Creating a More Inclusive and Diverse Client Base and Studio Space

Community means everything to us at HONA. We wouldn't be where we are today without our HONA Squad. Which is why we wanted to create a blog post which combines two passions of ours, helping your businesses to thrive and encouraging a dialogue on inclusivity and diversity in the nail industry.

Join us in welcoming the enlightening contributions of two remarkable HONA nail techs, Carys Munro and Elsie Tate.

In their blog post, Carys and Elsie delve into the vital topic of "Creating a More Inclusive and Diverse Client Base and Studio Space." Their journey into this subject is driven by their profound commitment to making the nail industry a more welcoming and equitable place for everyone.

As advocates for change and inclusivity, Carys and Elsie's blog is a testament to our shared vision of a nail community that celebrates diversity, empowers all individuals, and embraces the beauty of unique perspectives.

The Authors

Creating a More Inclusive and Diverse Client Base and Studio Space”

Written by Carys Munro and Elsie Tate

This blog is a collection of insights and ideas drawn from a diverse range of experiences, incorporating suggestions from clients and other technicians while spotlighting businesses that are examples of inclusive practices.

Its purpose is to provide guidance on improving inclusivity while also recognising the challenges, and acknowledging that achieving 100% perfection every time is impractical in an imperfect world! Despite this, we hope that this blog encourages you to make those efforts to include as many people as possible in your gorgeous nail communities.

In your opinion, what are some common challenges or barriers that clients and nail techs from diverse backgrounds face in the industry?

The beauty industry, particularly in the realm of nail technicians, grapples with many barriers and challenges related to inclusivity and representation. This can be seen in the lingering of prominent stereotypes. Though there exist many subcultures within the industry, the default image associated with 'Nail Techs’ is often the stereotype of a blonde, cis-het* white woman, who may have left school without qualifications. Similarly, detrimental stereotypes persist for Asian techs, unfairly implying a lack of understanding and a tendency towards providing subpar service for a lower price.

*Cis-het is an abbreviation of Cisgender Heterosexual. Cisgender is a term used to describe someone who identifies as the gender they were assigned at birth. Whilst Heterosexual refers to individuals who are attracted to people of the opposite gender.

Additionally, the accessibility to comprehensive training within the nail technician industry remains a large obstacle. Aspiring nail technicians frequently encounter financial barriers that impede their ability to access thorough and reputable training programs; which limits the pool of skilled professionals.

In addition to these financial challenges, the industry grapples with internal dynamics marked by intense rivalry. This competition goes beyond healthy market competition and sometimes involves gatekeeping* within the community.

*Gatekeeping refers to the practice of regulating or controlling access to a particular community, identity, knowledge, or resource. It often involves individuals or groups asserting authority to determine who is allowed to belong to or participate in a group or community.

Gatekeeping behaviour can hinder the sharing of knowledge, opportunities, and resources among professionals, creating barriers for those seeking entry or advancement in the field.

Moreover, the industry faces persistent challenges related to the recognition of diverse skill sets. Despite the array of talents within the community, certain skills may be undervalued or overlooked, impacting both individual career progression and the overall elevation of the field. Addressing these issues is pivotal for fostering a more inclusive, supportive, and thriving environment within the nail technician industry.

From a client’s perspective, frustrations often stem from the oversight of nail technicians who may not fully recognise the importance of catering to a diverse clientele. Simple yet impactful measures, such as clearly communicating the accessibility of the space and offering a confidential platform for clients to disclose their accessibility needs before appointments, can significantly enhance the overall experience. Furthermore, providing a variety of nude shades of builder gels that span a range of skin tones is crucial in fostering an inclusive environment within salons. These seemingly small adjustments contribute to creating a safe and welcoming space for clients from all backgrounds.

On the flip side, as a nail technician, collaboration with brands becomes instrumental in addressing this issue. Brands play a pivotal role in promoting inclusivity by ensuring a broad spectrum of nude options and accompanying these with examples displayed on diverse skin tones on both the website and marketing materials. This proactive approach not only aligns with the industry’s commitment to diversity but also empowers nail technicians to meet the varied and unique preferences of their clientele, ultimately elevating the overall standard of service.

