Nail business defies harsh economy

Phyllis Wangui Njuguna
Phyllis Wangui Njuguna of Delish Nail Bar at Bihi Towers. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG 

Not long ago, fancy nails were a preserve of wealthy women. Only a select few salons had manicurists but now hundreds are found in nail parlours across the country, as spending on nails increase despite the harsh economy.

Now manicure is the luxury for everyone — and that includes men and low-income spenders.

This was one of the reasons that Phyllis Njuguna made a decision to leave the corporate world and open Delish Nail Bar, one dull morning in November of 2018.

“It had always been so appealing to me; I figured ‘why not try it? I invested roughly Sh400,000,” she says.

Having expanded her parlour three times in a year and three months later, the 29-year-old says that it is the best decision she has ever made. Her chic and minimalist studio sits on almost half a floor at Nairobi’s Moi Avenue Bihi Towers, which she says she will expand to the entire floor space in the near future.


“The growth has been so exciting. Business has really been good,” she says.

With 17 staff members, 15 of whom are nail technicians; they only do manicure, pedicure, lashes and eyebrows.

In a day, she says, each nail technician sees an average of five clients.

“I do aggressive social media marketing, which is what I attribute my growth to. We also rely on referrals. Our clients come in both by appointment and walk-ins,” Phyllis who has a 22,000 and 3,000 following on Instagram and Facebook respectively says.

Besides the nail salon, she trains manicurists at her Delish Academy and hopes to make her own range of products.

A two-minutes walk from Delish Nail Parlour, I find Fabian Thutu Njukia who practices his nail trade in a neatly organised parlour with pale pink ambience. A year ago, the 32-year-old used to work as a nail technician where he got to understand the market, gain experience and created a name before branching out on his own.

A customer gets her nails done at Fabian Nails

A customer gets her nails done at Fabian Nails. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NMG

“I started with Sh100,000,” he says.

Called ‘The Home of Acrylics’, 90 percent of the services offered at Fabian Nails are acrylics. They also do sculpting, gum-gel, gel polish, manicures and pedicures, procedures he charges Sh800 to Sh4,000.

Just like Phyllis, Fabian attributes the growth of his business to social media marketing and client referrals. He has a following of close to 12,000 on his business socials.

He and his two-member staff see clients on appointment basis.

“I have seen an increase in the number of clients each passing day. On average, we see six clients in a day,” he says.

Fabian Thutu Njukia proprietor of Fabian Nails poses for a picture at his shop

Fabian Thutu Njukia proprietor of Fabian Nails poses for a picture at his shop. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NMG

In future, Fabian hopes to expand and employ more people. Additionally, he wants to open a training school.

Globally, research has shown that the nail care market is growing significantly and it is estimated that 85 to 90 percent of women and 10 to 12 percent of men use nail care products across the world.

Analysts have forecast that the nail care market size is set to reach Sh1.3 billion by 2024 from the current Sh843 million.

On the upper side of town, Steve Mbugua has just moved shop from the city centre. His parlour, Nailtique Enterprises, now occupies a bigger space with nude interiors and a number of portraits for aesthetic.

He too worked as a nail technician in different salons before starting Nailtique in 2017.

A customer admires her nails done by Steve Mbugua

A customer admires her nails done by Steve Mbugua (left) of Nailtique Enterprises at the shop located in Lavington. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NMG

“The nail business has gotten better by the day in terms of growth and service. I’ve also learnt so much more about the skill since going solo two years ago,” says the 30-year-old.

He started Nailtique with about Sh1.5 million.

“I would attribute my growth on my vision, what and where I want to be. I also have clients who have been supportive. My spouse falls into that category,” says Steve who also markets on social to his 11,000 fans.

Steve and his only staff member hardly ever sit to wait for a walk-in clients. That only happens if a person coincidentally walks in when another client has cancelled. Otherwise, all clients are on appointment basis only. In a day, he sees four clients.

He recently started training students at his nail studio.

“In future, I would want to focus solely on training. The nail industry in Kenya is still wanting, and I feel that it would grow if manicurists master the craft. I would also love to have a nail product line,” he says.