish bottles organized on nail salon racks. Otherwise, this will lead to technicians spending extra time searching for the nail polishes they need between appointments.
  • CND/Shellac UV Nail Dryer: A nail lamp nail spa station is one of the most important pieces of nail equipment you can have at your business. This device will help speed up drying time while hydrating polish with LED lights which are optimal for professional manicurists.
  • Cuticle Removers & Trimmers: Why not make money performing a free service that many clients may pass over? Cutting back cuticles helps improve nail appearance by removing excess skin around nails that can cause hangnails. If your clients are looking for something a little more nail salon extreme, try nail drilling to remove dead cells from nail beds.
  • Pedi Stand Floor Lamp & Oster Stand Dryer: These lamps come in very handy when performing pedicures on clients who prefer nail bed dryers to regular nail drying lamps.

Make sure to invest in high-quality products that will save time and money for your salon. Professional manicurists want their tools to be comfortable & functional while saving them time so they can perform more services for clients.

  • Manicures and Pedicures: These two go hand in hand when it comes to a natural-looking beauty routine. Essentially both procedures include shaping nails with snips or files before finishing with an application of nail oil or cream. The difference between these two comes down to the nail bed; cutting back dead skin and calluses around the cuticle for a pedicure vs. filing nails to shape, pushing back cuticles (although nail technicians may skip this step), and applying polish on fingers.
  • Artificial Nails & Gel Manicures: Your salon can offer artificial nails that are applied to your client's natural nails with glue (or maybe even liquid latex). These fake nails come in many different shapes, sizes, colors, and textures. Instead of acrylics, another popular option is gel manicures which gradually harden under ultraviolet light after being brushed onto nails with a layer clear topcoat sealant to ensure a super glossy shine.
  • Specialty Nails: Depending on nail business, these nails can be nail tips that are glued onto your nail bed to extend nail length. This is a perfect way to mask nail damage without the time and cost of weekly fills. In addition, press-on or fake nails can also help your business stand out from the crowd.
  • Ombre Nails: These funky-looking fade effects have been popular for a couple of years now. Other types of creative nail designs include marbleized nails with two colors swirled together and glitter manicures that leave a colorful sparkle behind after each nail application.
  • Polish Change: Sometimes just a basic change in color is all it takes to get nail clients in and out of your salon. The nail polishes can range from fun shades to sophisticated neutrals.
  • Nail Art: These days nail art is the hot trend for all nail salon businesses so be sure to add a simple design such as dots or stripes to an accent nail, otherwise known as the "French manicure."  As well as, adding nail decals (stickers) which will leave a lasting impression on customers.

Nail salon prices can vary, but nail technicians should charge $7 to $10 for a polish change.

Nail art designs are usually charged by the length of the nails - either starting at an extra $10 per set of nails or a flat rate for painting the nails for 20 minutes.

Manicures depend on where you go - it's about $20-25 plus tax plus tip for a basic manicure done in thirty minutes without any nail art design added to the service.

The basic pedicure service can be priced starting at $25-30 or more depending on the level of service you plan to provide to your clients.

A spa pedi combo of hand scrubbing, nail buffing, and paraffin wax dip typically starts at around $40.

Gel manicures offered at most salons are around $25 to $50 and up.

Nail salon supplies can be found at beauty and nail supply stores. They often offer wholesale prices on their products as well as other products such as nail designs and art.

Most nail art jobs don't require nail technician training, so this isn't always necessary. If you plan on offering nail treatment services to your clientele, however, hiring only certified nail techs is good for business and best practices.

Also, consider the state laws or requirements for technicians in your location of business. Almost every state now requires technicians to have cosmetology licenses or certifications of some sort. Check the laws in your area before opening up shop to ensure you're following licensing requirements and avoid penalties and charges.

You can advertise nail salon services on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. This is a great way to build awareness for your salon. 

Make sure to create nail salon advertisements that include offers and bright, eye-catching nail designs. These ads may entice people who are looking for new salons in their area as well as those who need some additional inspiration.

Encourage your customers to leave reviews on your social media pages by offering discounts or freebies. Social media makes it easier for clients - past and present - to spread the word about your business, so work hard at providing excellent nail styling services to your customers in order to generate more buzz about your business online.

You can also include a nail salon FAQ page on your website for potential customers to help answer their nail-related questions or concerns before they schedule an appointment with your business.


Helpful Videos

How Much Does It Cost to Open Your Own Nail Salon?


How to Start Your Own Nail Salon? Process | Tips | Business Talk


Marketing Ideas for Nail Techs | How to Fill Your Book


Additional Resources

Nails Magazine

OSHA Nail Salon Workers Guide


Other Helpful Business Plan Articles & Templates