Miss Salon™ The Nail Bar and Salon Business Consultants.

 
Ego Iwegbu Daley
Former owner and managing director of Nail Haven (1999-2005); a chain of 5 nail bars in Selfridges&Co, Topshop Oxford Circus and a stand-alone salon in Fulham.

Ego is a business director, author and beauty enthusiast.

She created the open-plan nail bar concept and singularly, developed and executed her business plan from scratch. Having planned; raised finance; secured relationships with Topshop and Selfridges; designed shop-fits; hired and trained staff; sourced suppliers, contractors and products; created treatments; dealt with all licensing, insurance and H&S applications and procedures; directed operations and controlled finances for a total of 8 nail bar launches, 14 national shows and 1 salon in 5 years, Ego is well postioned to advise on salon launches, operational procedures and financial controls.
Ego Iwegbu-Daley
Who Moved My Cheese? My story...
In 1998 I decided to start my own business. I was 25 and in my second year working for Ford Motor Company; a job I had started straight after graduating with a Mathematics degree from Kings College London. My Nigerian/Russian parents are academics and education was paramount in our household and considered the 'only way to succeed in life'. But in my heart I was an entrepreneur dying to do my own thing. At 17 I started exporting vinyl records to the DJ's in Nigeria who were desperate for the latest tunes; I had to stop that to concentrate on finishing my A levels. At 20 I started promoting nightclubs in London. I used to have queues and queues of party goers trying to get into my parties; I had to stop that to concentrate on finishing my degree. But by 25 I knew I could fake it no more. I had spent the last 3 years trying to figure out how to open my dream Cabaret in London but finally realised that it was a venture too expensive for this stage of my business career, I needed a smaller idea, something that required less capital.

I had my first set of fibreglass nail extensions done in a beautiful nail salon in Croydon's Whitgift Centre in 1997. I had walked past this particular place a while back, it was green and new and dedicated to nails; what a novel idea. I had never seen a nail salon before. My nails were gorgeous! I was mesmerised by them for days. I did not know you could create such natural looking nails. I was hooked.

Unfortunately for me it became apparent quite quickly that there was a serious lack of quality nail salons in the UK . My next visit to the Croydon salon was a disaster. I had a trainee doing my nails and needless to say they took ages to do, looked awful and I was very disappointed. I never went back there again and a year later the salon was closed.

As time went on I discovered a few salons here and there, but not one that did an all round good job. It was anything from poor service, poor hygiene, bad nails to no appointments available for days. Nightmare!

I visited New York in the summer of 1998 and couldn't believe my eyes when I saw how many nail salons they had there. There were two on every block! American women had their nails done ! Whether they were janitors or ceo's; pedicured toes and manicured fingernails all round.

My own real business...
That was it; In August 1998 I decided to start my own real business; Nail Haven. There was obviously a huge gap in the market, particularly in London 's West End .

This was the most exciting time of my life. I was so scared and yet so exhilarated. I couldn't wait to get started. I sat down in front of the computer and in nine days wrote a full and complete business plan. I was launching my first salon in December that year and nothing was going to stop it! I had no money; in fact I was in debt. I had no experience in this business and had never done a manicure, for money, in my life!

None of that could get in the way of the steam-train feeling I had inside of me. This was my chance. I had to go for it or lose my mind. I worked night and day. What will I call it, the logo, registering the company, opening a bank account, sourcing suppliers, nail technician courses, nail technicians, nail magazines, shop locations, leases, interior decorations, raising funds, investors, loans and more and more. I was juggling work at Ford with the imminent launch of Nail Haven.

December was approaching, I still hadn't raised enough money to start, and my planned launch date was going to pass. This did not slow me down. I had found this great little shop in Soho and needed a total of £80k to open the first salon. Having pitched my plan to many potential investors (wow, great idea, but I don't have the money right now) and banks (who all said no), I was finally left with one serious investor. He had my plan read by his top accountants and lawyer. I was interviewed by them all and instructed to make this amendment and that amendment; we were in 'talks' for six months by the end of which I was basically left with a glorified employment contract! This wasn't going to be my business; I was going to run his Nail Haven! But I felt it was too late to turn back now and was unhappily still prepared to go ahead with it. We were two days away from signing the lease when I get a phone call from the accountant who 'informed' me that the investor has changed his mind and will no longer be investing in the business.

I was devastated.

