Advice From the Entrepreneur Who Put the "Man" in Manicure - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine July/August 2018 Issue

Oversized leather chairs, personal flat-screen TVs, dark woods, dim lighting, and sips of whiskey aren’t the first things that usually come to mind when one thinks of a nail salon. But they’re exactly what you’ll find at Hammer and Nails, Los Angeles’s first male nail salon.

“When I first visited a traditional nail salon to treat my callused hands and feet, I felt completely like a fish out of water in a predominantly female environment,” says founder Michael Elliot, the Hollywood screenwriter-turned-entrepreneur who wrote Brown Sugar and Just Wright. “I immediately saw a need for a nail shop that caters to businessmen, athletes, mechanics, and men who take proper care of their appearance and hygiene. We’ve created a first-of-its-kind environment that is welcoming to all men by catering to their specific needs in a super-cool environment.”

The shop, which opened in 2013, doesn’t just meet an unmet need, it taps into a growing market. Beauty and personal care launches targeted specifically at men have increased globally by 70%, and men’s grooming in the U.S. is predicted to achieve $6.1 billion in retail value sales in 2017. Here’s how Elliot reaches his target male audience:

1. We explained the inspiration behind Hammer & Nails in our media efforts so that men would relate to the problem (only female-centric nail salons) and solution (Hammer & Nails, a decidedly male-centric nail shop).

2. We made it known that the person behind Hammer & Nails was a) a man and b) not from the beauty industry. By making it known that the shop was for men, by a man, we communicated the message that it would be an entirely new experience unlike any other nail salon.

3. We understood who our customer was, and who we wanted them to be. Hammer & Nails wasn’t founded just for the men that make nail care part of their grooming regimen. It was designed to appeal to the man that would never enter a traditional nail shop, and we communicated this message through our design, photos of our shop, and community/press relations.

4. We were careful about our language, messaging, and imaging. We wanted to do everything possible to be the “anti-salon,” and we wanted men to know that this would be a unique experience. We avoided feminine colors, décor, and verbiage, such as “getting your nails done.” Additionally, we wanted to reach ALL men, and were careful to use inclusive language that wouldn’t alienate any class, race, sexual orientation, age, etc.

5. Knowing that as many as 40% of our customers would be men that never had a manicure/pedicure and never visited a traditional nail salon, we created aggressive incentives to get these men in our shop to experience what we had to offer. We worked with Groupon and Gilt City to offer discounts to local residents. Additionally, we provided gift cards to celebrities (through gifting suites/bags) and sports radio hosts. We are also active on social media, engaging our male influencers and clients. We understood that many of these first-timers would be patronizing us as the direct result of a gift purchased by their friends or family.

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Alisa Gumbs

Alisa Gumbs is the executive managing editor of BLACK ENTERPRISE, planning and executing content across the company's print, digital, events, and broadcast platforms, and writing features when she finds a story she's passionate about--including the November 2011, December 2010, and September 2006 cover stories.


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