Measures to Take for Your Salon During the Pandemic: an Interview with OPI Educator Leona Vergantino
Dear OPI nail professionals,
For almost 40 years it has been our privilege to partner with each and every one of you, business owners, entrepreneurs, skilled technicians, and nail artists. With COVID-19 affecting so many, we know that times are especially hard at the moment for our salons and nail professionals.
We asked what information we could provide in the current circumstances and you sent through a lot of great requests. In this first blog post, we want to address the most urgent: how do you protect yourselves and your clients in the pandemic, and what does it mean to have to close your salon until the epidemic is over.
We reached out to OPI Educator Leona Vergantino, owner of The Polish Nail Lounge, to understand more about how she kept her salon sanitized during the pandemic, and what it took to close it down when the administration asked her to.
OPI: Hi Leona, thank you for accepting to answer these questions during a week that has clearly been crazy for you. What would you like your fellow OPI professionals to know about you?
LV: Hello, my name is Leona Vergantino and I’m the owner of The Polish Nail Lounge, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We’ve been beautifying nails for the past six years. I have a talented team of 21 members inclusive of nail specialists, salon pilots (coordinators), cosmetologists, estheticians, and assistants. Our team members are all culturally diverse with a drive to give the best service. We are a very dynamic team! I, myself, am lucky to lead them. I’m also a single mom of two: one boy, Ryder, 6 years old, and one girl, Nalani, 14 years old. I’ve been a nail specialist, working on natural nail care, for 16 years. In addition, I’ve been an OPI educator for the past 2+ years. I live and breathe beauty, leadership, and business.
OPI: What does your salon mean to you?
LV: My salon is a blessing to me. I have worked for someone relentlessly for 10 years. I started from the bottom up and saved every dollar I made from that one day so that I could make a change in our industry - to make the best nail salon someone ever experienced. I changed everything I didn’t like about our industry. My salon was created for me to be able to create opportunities for those that were unclear about the direction and for me to be able to be a positive influence in people’s lives. It was created to help people reach their goals in life in a fun, family-oriented, encouraging environment.
OPI: What do you feel when you think about your salon?
LV: I feel fulfilled, passionate, overjoyed, inspired, motivated, and proud.
OPI: What does it feel like to have to close it for the time being?
LV: I am distraught. I feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders. I feel helpless. I’m angry!
OPI: Leona, we are so sorry you are going through this. And in the circumstances, thank you so much for sharing your experience with other nail professionals - it means a lot. Can we ask you what steps you took before closing your salon when COVID-19 emerged (sanitation, employees, communication to customers), and what it took to close the salon down?
LV: At first we conformed to what seemed to be our new norm. We stocked up on hand sanitizer. We reached out to our cleaning supply company (Cintas) to supply us with wall units for sanitizers and sanitation wipes (the same that are used in most gyms). Our salon prides itself on sanitation and cleanliness, but we needed to be on the next level. We created a new protocol. We sanitized clients at the door at check-in, before the service and then after the service. We used sanitation wipes after each service to wipe anything that could have been touched. We continued to autoclave tools as usual. We started serving beverages out of plastic and foam cups, as we could no longer use glass. In addition, we sent an email to our clients to let them know the next measures of precaution that we were taking and what to expect upon entering our establishment. Finally, the government asked us to close and we had to send out our final email to clients informing them of the current status.
OPI: That must have been tough - what does it mean for your business to have to shut down, what revenue are you bringing in normally?
LV: Currently, there is no way for our company to have any type of revenue. We are getting an influx of clients asking if they could purchase gift certificates to support our business so I am currently creating an online purchase option. Our clients are amazing!
OPI: What’s the impact on yourself and your employees?
LV: I have to say that my team is resilient! I have always told them time and time again that no matter how good money gets, always remember to save. Most of my team members are eligible for unemployment. I am very optimistic about our future!
OPI: What steps are you taking to address the possible financial gap – what would you recommend other salon owners do at this time?
LV: I applied for the SBA disaster loan. For all small business owners in the nail community, this is the link to a website with additional information: https://www.nortonrosefulbright.com
I have also developed a marketing team, which consists of my current salon coordinator (a recent Drexel University graduate with a degree in marketing), our client that works in the field of digital marketing (barter services), and my youngest brother ( a graduate of Temple University that does direct marketing for T-Mobile/metro pcs). We are going to amp up marketing and education to stay relevant. We are going to have a maximum online engagement at this time and we are going to get all the attention we can get. We will be starting a YouTube page, blog, and amp up all of our communications. The recommendation I would make is to stay relevant at this time. Allow clients to keep seeing your logo, your name, anything pertaining to your business. Start going through your papers, review your books (financial), unsubscribe to subscriptions, take online classes to better your leadership and business skills, stay engaged with your team (very important), check on them and their families, etc. I would also call all credit card companies and mortgage companies to defer payments.
OPI: What do you think this means for the nail industry as a whole?
LV: There are going to be some businesses that will not survive this. We need to develop a way to become an essential business. We need to really find a way that we can survive a disaster like this while being able to support our team. Our industry will continue to grow once we get past this.
OPI: What do you plan to do when you reopen your salon?
LV: We are going to stay in constant communication with our clients throughout this quarantine. Due to the fact that a majority of our clients are medical personnel, we are going to offer an amazing thank you discount for them! As far as the psychology of people goes, I think we all want normality to go back to what we are used to.
OPI: Is there anything a brand like OPI can do to support you at this time?
LV: By making us relevant! By posting stories like this! By giving us a platform to voice our opinions and suggestions! Thank you!
OPI: No, thank YOU. And we will do absolutely everything we can to spotlight our amazing pros during the quarantine. Leona, any last things would you like to tell your peers whose salons are closing at this time?
LV: Create new content, work on your salon expansion, continue to stay in the loop with your team and keep them motivated, work on your business financials, develop an amazing marketing plan and content! And of course, always work on perfecting your craft!
To brush up your knowledge on salon sanitation, check out our Service Education for proper sanitation techniques below.
You can also get pro tips on keeping your work area clean.
With news about this pandemic constantly updating, we encourage you to stay healthy and do what is best for you and the health of the community. Social distancing does not necessarily mean social separation, stay close to us: don’t hesitate to ask questions and share advice or tips on @OPI_Professionals head to our OPI Pro YouTube channel for inspiration, and visit us online to review OPI protocol or try nail art techniques at www.opi.com/opi-professionals.
We are here for you.