What it takes to run a beauty parlour
By Vivianne Wandera
| September 15th 2021
Shally Akinyi, the owner of Zuri Nail Parlour, opened her business at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic when people were avoiding beauty spots. She had no option after also losing her job to the pandemic and had to think outside the box for a means of survival.
She shared with Enterprise her journey of resilience, and what it took for her to set up her first business.
How did the idea for Zuri nail parlour come about?
I am very passionate about beauty. I went to the university and attained a Bachelor’s degree in business management with the dream that it will one day help me build my own beauty empire. I have always wanted to own a salon or a nail salon. After I lost my job towards the end of 2020, I had to find a way to make ends meet and that is when I decided to open the nail parlour. It was not easy but given the fact that I was in employment for five years I had saved up some money and my husband also gave me money that I used to set up the parlour.
Is this what you always wanted to do and what was your initial investment in the business?
Yes, it is what I always wanted to do. Whenever I thought about investing it was always in the beauty industry. The initial investment was Sh1.8 million, which were funds to set up the infrastructure, securing the business premises and buying the first equipment we needed to start the business.
How was the uptake of the business in the first few months?
We struggled considering the fact that I opened in February when people were still very concerned about the coronavirus pandemic. Salons and nail parlours were among the places people were told to avoid because the work done here includes a lot of physical contact and touch. It took us a while to gets clients and to create a loyal clientele.
Would you say your business is now profitable?
No. It’s not yet profitable because we are still very young, only seven months into this and we spend most of the money covering our overheads, paying the staff, paying the rent. So we are not yet profitable.
What key challenges do you face in your line of work?
The main challenge I have faced as a new business is getting customers. Convincing a client to move from their regular nail tech to Zuri is not easy. The second challenge has been a distortion of prices because in the quest of trying to get new customers, we are forced to reduce our prices to attract new customers. Another challenge has been getting staff who are qualified and have very good skills. The beauty industry has a lot of technicians who come in and don’t deliver what you intend for them to deliver to your customers and don’t understand your business culture. So, it’s been hard getting people who understand the standards I have set for my business and meet the expectations of our clients.
How do you maintain a creative edge over other business competitors?
First, we stay open-minded. At Zuri, we are not just selling nails. We make sure that our clients are as comfortable as possible. From offering them refreshments when they come in and ensuring we minimise the waiting time so our clients don’t have to wait for hours to be served. We also make sure our products are of good quality and that the nails we make last longer and our clients get good value for their money.
What lessons have you learnt about running a business that you didn’t know when you opened the nail parlour in February?
The biggest lesson I have learnt is that you have to be true to quality. You have to invest heavily in infrastructure and make sure the environment you present to your clients is warm enough and inviting enough for them to even consider coming back. The second thing is that one has to work with very good products. There are very many products in the market, from cheap to expensive. So you have to use the best products so that your clients don’t come back complaining of broken nails or chipped polish. I have also learnt that customer service is everything. If you are happy today then you will always come back. Getting customers is a big challenge so you have to treat the ones you get well so that you don’t have to worry about them not coming back.
Do you also attend to men?
Yes, we do. We do manicures, pedicures and facials on men. However, most of the male clients we have always come in for manicures and facials.
What advice would you give other aspiring entrepreneurs?
Stay true to quality and ensure what you give your customers is up to their standards. Also, keep your books and records accurately because that’s the only way you will know if your business is growing or if you are making a mistake. Bookkeeping is crucial when running a business. I would also advise them to take that first step towards realising their dream or it will remain a dream forever.
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