What proactive steps can nail techs take to ensure their salon is a safe and welcoming space for clients of all backgrounds?

No one should feel out of place or like an inconvenience when they walk through the door.

Creating a welcoming space for a diverse clientele involves proactive steps, such as targeted advertising and thoughtful consideration of accessibility factors. This includes addressing variables like the type of client chair, bathroom accessibility, room setup, and lighting. Not all disabilities are visible, Offering a variety of nude options for different skin tones and implementing inclusive policies, further contributes to a comfortable atmosphere. Advertising efforts should highlight inclusivity, showcasing diverse work on various hands to ensure representation for all clients, including those with unique features like disfigured fingers or clubbed thumbs. While it seems almost obvious to say, it means people will see these posts and think “Hey that looks like me, I can still get my nails done and it looks great!”

Recognising the individual needs of clients, especially considering factors like age, mobility issues and disabilities (including those which aren’t visible!), is key to fostering an environment where everyone feels valued and comfortable.

Salon spotlight: Cult Salon (@thecultsalon in Penarth) embodies a serene, sustainable, vegan, and gender-neutral space. Specialising in colour, curly hair, and stunning nail art, they prioritise inclusivity and accessibility with comprehensive policies.

How can nail techs effectively communicate their commitment to diversity and inclusion to clients and the wider community?

Ensuring sincerity and consistency in your commitment to inclusivity is the most important thing. Avoid performative gestures and make a continuous, conscious effort to celebrate the diversity within your studio and client base.

Some great ways of showing this are showcasing the accessibility and comfort of your studio space, clearly advertising accommodations like silent appointments for neurodivergent clients, and sharing diverse hands on social media platforms.

Particularly for individuals of majority groups within the nail community, such as white and cis-het individuals, there is a heightened need to actively share content that represents diverse perspectives. This conscious effort counters default representation and contributes to a more inclusive environment.

We would also highlight the importance of featuring diverse content in the studio, even when unrelated to nails. It's not about being political but rather fostering inclusivity and non-discrimination. Human rights issues, such as Black Lives Matter, the Gaza conflict, and LGBTQIA+ rights, are emphasised as matters of human rights, not politics.

In terms of outreach and community work, we advocate for practical actions that genuinely benefit the community, avoiding the pitfalls of a "white saviour*" mentality. The emphasis is on meaningful contributions that include marginalised groups, steering away from performative measures and embodying a sincere commitment to inclusivity.

*White Saviourism refers to the belief that white individuals have a duty or responsibility to rescue, aid, educate, and shield people of other races or ethnicities, appointing themselves as 'heroes'. Genuine solidarity and allyship requires listening to and amplifying the voices of marginalised communities, supporting their leadership and agency, and working collaboratively to address systemic inequalities and injustices. Rather than taking over.

Artist spotlight: That’s Handy (@thats.handy in Cardiff) amplifies the voices of marginalised communities through Instagram posts and stories, while simultaneously providing a continuous source of nail inspiration. Lou, the owner, is dedicated to sharing information that fosters inclusion, building a community known for its safety and supportiveness.

Are there any best practices for addressing and preventing bias or discrimination in the salon, both from clients and within the team?

For larger businesses or companies, prioritise investing in diversity and inclusivity training, particularly addressing unconscious biases among white cis-het individuals. Ensure diversity within your core team, or conduct regular check-ins with a diverse clientele, providing them a space and a voice for meaningful input without tokenisation*. Hold both individuals and the company accountable for mistakes – as errors are inevitable, it's the handling of a situation that resonates with people and potential clients.

*Tokenism refers to the practice of making symbolic gestures or superficial efforts toward inclusivity or diversity without addressing underlying issues of systemic discrimination or inequality. 

Tokenisation of diverse team members and clientele is to be absolutely avoided. Focus on creating an inclusive environment where diverse and underrepresented team members are valued and uplifted for their contributions and their talents, without feeling singled out.

