Guest Writer 300

How I navigate my 4 London nail salons & staff through lockdown

By Guest Writer | 13 January 2021 | Feature, Tech Talk

Thanh Vu Dream Nails 1200

Hi Scratch readers,

Thanh Vu

My name is Thanh Vu and I guess I fall into the stereotypical Vietnamese nail technician. I run Dream Nails, a nail and beauty salon business, which consists of four nail salons in the Essex/East London corridor. I have been in the nail industry for 15 years and come from a family with a combined experience of 65 years in the nail industry.

I am of Vietnamese descent but I am second generation and would like to think that I am bringing a new wave of nail salon experience; combining the best in Vietnamese nail techniques with great customer service and the unrivalled quality of an urban, comfortable salon.

Like all nail and beauty businesses, Covid-19 has forced Dream Nails to adapt to new ways of working. I was distraught when I discovered that we would have to close all Dream Nails salons for an undefined period back in March. To top it off we had just undergone a full renovation on our flagship Loughton branch and were due to open our Blackwall Reach salon near Canary Wharf.

After the initial disappointment, we realised that it was a prime opportunity to immaculately clean all our salons. It also gave us the time to sit back and reflect on the expansionary journey and what had enabled Dream Nails to expand; the key was customer service combined with delivering eye-catching acrylic nail art designs. We were unsure as to when we were going to be able to reopen but we used lockdown as an opportunity to improve our website, our Instagram presence and also touch base with leading media mediums such as Scratch.

Staff matters
We are very grateful to the government for the furlough scheme which has helped the businesses immeasurably. All but our marketing executive and I were furloughed and, in addition to local council grants, furlough has enabled us (as a non- leveraged business) to remain extremely well positioned and navigate future market turmoil. I suspect there may be a second downturn and given the responsibility I feel towards my staff, I want to ensure we are in the best possible position to offer jobs for them to return to if there is another lockdown. Indeed, we have retained all our staff and owing to our conservatism when opening the new shop have been able to actually hire in the face of Covid-19.

The return to work
I had a baby on 6 June 2020 but still enjoyed using my time to develop the social media, marketing and virtual training side of the business. Crazy I know, but it’s impossible to ever switch off – the business is my second baby. We have a Dream Nails WhatsApp group and have had regular Zoom meetings (non-obligatory to attend with furlough of course), which have helped to keep our close-knit family of staff together over lockdown. I am amazed by the talents of our staff who have been incredible at developing new nail designs and also creating ‘press-on’ nails – the hot trend in lockdown.

While I was about to sit down to a rare glass of South African Cabernet Franc on Thursday 9 July in the evening, I was greeted with an announcement that nail salons would be able to open on 13 July. Suddenly, all the preparation, WhatsApp chats and Zoom meetings came into their own – it was going to be a big effort but we would all be ready as one ‘Dream Team’ to be open to the public in all four salons on Monday 13 July. We would obviously have preferred to open on 4 July alongside hair salons and I made an appearance on LBC radio to put across my views about this.

To get ready for reopening, we implemented the following:

  • Virtual staff training
  • Kept staff voluntarily involved via WhatsApp groups and Zoom meetings
  • Added PPE to all nail salons & increased safety measures – masks, dividers, non-stop cleaning and hands-free temperature recording to name but a few of the measures our salons were taking
  • Reliance on our online booking system – two years ago we shifted to Mindbody. I am incredibly grateful for the support our client manager, Zak Drummond of Mindbody, has given us through lockdown. The booking system enables our clients to easily navigate our treatment offerings and book their technician of choice all the while by enabling us to track everyone who has attended our salons so as to fulfil the Covid-19 government requirements to re-open.

Client engagement

Arguably, our biggest weakness over the last 15 years has been embracing social media. However, two years ago we made the concerted effort to encourage the use of social media and specifically the use of photography through Instagram. Mimi – one of our best nail technicians and co-manager of our Dream Nails Wanstead branch has been instrumental in helping us increase our Instagram presence.

Mimi has been on maternity leave but we were very grateful that she embraced the opportunity to enhance our social media presence through flexible operational working hours. Hopefully, she will return to pleasing clients with her amazing nail designs soon. Slowly but surely we are building our Instagram base. We have a long way to go but at least 10% of our great nail work is finally being shown to the masses.

In addition, to social media I decided to take an active marketing approach. More often than not businesses tend to cut back on marketing in tough times. However, I am very grateful to Archant and Fish Media Group who have made a particular effort in helping us grow and market Dream Nails. We have actually increased our marketing spend during lockdown and are starting to see the payback.

The two most important components of Dream Nails are the clients and the staff. Dream Nails is purely a facilitator in enabling our great staff to service our wonderful clients. Our philosophy is that happy staff members produce the best nails and nail designs – hopefully this makes customers happy.