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nail salon business

How to Open and Operate a Nail Salon

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Did you know that approximately half of all nail techs are 80 – 100 percent booked, according to It's this type of statistic that gets so many people excited about operating a nail salon.

With more than 100,000 nail salons in the United States, you're not the only person interested in opening and operating this type of business. While competition may be stiff, with the right approach you can rise to the top of the industry and achieve a high level of success.

There are two specific details that deserve most your attention as you ponder the idea of opening a nail salon:

  • Location
  • Licenses

Location is extremely important, as you want your nail salon to be visible to as many people as possible.

This is why you see so many of these establishments in shopping malls and strip malls. With a high level of foot traffic, potential customers are always taking notice of salons in these locations.

When it comes to licenses, there are several required by law:

  • State issued operator license.
  • Cosmetology license if you are renting space to nail technicians or providing other salon services.
  • Salon license.

Once you have selected a location and have your licenses in order, you're closer than ever to realizing your dream. At this point, it's time to create a business plan that will guide your operation in the right direction.

Top Challenges

Although there is no guarantee of success, there are steps you can take to improve your chance of reaching your goals. One of the best things you can do is understand the top challenges facing nail salon owners. These include:

1. Building and Retaining Clientele

What is your marketing strategy? How will you retain clients once they visit your salon?

Your primary responsibility is to bring people through the door, but it doesn't stop there. If you want your business to grow, it's important to turn a large percentage of your clientele into repeat customers.

2. Saturation

In short, your nail salon isn't the "only game in town." Market saturation is a big problem in many industries, including this one.

The best way to fight against this is to give clients a reason to choose your salon instead of others. This can include everything from lower prices to better customer service.

3. Pricing

How will you price your services? What will the client get in return for his or her money?

On one side of things you need to be competitive with your pricing structure. On the other side, you don't want to go so low that you hinder your ability to make a profit.

4. Finding and Retaining Top Talent

It's easy to believe that all nail techs are the same, but nothing could be further from the truth.

One of the best ways to overcome competition is to ensure that the top talent works for your salon. How will you find these people? How will you keep them with your company, as opposed to jumping ship and finding another employer?

When you find and retain top talent your chance of success goes through the roof.

5. Financial Concerns

This includes but is not limited to a variety of details, such as: 

  • Cost of rent
  • Cost of equipment and supplies
  • Employee salaries
  • Payroll

For some nail salon owners, it's the financial issues that cause them the most stress. They know what clients want and how to provide the best service, but they fall short when it comes to matters of financial responsibility.

There are ways to protect against this, such as signing a long term lease and signing up with a small business payroll service.


If you have the desire to open and operate a nail salon, there are many steps you can take to improve your chance of success.

By knowing what to expect and how to avoid common challenges, you'll find yourself in better position to open a business you can be proud of.