You might say that Kim Huynh is an accidental entrepreneur.
Well maybe, but she’s not letting that get in the way of creating and growing a successful business—The Nail Shop—which opened its second location this past year in Lexington’s East End neighborhood inside the MET – Community Venture’s mixed-use retail and residential real estate development. The Nail Shop’s flagship location opened in Brannon Crossing in March of 2019. Thanks to a small business loan from Community Ventures, Huynh took the opportunity to expand the family business, and her second salon is now thriving.
Huynh admits that people thought she was crazy, opening her business in a shopping center that was already home to two other nail salons. But because her vision was very different from typical salons, her salon not only survived, it thrived!
The Nail Shop specializes in an alternative to acrylics—dip powder—and uses no harsh chemicals. In addition, they are the first salon in the area to feature a service they call BYOP, or Build Your Own Pedicure.
“A lot of salons have tiers,” notes Huynh, but we said that we would let the customers decide what would go into their own pedicure.”
The customer can pick and choose from a menu of “upgrades” and “extras” to truly customize their experience. In addition, The Nail Salon products are derived from quality organic sources.
While nails were the Huynh family trade for years, it was not at all where Ms. Huynh thought she would leave her mark on the world. Immigrating to the US from Vietnam when she was 3, she didn’t learn to speak English until she was 6 or 7 years old. While it was always Huynh’s dream to own a business, it was never her dream to own a nail salon.
“My family has been in the nail industry for years,” Huynh explained. “But I studied telecommunications at UK. I got into a really bad car accident and had to move back home. My parents had talked about opening another salon…they had had one in the past but didn’t enjoy running the business. I toyed with the idea. I knew I wanted to own a business but I didn’t know what. We looked at a couple of locations for sale. I offered one seller half of what she was asking, because that’s what I had to spend on it. She thought I was crazy at first, but then she called back in two weeks and agreed to sell.”
Huynh did a facelift on the place, hired her whole family—all Vietnamese immigrants and all working in separate nails salons—and right away saw a tremendous increase in traffic.
So, what made her want to become a business owner?
“My stubbornness. My hatred of others telling me what to do,” Huynh laughs. “I had a couple jobs after college, but I hated it and was so bad at it. I hated working for someone. I started reading a lot of books on professional development and self-growth. I was determined to own a business. I didn’t know how or what or where, but I started preparing for it, even without knowing what it would be.”
“Our first year of business was honestly just so much fun. It felt so new and so fresh and really unique. I put a lot of effort into building a social media community and it has flourished since then. People will come in and get their service done and post about it on social media. We haven’t paid for any marketing in two years—it’s all been social media and word of mouth. I have some outlandish dreams for this business. We did half a million in our first year!”
What does it mean for The Nail Shop to be opening up in a community like East End, and what impact does Huynh hope that her business will have?
“I want my business to show all women that self-care and looking good is a part of feeling good. It’s not about having pretty hands so much as taking time out to do something for yourself. With more and more women moving into the workforce and being breadwinners, there’s such a deep dichotomy of being a woman, taking care of your family, your husband, your children, your job. To have a space where women can come in and shut it down for an hour or two and leave with a good feeling—I just want them to have that feeling.”
Huynh has some advice for other budding entrepreneurs thinking about starting their own businesses.
“Learn. Become a student all over again. A lot of people stop learning unless they’re being told to by their boss. It’s so important to take time to learn for yourself. Thousands have done it before you, so learn from those people via books or via YouTube. Not knowing how is just an excuse now.”
Help along the way has come from a variety of places and people. Huynh’s ex-boyfriend helped her create a business style and branding. And of course, her family.“ The fact that my whole family quit their jobs to come work for me is just, well…amazing!” she says.
As Huynh looks toward a very bright future, she shares another lofty goal that further emphasizes her mile-long entrepreneurial streak: “I would love to develop new products. Right now, we are B2C (Business to Consumer) but I would like to create line of products to go B2B (Business to Business.) I like the products we use in the shop, but I would really like to develop our own. Healthier, cleaner products that we can get into other salons as well. And I would love to have a platform to speak to women about self-care, self-love and personal growth. That is something I am so passionate about. To help women see their potential and develop their passion.”