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How to Start Nail Salon Business in 10 Easy Steps

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Free Nail Salon Business Plan Template

February 09, 2024

10 Min Read

how to start a nail salon
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Do you love taking care of nails, creating beautiful nail designs, and helping others show off their own style? If that sounds like you, then starting a nail business might be a great idea. What’s more fascinating is that more than 20 million Americans visit nail salons 4 times every 6 months.

With many people eager to pay for that professional touch, the nail salon industry has hit an impressive $8 billion value. This makes up 16% of all the services in the U.S. beauty salon market related to nails.

So, if you’re wondering, ‘How to start a nail salon?’ then this guide is for you. With the ten easy steps in this guide, your nail salon shop will be up and running smoothly.

1. Get the Industry Outlook

The nail salon business is growing fast. More people are using their services. But what do we really understand about this industry? What are the newest trends and numbers?

Here’s a brief look at it:

Google trends indicate a consistent interest in acrylic nails over the past five years.

In the decade before the pandemic, spending on nail salon services in the U.S. increased by over 30%. By 2018, this spending reached more than $8 billion.

The market did face challenges during the pandemic. Its value dropped to about $6.5 billion in 2020, around a 20% decrease from the previous year.

Despite these challenges, the market is recovering. It is expected to grow at 9% annually. By 2025, the market is projected to reach over $22 billion.

About 65% of nail salons provide both manicure and pedicure services.

The United States has approximately 23,745 registered nail salons, with most in California, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

In 2022, the average yearly salary for manicurists and pedicurists in the U.S. was $33,560. Nearly 138,020 nail technicians were working that year.

2. Outline a Nail Salon Business Plan

A nail salon business plan is like a map for your salon. It covers everything from how you’ll market your salon, grow your business, and run day-to-day operations.

It goes into detail about different parts of the business. Plus, it has a summary that explains what goals and targets you have for your nail salon in the future.

You also need a strong business plan to get a bank loan for your nail salon. Banks check this to ensure you’ve planned well, particularly financially. In addition, it also helps you to know how much money to ask for.

If you’re just starting, it’s wise to request a smaller loan. But ensure the amount covers all the basic costs needed to start your own nail salon business.

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3. Find a Suitable Location

When choosing a location for your nail salon, consider the area of the busiest local salons. This helps in selecting an effective spot.

Ideal locations are in residential areas, near colleges, or office buildings with heavy foot traffic. However, areas with high pedestrian traffic often have higher rent due to more visibility.

Your choice should factor in your business model, financial expectations, customer target, niche, and services offered.

Key considerations include:

  • Busy times, traffic, and parking in the location.
  • The age range of nearby residents.
  • How close is it to your target customers?

Your research will determine which location offers better returns for your investment.

Registering your business is a crucial first step. Before paying taxes or getting money to grow your business, you must do this. Opening a business bank account and doing other essential things to start your business is also necessary.

With that being said, here’s how you can make your business legal:

Select a Business Structure

There are different types of business structures, each with good and bad points. The kind you pick for your nail salon will affect your taxes, how much you might owe if something goes wrong, and the rules for registering your business.

For a business entity, you have a few choices:

  • Limited Liability Company
  • General Partnership
  • Sole proprietorship
  • S corp
  • C corp

Forbes recommends registering your business with an LLC because of its flexibility and tax benefits.

Register for taxes and get an EIN

Before tackling your taxes, you must obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) – a unique I.D. like a tax fingerprint for your business. You can quickly apply for an EIN online on the IRS website or get it by mail or fax.

Next, select your tax year. You either go with the standard calendar year (January to December) or a fiscal year (any 12 months). Remember, this choice determines when your tax payments are due.

5. Determine Pricing Strategy

In the Nail Salon Industry, it’s best to keep your prices clear and easy. Don’t stress over making your pricing too complex; it could actually turn out badly.

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer here because it really depends on what your customers need and expect. To set the right prices, you really need to get these points:

Location: Analyze the costs of running your business in your chosen location, such as rent or mortgage. This helps you set prices that make a profit.

Demand: Once you know who you’re serving and where they hang out, it’s time to figure out what nail services are in demand. For this, you can stalk social media and see what’s buzzing online. Additionally, you can spy on your competition and peek at their services and see what’s popular. When you know what’s in demand, you can adjust your prices to match.

Competitors: Check what other successful nail salon businesses in your area are charging. This helps you understand what customers expect and what prices are reasonable.

With these points, you can understand what your local clients can pay, set reasonable prices, and identify your ideal customers.

Then, develop a pricing plan that matches your target market and the experience you aim to provide, helping you stand out from competitors.