We’d encourage everyone to consistently challenge unconscious biases, and maintain a zero-tolerance policy towards the Protected Characteristics* outlined in the Equality Act 2010; both for your team and clients.

*Protected Characteristics include, age, disabilities, gender identity, sex, marital status, pregnancy or maternity, race, religion or sexual orientation.

Can you share some strategies for attracting and retaining a diverse clientele in the nail industry?

1. Inclusive Marketing: Using inclusive imagery and messaging in your marketing materials will help to show that your nail services are welcoming to clients of all backgrounds, skin tones, and nail types.

2. Diverse Service Offerings: Offer a variety of nail services that cater to different styles, preferences, and cultural influences. This could include a diverse range of nail art options, nail shapes, and products suitable for different nail types.
This can also include diversifying from traditional ’salon’ treatments to include barbering and hairdressing, piercings and tattoos increasing the footfall and the diversity of clients walking through the door.

Studio spotlight: Keep the Faith (@keepthefaithsc in Cardiff) Studio is presented as a Self Care Studio, they provide a range of services including tattoos, nails, and hair. The studio fosters inclusivity through the space and its employees, creating a welcoming space for a diverse clientele, irrespective of gender, sexuality, age, race, or expression.

3. Cultural Competency Training: Implementing Cultural Competency Training is a key step in fostering an inclusive and understanding workplace. This training should encompass comprehensive education for employees to not only recognise but also effectively cater to the distinct needs and preferences of clients from diverse cultural backgrounds. It goes beyond surface-level awareness, delving into the intricacies of cultural nuances, communication styles, and practices that may impact client interactions. By investing in such training, organisations equip their employees with the necessary skills to navigate cultural diversity sensitively and respectfully, creating an environment where clients feel valued and well-served, regardless of their cultural affiliations.

4. Representation: Demonstrating the versatility and inclusivity of your salon is key to attracting a broad clientele. As well as diversifying nail designs and styles incorporate a diverse range of hands within your portfolio and social media content. By showcasing this variety, you communicate that your salon is adept at catering to clients with a spectrum of preferences and diverse backgrounds. This not only highlights your creativity and skill but also assures potential clients that they can find representation and resonance in the showcased designs. Featuring diverse nail types reinforces your commitment to providing an inclusive space where every client can find a style that resonates with their individual taste and identity.

5. Community Engagement: Demonstrating your commitment to serving a diverse clientele involves actively participating in events, forming partnerships, and engaging in collaborations with various communities. These efforts not only showcase your dedication but also establish a meaningful connection with a broad range of clients and social media followers.

6. Client Feedback and Communication: Consistently seek feedback from clients to understand their needs and preferences, utilising this information to customise services for a diverse clientele. Additionally, maintain open communication with specific client groups to guarantee their comfort, ensuring that efforts to enhance accessibility are both thoughtful and effective.

How can nail techs actively engage with and support local communities to promote diversity and inclusivity in their salons?

Wholeheartedly embracing diversity within a salon environment not only encourages an inclusive atmosphere but also becomes a catalyst for discovering new trends, styles, and techniques. The exposure to a diverse clientele brings a wealth of inspiration, nurturing creativity and fostering innovation and this commitment to diversity, in turn, sets the salon apart from its competitors.

The benefits extend beyond the salon's creative landscape. A more inclusive salon has the potential to actively engage with a broader community, contributing to a positive social impact and cultivating goodwill among both existing clients and potential customers.

The commitment to diversity and inclusivity can also enhance the salon's reputation!

Clients feel valued and respected when they see themselves represented and their needs met within the salon environment. This can lead to increased customer loyalty and repeat business. Satisfied clients from diverse backgrounds are more likely to recommend the salon to friends and family. Positive word-of-mouth marketing significantly contributes to the success of a salon or nail technician.

Collaborating with organisations or individuals dedicated to marginalised groups amplifies this impact by raising awareness of the salon's services and simultaneously supporting other businesses. A noteworthy instance is Keep the Faith and their collaboration with The Queer Emporium (Both located in Royal Arcade, Cardiff). This partnership not only showcased the salon's commitment to inclusivity but also provided free and discounted services for a range of groups, demonstrating a proactive approach to supporting specific communities within the broader society.
Maya Angelou Quote

What makes a nail tech community a safe space for you?

