Starting a nail salon is an exciting venture, filled with opportunities to flex your creativity and build a loyal client base. But before you can immerse yourself in the world of manicures, pedicures, and nail art, you’ll need to make sure you have the necessary permits and licenses to operate legally

Having the right permits not only helps you avoid hefty fines and potential legal issues; it also assures your clients that they’re in professional, compliant hands. So, which permits do you need to open a nail salon?

State-issued cosmetology license

Most states require nail salon owners and technicians to have a cosmetology or nail technician license. This licensing is essential for two primary reasons. First, it ensures that nail technicians have undergone the necessary training to provide safe, quality services. Second, it ensures that the technician is aware of hygiene and sanitation practices critical for a salon environment.

To obtain this license, you usually need to complete a state-approved training program and pass both a written and practical examination.

Example: In New York, nail technicians must be licensed by the New York State Department of State Division of Licensing Services. The process includes completing a nail specialty course and passing a licensing examination.

General Business License

A business license legitimizes your nail salon as a formal entity, whether it’s a sole proprietorship, partnership, or LLC. This license allows you to conduct business within your city or county legally. You’ll typically need to provide details about your business, including its location, nature, and, in some cases, projected revenues. Renewing this license annually is often required.

Example: In Los Angeles, you would apply for a business license through the Office of Finance. This process involves submitting a business tax application and paying any required fees.

Employee Identification Number (EIN)

If you plan to hire employees, you’ll need an EIN from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This number is crucial for tax purposes and allows you to hire, pay salaries, and provide benefits to your employees. Even if you don’t hire immediately, having an EIN can also be beneficial for other business aspects, such as opening a business bank account.

Example: If you’re hiring employees at your salon in Texas, you would apply for an EIN through the IRS website. This number is used for tax filing and reporting purposes.

Health and safety permits

Given the nature of the services provided in a nail salon, states may require you to adhere to specific health and sanitation standards. This might involve periodic inspections to ensure the cleanliness of your premises and the tools used. The requirements can vary, but they typically include ensuring proper ventilation, safe storage of chemicals, and maintaining sanitation protocols.

Example: In Florida, the Department of Health requires nail salons to pass a sanitation and safety inspection to receive a health permit, ensuring compliance with state sanitation standards.

Signage permit

If you wish to put up a sign advertising your nail salon, you might need a signage permit. Local jurisdictions usually have restrictions on the size, location, and illumination of business signs. Always check local regulations before commissioning or putting up a sign.

Example: In Seattle, to install a sign outside your nail salon, you would need to apply for a signage permit from the Department of Planning and Development, while adhering to local zoning and design guidelines.

Special state-related permits

In some states, nail salons might need additional permits, especially if they offer services beyond nail care, like massages or facials. For instance, if you play music in your salon, you might need a music license. Always review the specific requirements of your state or consult with a business advisor or attorney familiar with local regulations.

Example: If your salon in California offers massage services, you might need a massage therapy establishment license from the local city or county, and therapists must be certified by the California Massage Therapy Council.

Permits and licenses are one piece of the puzzle

While permits and licenses are foundational for legally operating a nail salon, the real magic of business success lies in the steps you take beyond this basic framework. 

Launching a flourishing nail salon isn’t just about nails and polish; it’s about fostering a thriving business ecosystem that offers exceptional value and quality to your clients. Alongside the proper permits, you’ll need to focus on the following steps:

Create a business plan

Mapping out your business’s trajectory is crucial. To truly blossom, you’ll need a comprehensive business plan that includes a cost analysis, target market description, break-even analysis, a plan for staffing and training, and a pricing structure for your products and services—at a minimum. Your business plan should be your roadmap. When challenges arise, it will help steer you back on course.

Get business insurance

Insurance isn’t just about ticking a regulatory box; it’s about safeguarding your investment and your customers’ trust. You’ll need to consider a variety of insurance types, including property insurance, liability insurance, workers’ compensation, and more. By investing in comprehensive insurance, you fortify your business against unforeseen events.

Set up accounting

Sound financial management is the backbone of any successful venture. You don’t need to be a financial genius to get your salon business off the ground; however, you do need a bedrock foundation of financial stability, transparency, and traceability. Use a trusted accounting software or hire a CPA to keep your finances in check on the back end. On the front end, establish a robust system for processing payments to ensure smooth transactions for your clients.

Establish a presence

For competitive businesses like nail salons, remember that your online footprint can make or break your business. Establishing a strong brand will help set you apart and define your nail salon in the local market. Apply branding to your physical marketing materials, as well as your online presence—including your social media pages and your website. Do everything you can to make your nail salon a household name among your local customers. 

Don’t forget to find the right banking partner

Venturing into the nail salon business is a journey filled with challenges and rewards. While the process might seem intricate, each step you take ensures that your foundation is robust. While you focus on the permits you need to open a nail salon, your financial partner will help you put your finances on autopilot. 

With NorthOne at your side, you can streamline financial management and get your business started off on the right foot.