Do I even have what it takes?
It was now April 1999. I had been battling with my own demons since August; am I good enough for this, can I pull this off, what do I think I'm doing, who do I think I am! I did not grow up with business mentors. I had finished my education and was now out in the big bad world without an academic institution to fall back on. My father, a professor and orthopaedic surgeon, and my mother, a doctor of climatology and university lecturer, were both alien to the world of business and so had, at this stage, nothing to offer me. They couldn't understand what I was trying to do.

I was back at square one; no money, no shop and loads of self doubt. I took two weeks off work, curled up in a ball and lived under my duvet trying to think of plan z and find inspiration.

Months ago I had been in Selfridges, my favourite department store, shopping. I was attracted to a concession consisting of a small table and two chairs that was totally surrounded by women. They were doing Henna tattoos. It was amazing. Just like that, in the middle of one of the world's most fabulous stores, two women were offering a variety of on-the-spot henna tattoos for £10. They were busy, and I was excited by their business. I could see the owner and was dying to talk to her and ask her how she did it. How did she get to be in Selfridges? She was too busy, so I took a business card and planned to maybe speak to her another time; I just wanted to congratulate her on a brilliant offer. I never did call her.

Divine inspiration...
One Saturday night, during my two weeks under the duvet, plan z came to me! I felt as if God was speaking to me. Selfridges; open Nail Haven in Selfridges! I knew it could be done, after all if they could have henna tattoos then they could have a nail bar. It would cost less than opening a stand alone shop because I would create an open-plan nail bar, right in the middle of the shop floor! My idea was fresh; no one had done this before and I knew the novelty alone would cause a stir. Nail Haven would have a crowd of women around it as soon as we open. I couldn't wait until Monday to start making my calls to the store. Who would I speak to? What would I say? At this stage I had already been through the mills with the former investor's accountants and lawyer, also I had been promoted for the third time at Ford and was now a launch coordinator for Mondeo; sitting at important meetings, reporting to senior executives, representing my area of the company, I was used to dealing with important people and getting my point across.

I called Selfridges and they expressed an interest in the concept. They asked me to send in a proposal for them to consider. Come on, Result! I had a new lease of life. This was going to be bigger and better than Soho and it was going to be all mine!

The next seven months were packed. Selfridges were interested and were looking for the right space; that could take anything from months to years. I had also called Topshop (Oxford Circus) to pitch my idea. They were unenthusiastic and said they had no space for now but I could call back in a month.

I was undeterred; it was July and I was off to the States for a break, but before I left I sent them the beautifully packaged proposal that had, by this stage, been nearly a year in the making. As soon as I hit Heathrow airport on my return from America , my mobile phone was buzzing with messages from Topshop. We have a space for you now Miss Iwegbu. No way! I couldn't breathe from excitement. This was it. I was going to open my first nail bar in Topshop Oxford Circus!

This time I only needed £25K which I managed to raise through a Business Link loan of £5k, an investor of £5k, a bank loan of £10k and credit card of £5k; most of this money was subject to getting a contract with these stores. I had taken a course in nail technology, sourced all my suppliers, planned my service list and found a shop fit designer.

Nail Haven is born!
The amount of space in Topshop was confirmed, contracts were signed and I handed in my notice at Ford. That was a memorable day. I started recruiting staff. My plan was to get fully trained and experienced nail technicians to do the clients while I ran the business. It was all hard work and there were many sleepless nights panicking about the enormity of what I was doing, but still things moved on and my first salon was opened in Topshop on my 27th birthday, Saturday 4th December 1999. I'll never forget we took £589 that day. Hundreds of women stopped to stare at this new concept. I was overwhelmed with emotion. I couldn't believe I had finally done it. My mum, dad and two younger sisters all came over to support and encourage me. It was a great birthday present.

I was skinny. I hadn't been eating properly; there was just no time for these things. I just about ensured that I still looked presentable to my new team and the store. The shop was open seven days a week, twelve hours a day and I had totally underestimated how hard the work was going to be.

Two weeks in and the first problems started. Some staff were not showing up to work and the excuses were endless. The glamour of opening in the West End had worn off for them and they had realised that it was actually hard work getting through all those customers and maintaining the nail bar. The hours were long and everyday of the week the nail bar had to be manned. I was on site every single day from 8am till 11pm and once found myself by myself all day. That was when I realised that this was it. There was no turning back and I was in the thick of my business. Sleep or no sleep, staff or no staff, I had to keep this ship floating and find a way to solve my problems, fast .

