The business of nails is booming. In the UK alone, the estimated growth of the nail art market, along with other nail services, is continuing to grow daily. It is predicted that this pace will advance 3.74% a year until at least 2019*.
And thanks to social media, creative nail art is becoming more and more technical and inventive, causing a mass demand for more than just a file and polish. In this month’s ‘Salon Design Of The Month’ we meet Tammy Koslowski, founder of the NAF! salon – a nail bar situated in the heart of Glasgow.
How did NAF! salon begin?
NAF! is the total product of all the passions, jobs, experiences and people I’ve encountered in my life, as well as my love of nail art and procrastinating on the internet! I felt creatively stifled during the last year of my fashion degree and spent hours scrolling through WAH Nails, Hey Nice Nails & Sophy Robson’s accounts and trying to recreate their designs on my nails to cheer me up. I built up a decent following because I started doing my own tutorials and after graduating and realising I didn’t want to be a designer or garment technologist, I got my nail qualifications.
I started practising on my friends, setting up “nail bars” at vintage fairs, asking local creatives to be a manicurist for photoshoots and selling hand painted false nails on Etsy, meanwhile documenting everything on the internet! I eventually set up a website in 2012, quit my retail job and went on to create my own range of nail decals (Nailcals™) under the name DIY Nails. I sold them to big retailers like Urban Outfitters & ASOS and learned a lot about running a business during this time; from designing websites & products to dealing with suppliers, using social media and providing the best customer service online.
I got bored of chasing invoices and dealing with manufacturers (creatively stifled again!) and after always wishing that the nail salon of my dreams would open in Glasgow I realised I actually had the skillset to do it myself. I threw caution to the wind, found a space in my office building and set up NAF! in 5 weeks! A lot of hard work, sleepless nights, lots of glitter and a little serendipity has shaped the salon you see today, sometimes I still can’t believe it!
How did you decide upon the aesthetic of the salon? What inspired you?
I never really decided on what it would look like as a whole, and there’s actually still quite a lot I want to do with it now, but the salon definitely just reflects my personal tastes!
We moved to a new space in April and although it still looked good, we grew out of our first space so quickly and there was so much I wanted to change, so I was so glad to be able to decorate somewhere else with a new vision! Just like the first salon, I always kept social media in mind when deciding what to put on the walls, making sure every angle was “Instagrammable” and Pinterest worthy for clients because I knew they’d be looking around whilst they were sitting getting their nails done and snapping photos before and after.
I’ve grown up online, which is why there are a lot of quotes and subtle nods to pop culture around the place. I just really wanted the place to look interesting and be a nice place to work from for my team. My favourite part of the salon is our Pedi Station, I haven’t had a holiday in a while and I love swimming so I used a combination of pink tiles, tropical plants and wallpaper that looks like water to create a little holiday vibe in the pedi area!
How does NAF stand out from its competitors?
Our personality. We’re just a big team of creative people and we don’t really take ourselves too seriously! Every reason why we stand out comes back to that fact, the interior, the nails, our socials, the way we deal with our clients, it’s all genuine and reflects the way our team is in real life. We’re not perfect and we don’t try to be either.
I do always get kind of awkward when I hear the word “competitor” though, which doesn’t make much sense from a business point of view but it’s ultimately why I think we do stand out. I like NAF! to exist in its own bubble. We try not to compare ourselves to other people and focus on creating and supporting the nail community instead. It’s hard to inspire that ideology in a large team but it’s something we discuss as a group quite often and we always challenge negative thoughts. I think our industry and the market are so huge that it would be so easy to get caught up in comparing ourselves to other salons and focusing more on one-upmanship than our own journey, and I always think the best businesses stay true to themselves. That’s not to say I don’t personally look at other salons and think “I wish we could do that!”.
How do you think social media has influenced the nail industry?
Our industry is so visual, which is why social media has created such a massive impact on how nail businesses run. Living in an age where we have multiple, easily accessible and free (for the most part) platforms to share creative work and harness our voice is incredible, but it also comes with a lot of pressures.
I’ve grown up online and NAF! wouldn’t be NAF! without social media. Our first salon was two floors up in an office building which meant we had no passing trade and, if we didn’t have our Instagram page, we would have had to rely on word of mouth and expensive advertising to attract new clients. I think it’s totally changed how we communicate – clients can now see what we get up to on a daily basis on our stories, message us and get a reply almost instantly and share reviews, pictures, comments and inspiration at the click of a button. It has opened up a whole world of inspirations for nail technicians and has undoubtedly pushed people to create more, learn more and engage with their community. It has been so valuable for us that I don’t even know where to begin, but the fact that we have such an amazing team, clients and range of products is all thanks to social media.
