Si belle nail

This article is for educational purposes and does not constitute legal, financial or tax advice. For specific advice applicable to your business, please contact a professional.

Has the idea of opening a nail salon been a dream of yours? With an actionable plan, you can set the path to owning a nail salon business and share your passion with others.

Here are 10 steps you should take in the planning and development phase before you open a nail salon.

1. Write a business plan.

Before you get into how to open a nail salon, you should create a plan for the type of salon that’s best for your business stage. A business plan will help you construct a model for your nail salon that is attainable today and allows for future growth.

There are three ways to approach a nail salon business:

  • Independent nail artist: This stage of a business often starts in your home or as a mobile business where you go to clients.

  • Open a storefront or pop-up: With an established clientele, you may move into a small location where clients come to you for services.

  • Expanded storefront with staffing: As the business grows, you may need more room for your nail salon and hire multiple nail technicians or other staff to keep the business running smoothly.

As you are creating a business plan, you need to think about who your customers will be: your target market. As you define your target market, you’ll want to include where customers will come from, their demographics and what they look for in a nail salon.

Then you’ll want to research other local business competitors to ensure there is room in the marketplace for your business. From there you can start to consider revenue projections and cash flow needs to operate the business on a monthly and annual basis.

Finally, the last part of your business plan includes logistics about how to handle functions tied to small business ownership, such as:

  • Accounting

  • Marketing

  • Staffing

2. Take care of your business registration and permitting requirements.

In Canada, typically, a business must be an established business entity with a business number (BN) and tax status. Some options for how you can establish your company include:

  • Sole proprietorship

  • Partnership

  • Corporation

Many small businesses incorporate as a sole proprietorship. You should consult with an attorney to determine what’s best for your business.

After your business entity is established, you may need to take care of other licensing or insurance requirements which can include:

  • Business licence and permit (check with your provincial and local government)

  • Business insurance

3. Create a financial plan.

Financing a new business can be one of the most uncomfortable things to talk about, but might be one of the most important when it comes to planning for your financial future.

It’s OK if some of the elements of a financial plan aren’t familiar to you. Most business owners will consult with a financial professional to help them figure out how to create a plan that includes:

  • Securing startup capital
  • Opening business accounts and obtaining credit cards
  • Understanding budgeting, cash flow and accounting
  • Keeping accurate records
  • Setting key performance indicators (KPIs) for future planning, like expanding your business

4. Manage procurement and operational costs.

An extension of your financial plan is understanding all the operational costs associated with opening a nail salon. From rent to utilities to equipment, you’ll need to budget for fixed and variable costs.

Fixed operating costs include:

  • Insurance
  • Rent or lease agreement
  • Utilities, including electricity, water and internet service
  • Software, such as accounting or payroll
  • Equipment (see below for potential equipment needs)

Variable costs are factors that can change from month to month and include:

  • Labour and wages
  • Products and tools used by the staff (acrylics, nail polish)
  • Shipping and delivery for goods used in your nail salon
  • Marketing

From a budget perspective, the most expensive startup costs might include all the equipment you need to open your nail salon. These are generally one-time costs, although you’ll incur them again if you are in business for a long time and they need to be replaced:

  • Chairs
  • Sinks
  • Reception desk
  • Magazine racks
  • Manicure tables
  • Nail drills
  • Electric nail files
  • Nail dryers
  • Washer/dryer for towels
  • Lamps, LED/UV

5. Choose the right location (if applicable).

The right location is key to business success and growth. You know your community better than anyone. Look for a location in a high-traffic area that’s easy for potential customers to access.

The location needs to be close to your target market and open at times of day when they will be able to visit your location. Finally, think about how clients will come to your business. If you have a brick-and-mortar location, there should be plenty of available parking or access points from public transportation.

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6. Figure out your pricing.

Once you have an idea of the costs associated with running your business, you can think about pricing. Bring in revenue higher than costs, or you will be operating at a loss.

Pricing also has other considerations to ensure you are operating in concert with your market and target audience. Before you set prices, look at three key elements to make sure your model is aligned with what people are willing to pay:

  • Competitors’ pricing

  • Your profit margins

  • Demographics of your customers and local market

7. Establish your brand.

Branding is a big part of business identity and will help connect you with customers. While some nail salon owners create their own brand, others work with small agencies or marketing freelancers to get started.

You’ll need to outline your brand with these items:

  • Salon name (often the same as your legal business entity, but not always under a “doing business as” designation).

  • Logo to identify your business with a name and mark.

  • Vibe of the nail salon to create a feeling that connects clients to the business.

  • Look and feel for the interior design of the physical location that marries other brand elements.

Nail art and fashion are a prominent part of pop culture and you can leverage that as part of your business. If your brand includes trending nail design, showcase this on social media platforms with popular hashtags and connect to nail influencers if you can. The additional element of branding can help you grow your nail salon business online and help make your brand more of a household name.

8. Get the right scheduling software.

Scheduling software can help you run your business more smoothly. This will become more important as the business grows and you add staff.

You need a tool that lets you manage your booking calendar as well as staff booking calendars. Clients who can book online hassle-free will have a better customer experience and are more likely to make appointments since they can do it on their own time, from your website or integrated social media accounts.

Scheduling software needs to provide the ability to take payments online in support of your business workflows and goals. Square Appointments does all this and more.

9. Build your online presence.

A website is a vital part of your business presence. Potential clients will look for you online, and a website provides credibility for your business.

Square makes creating a business website easy. You have three options to get started:

  • Create an online booking site that allows clients to set appointments online with Square Appointments.

  • Build a free, custom, full-service website with Square Online.

  • Add a booking button to an existing website built on another platform with Square Appointments.

After you set up your website, connect your Google Business Profile, which serves as an online directory for your business that shows up in Google Search and provides business information, hours, and a link to your website. Consider registering your nail salon in other online directories as well.

10. Market your nail salon.

To pull it all together, it is important for people to know about your nail salon. If you have an established clientele, they will help get the word out, but marketing online and in-person through more formal channels can help bring in new customers as well.

Marketing is a combination of online and in-person tactics to generate interest in and engagement with your nail salon. Activities you might consider include:

  • Use local SEO to ensure that people looking for nail salons in your area know about the business; this includes having a website and online presence.

  • Post and interact on social media to drive traffic and attention. Photos of beautiful nails make great posts on social media. Create a plan to post regularly and ask your clients to share.

  • Engage with review sites and ask clients to leave good reviews. Google Business Profile is one of the top review channels, making it easy for clients to leave reviews and find them online.

  • Utilize email marketing to help you continue to engage with clients. Ask for email addresses at checkout and allow clients to sign up for an email list on your website so you can send additional information or re-engage clients.

  • Hand out or post flyers in the community to help generate awareness about your nail salon and location.

  • Send direct mail. It’s a good option for sharing information with a highly targeted audience or postal code. Mailers are a valuable tool for a grand opening or to offer a coupon or discount for visiting your salon during a certain time.

You can turn your dream of opening a nail salon into a reality. Square Appointments is the all-in-one tool that will make business operations flow more smoothly. Set bookings, accept payments and more with this scheduling tool.