Within the community, diversity thrives alongside a robust support system. The interconnected spaces within these communities play a pivotal role in supporting and uplifting one another. Specifically, we’ve discovered a profound strength within the self-employed nail artist community, where mutual reliance becomes incredibly important. The joy of sharing knowledge and experiences is evident in our vast community, enriched by various educational sources. A couple of personal favourites include the insightful podcast from Clawgasmic and the wisdom shared by Asia Tha Bird.

These spaces not only serve as platforms for uplifting and sharing ideas but also foster a positive mindset. Engaging with podcasts featuring advice from fellow technicians becomes a source of continuous inspiration. An essential aspect is avoiding the trap of comparison and, instead, embracing the role of inspiration drawn from others within the community. This dynamic interplay of diversity, support, and a positive mindset creates an enriching environment where knowledge and creativity flourish.

What advice would you give to nail techs who want to be advocates for diversity and inclusion in the beauty industry?

Ask your clients what can be done to make the experience more inclusive for them. Sometimes we don’t even realise that something could be changed to support them. Encouraging open communication with your clients by actively seeking their input will enhance inclusivity during their experience. Sometimes, small changes can make a significant impact, and clients may offer valuable insights into aspects that could be adjusted to better support them. Creating a space for this dialogue demonstrates a commitment to understanding and meeting the unique needs of each individual.

Don’t overthink it. Good people don’t need to tell everyone they’re good. True goodness is evident through actions and the positive impact created, allowing authenticity to speak louder than words.
Verna Myers

What steps can the nail community take to promote and educate for a more inclusive and welcoming environment?

1. Representation: Ensure that people from all backgrounds and demographics are represented in marketing materials, social media, and in the professional nail industry. This can help create a sense of inclusivity and show that the industry is welcoming to all.

2. Education and Training: Offer training and educational resources on inclusive practices, such as providing services for individuals with different nail types, textures, and skin tones. This can help nail technicians to be better prepared to serve a diverse range of clients. Not one size fits all

3. Open Dialogue: Create opportunities for open discussions about diversity and inclusivity within the nail community. This can be through events, forums, or social media platforms where people can share their experiences and perspectives.

4. Collaborations: Encourage collaborations with individuals from diverse backgrounds, including nail artists, influencers, and professionals, to showcase different styles and perspectives within the community - “Diversity is being asked to the party, Inclusion is being asked to dance” Verna Myers

5. Policy and Community Guidelines: Establish clear policies and community guidelines that promote inclusivity and diversity, and ensure that they are enforced within the community.

6. Accessibility: Work to make nail services and products more accessible to individuals from different socioeconomic backgrounds, abilities, and locations.


Names to Highlight:

@clawgasmic - Chantelle Vermont, founder of Clawgasmic, wears multiple hats as an educator, content creator, nail technician, and podcast host. Through her podcast, Nail Tech Talks, she consistently releases episodes aimed at helping, educating, and inspiring her audience.

@asiathabird - Asia Bloodworth, also known as Asia Tha Bird, is an artist recognised for her digital illustrations and nail art. As the host of the YouTube channel ASIATHABIRD, she goes beyond art and design, presenting a talk show titled Nails and Beauty Talk. Covering diverse topics such as beauty, art, and the impact of black women on the nail industry, Asia engages her audience with a wide range of insightful content.

@Lilitaylornails - Lili Taylor, (pronounced Lee-Lee) is a non-binary artist based in Melbourne, owns a salon that prioritises safety and inclusivity for everyone. Through informative posts, Lili documents personal experiences, shedding light on diversity within the nail industry.

@Nini’s_nail_Space - Located in the heart of Portrush, Northern Ireland, is a LGBTQIA+ luxury nail salon. Proudly embracing diversity, they use hypoallergenic, Hema-free products to protect natural nails. This salon goes beyond aesthetics by offering free simple nail art for low-income individuals, students, people of colour, and the LGBTQIA community.