How to Start a Nail Business

Updated March 23, 2017

Many options are available to an entrepreneur looking to start her own nail salon, from mall kiosks to mobile units to full-service nail salons. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2008, there are currently about 76,000 manicurists and pedicurists. Between 2008 and 2018, the industry is expected to grow by 19 per cent. Demand is high; a nail business on the cutting edge of the latest trends could prove to be extremely lucrative.

Determine those services you will offer in addition to nail care, such as tanning, electrolysis, waxing, pedicures, massage, airbrush tanning or services for men. Consider popular nail services such as nail art, acrylic nails, gels, wraps, airbrush nails and nail jewellery. Contact your state cosmetology board to learn the licensing requirements for your state and the services you will provide. As the owner, you aren't required to hold a nail technician license unless you intend to do nails.

Evaluate which business format is best for you, such as a mobile, retail business, franchise or in-home business. Depending on your zoning laws and homeowner's association rules, you may not be able to operate a salon from your home. A mobile option allows you the freedom to run your business without the expensive overhead. A physical location, while the most expensive option, gives you room to expand, allowing you to serve a larger community and take on a full staff.

Develop a business plan that details your vision for your salon, how you intend to compete and anticipated start-up and regular expenses. Visit to take advantage of various business calculators that can help you get a better idea of your expected costs. Visit the Small Business Administration for help on writing your business plan. In order to get financing, you will need a detailed, professional plan to present to your lender.

Secure a location and obtain zoning approval. Look for high visibility locales with adequate ventilation in shopping centres or plazas with enough square footage to cover your pedicure and manicure stations, a break room, supply room, waiting area, rest room and any additional amenities, such as a coffee station, vending machines, waxing station or tanning room. If possible, move into an old nail salon to reduce zoning issues.

Contact your insurance provider to purchase business insurance or get connected with a business insurance provider. At a minimum, you will need general liability, which protects you in the event that a client is harmed on the premises and property liability, which protects you against fire, or property or equipment damage. Your insurance provider will help you determine the amounts based on your assets and client traffic.

Outfit your nail studio with adequate equipment, fixtures, furniture and decor Implement ceiling fans to help reduce smells arising from the usage of chemicals. Opt for practical, yet comfy chairs for those waiting on services. If you intend to rein in an upscale clientele, your salon will need to look the part. Consider consulting with an interior designer or friend or family member who is particularly savvy with interior design to help you create a professional look for your salon. Be sure to visit your competition, taking note of their decor, furniture and set-up.

Hire licensed, insured and fashion-forward technicians who are not only skilled at their speciality, but who also look the part. Clients come to you in order to look and feel better and will notice your technician's personal style. By investing in your style, you can further set your business apart.

Offer complimentary coffee, great music and friendly service. If you do opt to install a television, ensure that the stations you put on match your clientele. Avoid soap operas and talk shows. Opt for more upscale or relevant entertainment, such as fashion programs. Subscribe to industry magazines such as Nails Magazine or Nail Pro to keep your staff and clients up to speed on the latest industry trends.


Check out nail salon scheduling software such as Appointment-Plus, to see if it is right for you. It allows clients to book themselves and may reduce the need for a receptionist.

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About the Author

Shanika Chapman has been writing business-related articles since 2009. She holds a Bachelor of Science in social science from the University of Maryland University College. Chapman also served for four years in the Air Force and has run a successful business since 2008.