I did and by 2004, after 5 years of blood, sweat, tears and laughs, I had 5 salons and a team of 30.


Nail Haven Birmingham Nail Haven Trafford Nail Haven London Nail Haven Manchester

Nail Haven and Topshop had parted company in 2002 and we were now trading from a shop in Fulham and 4 concessions in Selfridges Oxford Street (2001), Manchester Trafford (2002), Birmingham (2003) and Manchester Exchange Square (2004). Nail Haven had generated revenue of close to £2million ($3.6m) in 4 years with £600k ($1.1m) of it in the 4th year. We had participated in shows like London Fashion Week-End and the Clothes Show Live and had 'serviced' over 80,000 women (very few men, they still haven't gotten their heads around manicured and pedicured nails!).

The Nail Haven nail polish range...I was really proud of my team and salons. We had created a loyal customer base and
had a reputation for doing great nails and using the highest quality products. Things were looking good but still shaky. The costs of running the business coupled with Selfridges' demands for more concessions put a lot of strain on the cash flow. We needed a huge cash injection to catch up with our debts and to take the business to the next stage.

In March 2004 I had started talking to a company in Dubai about investing in Nail Haven. The 3 year plan was to invest in giving the UK salons a facelift, further develop our staff training programs, launch a fully ecommerce enabled website, develop and launch a Nail Haven product range and open two salons in Dubai.

They were very interested but it took quite a while to structure the deal, but finally in July 2005 we shook hands on a $1million investment for 40% of the UK company and a 50:50 split of the soon to be created Dubai company. The paperwork was to be signed in Dubai on the 12th September 2005 and the first cash injection was due on the 30th September. All was going to plan.

Nothing could have prepared me for what happened next.

After four and a half years in Selfridges, on the 2nd September the store decided to terminate my contracts with six months notice.Who moved my cheese!? No way! How could they do this? Now? Why? I was told that they were very sorry but the decision had come from the 'top'. What does that mean for God's sake? Not for one minute had I thought this could possibly happen. We had always hit target, were in constant communication with the store and always felt the relationship was solid; apparently not.

I was a week away from signing the Dubai deal, but this made no difference, they had already made up their minds, and OPI, the American nail brand, were going to take over the 'nail offering' in the store.

Again, I was devastated. I should have been more prepared but I wasn't.

This time there was no time to curl up in a ball under the duvet. This time I am 32 and I have a mortgage. Nail Haven has huge loans to repay that have all been personally guaranteed by me. I have investors. Over the years my parents had invested money into the business. It is my livelihood and my future...

As a result of the lost Selfridges contracts the Dubai investors pulled out. I was left with no choice; there was no way Nail Haven could clear its debts in six months; the company went into administration.

Finding my trainers...
Years ago a good friend of mine gave me a wonderful little book called 'Who moved my cheese?' by Dr S Johnson and K Blanchardamazon It's a story of dealing with change in your work place and in your life; Cheese being a metaphor for what we want to have in life. This book is written in a very light hearted manner, for all ages and takes less than an hour to read. If you don't know it or haven't read it, I highly recommend it to everyone.

After I wallowed in shock, anger, self pity, panic, embarrassment and much more for a few days, I picked up that book again and refreshed my memory. I could either sit around in my empty 'cheese station', analysing, talking, crying and wallowing or I could find my 'trainers', put them on and start looking for new, bigger and better cheese.

I found my trainers.

I realised I have six years of the toughest hands-on business experience! A much (much) better understanding of what works and what doesn't and most importantly what actually has value in business. A six month termination period with a department store, as glamorous as it may sound, has no long term value!

A new business...
I learnt my lessons the hard way! If I had a business mentor when I started Nail Haven I would have done a lot of things differently. What? I would have spent more time being creative, marketing Nail Haven and capitalising on the salons locations and less time and money 'putting out fires'!

Open Your Own Salon... The Right Way!I chose to set up Miss Salon™ to help would-be salon entrepreneurs get it right first time... or at least make less mistakes!

Miss Salon™ offers an affordable handbook that highlights and explains every stage of the salon launch and management process, we also have business tools to help make salon operations easier, as well as provide a hands-on constultancy service.


We have already successfully offered our services to great companies like Superdrug and Crabtree & Evelyn (click to see our testimonials and client list) and look forward to assisting you in your ventures!

Get in touch! Email me at ego@misssalon.com


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