From lousy to luxury: why customer service matters

When her experience at a beauty salon didn’t match up to her idea of luxury, Cecilia Downer decided to set up on her own, with a little help from a ‘baby boss’. We chatted to her to see how she did it.

24 April 2019

Hi Cecilia, thanks for talking with us today. First, tell us about Nails and Cocktails.

We’re a nail and beauty salon, we’ve just opened our first branch a year ago – hopefully the first of many. I like to call it a boutique experience.

What did you do before that?

I was in operations management for a few years. My best friend and I always wanted to open something. Originally we dreamed of a spa, but we decided to start a bit smaller.

DSC 2310-43 (1)Cecilia outside her salon, Nails and Cocktails, in Chingford

How did you set your business up?

In 2016, it was my daughter’s 16th birthday, and she asked, “Mum, can I get my nails done?”. Eventually I conceded, and I went with her afterwards because I liked how it looked. We went to a salon, and I was really unhappy with the service.

I was sitting there, thinking “Imagine being able to do this with alcohol on a night out”, as a way to relax. “Why don’t we just do it for ourselves?”. We set up an Instagram, and we started to get followers. They asked us “When are you going to open”, “When can I get an appointment?”

We knew that we had to start up. I started looking at properties and a week later we had the keys.

What’s the best bit about running your business?

The best part is being allowed to have full control of all things creative. Being able to be as creative as we want to be, I tell my staff that they have no limits. It’s just freedom.

What's the hardest part about running a salon like yours?

We have a lot of staff turnover. Finding the right staff is crucial, especially in an intimate environment like a salon. I want our customers to come in and be able to talk to us about anything. That's the kind of experience I expect to receive.

DSC 2196-1 (1) (1)Cecilia prides herself in her customer service

Is your daughter involved in the business, being the inspiration for it all?

We call her the apprentice, the baby boss in training. We’re keeping it in the family and she’s learning all the beauty techniques. We hope that when the empire has grown, we’ll have her driving up between all our locations and managing them.

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Vic Gawlik writes articles, tweets and the 9 to when? newsletter. 9 to when? brings news and views from the world of small business straight to your inbox.

Article updated on: 16 October 2020

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