6. Obtain Licenses and Permits

Starting a nail salon means getting the proper paperwork in order. These licenses and permits vary by location, so do your research! Here’s a breakdown of some key ones:

State License: Each state has its way of saying “yes” to qualified nail technicians. This usually involves training and passing an exam. Think of it as a nail-tastic diploma!

Business License: You can’t open your nail salon without this license. To know your required license, consult your local or state Chamber of Commerce, the US SBA, or City Hall.

Seller’s Permit: You’ll need this permit if you plan to sell products like nail polish or lotions. Local or state regulations determine the specifics.

Safe Space: Ensure your salon is up to code before welcoming clients. This is where the Certificate of Occupancy comes in. Chat with City Hall to ensure your building meets all the safety standards.

Building Permits: Planning a makeover for your salon? Get a building permit to ensure the renovations are safe and follow the rules.

7. Figure out Financing

After securing your permits, turn your attention to finances. You need to estimate the funds to start and sustain your business.

The Professional Beauty Association states it takes $60,000 to $100,000 to open a nail salon.

This money goes towards expenses like:

  • Salon equipment and furniture
  • Buying or leasing the place
  • Interior designing and construction costs
  • Licenses and permits
  • Business Insurance

After calculating all these expenses and preparing your budget, the next thing is to figure out the source to get funds.

Here, you have three options. You can use your money, borrow from friends or family, or seek external funding.

Using your savings or borrowing from someone you know might be a good idea. But, if things go south, you might have a terrible financial position or strain your meaningful relationships.

The other option is external funding. In which you have options like:

  • SBA Loans
  • Govt grants
  • Crowdfunding
Nail salon owners often prefer the SBA 7(a) loan program for its adaptability and flexibility.

8. Get the Necessary Equipment

Now that your budget is ready and you have the funds, it’s time to start buying things for your nail salon.

When setting up your salon, don’t forget to include essential items such as:

  • Desks or standing stations for your technicians
  • Manicure tables
  • Reclining seats with footrests for client comfort
  • Supply carts for organization
  • Chairs for your waiting area

You will need to create a detailed checklist of items to improve your daily business operations. This list should include nail clippers, scissors, buffers, files, moisturizers, towels, and separators for fingers and toes.

9. Hire the Right Staff

When you first start your business, you might be working alone as a business owner. But as your shop grows, you must hire more people, including additional assistants and stylists.

When you’re ready to hire people, it’s essential to meet them personally. It will help you understand their personality and review their qualifications.

Moreover, it’s always advisable to check their references. Here, your aim should be to hire those who are not only skilled but also genuinely passionate about customer service and their work.

Regarding compensation, an hourly wage for your staff is appropriate if your salon offers essential services.

However, if your boutique includes the sale of specialty beauty products, consider offering a commission for each sale they make.

This motivates your staff and contributes to a more dynamic and thriving business environment.

10. Market Your Nail Salon

As your own nail salon business plan starts to take shape, it’s essential to establish a solid online presence. This will help you become more visible to potential clients searching for a salon in their area and allow satisfied customers to share their positive experiences.

Here’s how you can build your online community effectively:

Create a website

First, make a website that is easy to use. You can build it independently or get a professional to do it. Make sure the website is good on both computers and phones. It should clearly show your services and let clients easily book appointments or contact you.

Loyalty Programs

Introduce a loyalty program to keep your clients returning. For example, consider offering a punch card system, package deals, or other incentives that build loyalty.

Social Media

Use social media to grow your salon’s presence. Sites like Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok are great for posting videos, photos, and customer reviews that showcase your top services.

You can also engage your audience with giveaways and streamline bookings through scheduling links on your profiles.

Low-cost marketing strategy

To promote your salon, get involved in your community. Host events like a ribbon cutting or a charity function. You can also sponsor local activities like school plays or participate in community events, like volunteering at a baseball game. These actions help increase visibility and build a good reputation locally.

Bottom Line

You now know how to start your nail salon. Opening this business requires a significant initial investment, but you can look forward to a steady income once your salon runs.

A strong nail salon business plan is key for smooth operations. If you work hard at managing it well, you can be a successful nail salon owner. Small, smart steps will keep your business strong. So, stick to your core values, keep an eye on the market, and apply the tips from this article.

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About the Author


Shyam Dua

Shyam Dua is a seasoned tax professional with 40+ years of experience & a mentor at SCORE. He stands out due to his exceptional business planning skills. With a keen eye for detail and a strong financial acumen, Shyam crafts compelling business plans that pave the way to success. A CPA with a philanthropic heart, Shyam's strategic expertise, and dedication make him an invaluable asset in shaping thriving business ventures. Read more


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