One of the biggest challenges in the nail department tends to be staffing. “I don’t know why, because it can be such a lucrative field,” says Owen. “A good nail tech can bring in more than $35,000 as well as her cash tips—that’s a great salary for someone who’s just earned a license.”
Nevertheless, Owen feels it’s a constant struggle to keep her six full-time nail positions filled. To groom talent for the future, she’s beginning to speak to local high schools about incorporating the profession in vocational classes.
In the meantime, Owen discovered a clever way to meet her clients’ demands for nail services by designing hand and foot treatments that don’t require a nail license. “Our business is so package driven, and clients want packages that include the whole spa experience. So we had to find a way around the licensing issue and design hand and foot services that can be performed by estheticians or massage therapists.”
For example, Owen offers the Tropical Smoothie, a hand or foot treatment that combines a kiwi honey butter cleanser, a lemon exfoliating salt scrub, a mineralizing volcanic mud mask and a massage with a rich vanilla moisturizer. Another non-nail service for hands or feet is the reflexology massage, which incorporates acupressure to unblock energy flow and target every organ in the body. Not only have these services helped Owen tackle the talent dilemma and broaden her package options, but they’ve become popular services in their own right.
To keep booking options open at Avalon, Conte requires that all nine of her nail technicians perform all of the nail services, including nail enhancements.
Identifying, scheduling and funding education is tough for any area of the salon or spa, but owners find it’s the nail department that often suffers most for lack of advanced educational opportunities.
Owen says that while they invite manufacturers in to provide nail education whenever possible, finding nail education outside the spa is very challenging. “I do post any opportunities on a bulletin board in the employee area and we offer $100 toward any outside class,” she says.
At Andre Chreky, a long-term employee who manages the nail department holds technical education sessions about once a month. “When we are introducing a new service, they’ll schedule longer sessions so every nail tech can become comfortable with the new techniques,” says Marraccini. “Once a year we recruit an outside educator to teach new skills or massage techniques. We once even had the record-holder for nail length from the Guinness Book of World Records.”