Adaptability helped guide this Good Company through stormy pandemic seas to calmer waters.
Li-En Nails & Spa has operated from several locations throughout the Nashville, Tennessee, area in their 25 years of business. Kim Vo grew up in the salon first started by her mother, Lien Mach, and her uncle, Truc Ho. Now with a successful consultancy of her own, Vo attributes much of her present-day business acumen to the wisdom she absorbed from her mother and uncle through the salon.
Among the business’s earliest challenges was that of location, finding just the right spot for their growing needs.
“The initial store was super busy,” Vo said. “We needed to expand the store because there were so many customers packed in there, not enough space, so we moved. Ninety-five percent of the clients are female, and they like to be next to a mall. We needed a location that fits our needs and our space, enough space for employees, enough for clients, but not so big as to be wasteful.”
Inhabiting multiple storefronts over the years, the sibling-run salon has now found a home in suburban Mt. Juliet, in what they believe to be the perfect spot. Kim Vo credited her mother and uncle with an invaluable ability to adjust, not just to the demands of their growing business, but to the ebb and flow of traffic that accompanies changing seasons.
“Every winter, everybody’s stressed,” Vo said. “Every nail salon is stressed. Every. One.”
Decreased pedicure demand through the colder months creates a shortage in the commission-based workforce, she explained.
“It fluctuates by seasons because in the winter there’s less pedicures,” Vo said. “A technician that does only pedicures, they have less of that to do versus a nail tech. They work by commissions. In the winter you face the fact that there’s less pedicures, so those techs like to fly south, to go somewhere warmer.”
With fewer technicians, workflow bottlenecks become inevitable, increasing customer wait times.
“If they leave, the tech will have to move down and work nails and pedicures, so that means the customer will be upset too because there’s less people working, more waiting time,” she said. “More waiting time, less pedicures, less technicians. It’s a domino effect.”
And how did they adapt? Through an increased focus on appointments, according to Vo.
“We like to do more appointments in the winter, so that way we know how many technicians to expect,” she said. “And if there are stragglers that walk in that don’t have an appointment, at least we can predict how long they will be waiting. Basically, we do appointments so it’s easier to keep up with technicians versus clients. And pray! Pray that we survive winter.”
Ultimately managing even to thrive through the winter months, Li-En Nails & Spa then faced the many challenges of the pandemic.
“There were no customers,” Vo said. “Employees were sitting at home because they couldn’t go to work. It’s not like a job that you can work at home. It’s not a remote job. The rent is still due, but there’s no employees, no clients.”
Seasonal swings in business had taught Truc and Lien the value of saving through the lean times, and a PPP loan through Regions helped cover payroll costs.
“They were smart, and they had enough savings to survive for a season with no customers,” Vo said. “Of course, Regions has their savings and checking accounts. We opened back up slowly, having each nail tech have an appointment with one customer per hour and a half. We just had to do everything slowly, getting back into the workforce.”