How does NAF keep up to date with the latest trends in the industry?
We consume as much media as possible when it comes to nails and the beauty industry in general, we’re obsessed and we ain’t’ afraid to admit it. Scratch Magazine is our bible! We even have our own double-page spread in every 2018 issue, cool huh?
We follow amazing nail artists, educators and brands across all social media platforms from our NAF! accounts, but also on our personal ones so that we can keep up to date with fresh and inventive ideas. We’re also signed up to just about every brand’s mailing list and we’re all really active on nail related facebook groups and forums and interact with other nail techs on a regular basis. If there’s something new in the nail world our gals will know about it and we always share our information and experiences! We have a group chat on Facebook so we’re always chatting about nails and then we have a private Facebook page called NAF! Fam where we post video tutorials, gossip about product releases and share articles we think will be handy! We like to discuss the work we’ve seen, how it’s done, or what we can take and make personal to us.
We also have training or a meeting every Friday for an hour, and every 6 weeks we have 2 hours. It’s such a valuable time for everyone in the salon as, although we all work alongside each other, everyone is usually with clients or caught up in work, so it means we can all have some bonding time. Our NAF Experts create the training programme and lead the lessons, which means if anything new comes out then they’ll be perfecting it together as a team and can troubleshoot any issues together.
What do you think makes a successful salon?
I think that being successful is so subjective, what I think makes a good salon for me may not suit everyone’s ideas. For me, a successful salon is one that has happy staff, happy clients and enough profit to progress the business and the careers of the people who work there. Those are my goals, and everything I work towards and think about relates to that, it’s a snowball effect. Some people may prioritise turnover, growth, quality or training.
I spend a lot of my time thinking about and working on things that will make the salon successful for me. I believe that every little thing we do is important and that’s why I’m always very serious about staying on brand. If my team are reading this I know they’ll be rolling their eyes because they hear it 10 times a day haha! NAF! is a brand and we need to make sure that our client’s experience reflects what we’re selling online. Yes, a large social following is brilliant, but it’s nothing without the real-life version of your business living up to it. It puts a huge pressure on all of us as we see over 300 clients a week, which means the service, the products, the music, the salon, and the team all need to be “on” for 300 people. The enhanced the expectations of the clients who walk through the door can create a huge pressure for everyone which is why we work so hard on refining all of our processes, we are always learning!
Because of all this, the #1 most important factor of a successful salon is COMMUNICATION! Something I have learned time and time again. Owners need to communicate with their managers, managers with the team, the team with the managers, technicians with their clients, clients with the techs etc. All information relating to your salon on the internet must be clear, all socials must communicate with followers effectively and every email, phone call, text, and DM must be communicative. When you’re dealing with a salon it’s easy to think of the bigger picture but you need to put processes in place that deal with all of the smaller communications, because working in and visiting a salon are very personal experiences for the individuals who experience any contact with it, and if you’re not practicing what you preach then there’s a high chance they could feel short-changed.
What advice can you give to other salon owners wanting to open a salon?
I can genuinely say that opening a salon has been the hardest thing but the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I have a lot of advice but it all falls into this sentence: Stay focused, work hard and be kind.
My first piece of advice would be, think about the bigger picture. Working 1 on 1 with clients can be tough, but when you have a salon you’re responsible for everyone’s 1 on 1’s as well as more admin, more product orders, more interest, more feedback and pretty much more of anything you can think of! Are you ready to put more work into this salon than you’ve ever put into anything? If you’re still going to be doing clients are you prepared to take clients all day and work all night? Are you prepared to give your staff the majority of your time and attention? If the answer is yes then buckle up, you’re in for a wild ride!
First of all, you’re going to make mistakes. If you’re employing staff and you’re active on social media then people are going to watch you make them too, but that’s ok. As long as you know you’re doing everything with good intentions and you’re staying true to yourself then everything will work out. If you do mess up, be honest and use the feedback to better your business, these are the most valuable lessons you’ll ever have and the way you deal with them will ultimately shape the way your business runs in the future.
Attention to detail…
Make sure your online presence is easy to navigate for your clients before you open, do everything while you have the time to do it! If you’re switching from self-employed to opening a salon then take some time off to make sure all your important things are done. Get a good accountant, make sure your insurance is foolproof and work on your HR by creating templates with interview questions, appraisal forms, contracts and anything else you might need in the future.
Lastly, get yourself a support network. I have a group of amazing women who I can turn to when I need help, some own salons, some run their own businesses in different industries and some work in HR or accounts. If you don’t know anyone that fits into these categories, then there are loads of Facebook groups and mentoring schemes you can join too!
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