How to Start a Nail Supply Business in 14 Steps (In-Depth Guide)

Updated: March 21, 2024 is reader-supported. When you buy through links on my site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

The nail industry is booming. The nail salon industry is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.2% from 2022 to 2030. As the market continues to expand, it could reach $30.08 billion by 2030.


Starting a niche online beauty supply store or wholesale distribution business catering to this fast-growing industry can be an exciting entrepreneurial opportunity. Nail salons use a variety of supplies like polishes, gels, tools, and decorations to serve clients.

This guide will walk you through how to start a nail supply business. Topics include market research, competitive analysis, registering an EIN, obtaining business insurance, forming a legal business entity, and more.

1. Conduct Nail Supply Market Research

Market research is essential for starting a beauty supply store. It offers insight into your target market to create a solid business plan. It also provides details on trends in the nail business industry and what you need to do to provide exceptional customer service to your clients in an online store or brick-and-mortar nail services.


When researching this market, analyze both the end-users (nail techs) as well as salon owners. Technicians drive much of the individual purchasing, buying supplies they enjoy working with. However, salon owners make bulk orders to equip their entire staff.

Start by examining industry publications to gauge bestselling items and top brands. Magazines like NAILS Magazine provide yearly press on popular products among nail technicians. Google Trends also indicates rising searches around service types like dip powder nails and gel polish, pointing to growth.

Study techniques and trends by region as well. For example, acrylics and intricate nail art remain most popular in the South and Midwest. Knowledge of regional preferences allows you to tailor inventory and marketing.

Analyze how professionals source supplies today. Trade organizations like the Professional Beauty Association survey members annually on buying habits. These offer insight into how existing distributors meet (or fail to meet) demand.

Other key data points include:

  • Pricing trends on bestselling nail products and average markup rates
  • Profit margins in wholesale distribution versus e-commerce channels
  • Licensing requirements in major metro areas
  • Popular venues technicians use to discover new product launches

Conducting comprehensive research gives clarity on where opportunities exist and how to best position against current nail supply providers. Track down both hard numerical data and social listening feedback across niche forums and groups.

2. Analyze the Competition

Understanding competing beauty supply businesses is crucial when entering the nail supply space. With passionate nail techs and salon owners supporting brands they connect with, gaining loyal customers requires displacing existing emotional attachments.


Start by using tools like ZoomInfo to identify major players selling nationally, both online and via traditional wholesale distribution. Analyze their product selection, pricing models, and marketing messaging. This gives insight into areas where they are over or underserving customer needs.

Search industry hashtags on social platforms to find influencers reviewing products. Monitor engagement and sentiment across posts to recognize beloved brands. Technicians heavily factor trusted recommendations into buying decisions.

Factor both positive and negative commentary into your strategy. If certain companies receive repeated complaints about shipping delays or damaged items, you can emphasize superior customer service.

Run keyword searches related to niche supplies like acrylic powder, gel polish, etc. Grouping results by region shows geographic demand patterns and opportunities. A Google Ads Keyword Planner helps too for local volume estimates.

For online competitors specifically, use Alexa Rank to evaluate their web traffic as a proxy for sales. Install SimilarWeb to view their top referral channels aiding growth. This type of competitive analysis leads to a successful nail business.

3. Costs to Start a Nail Supply Business

When budgeting to open a nail supply company, numerous expenses arise across inventory, facility, legal, and personnel needs. Carefully projecting these costs ensures adequate business growth in the beauty industry.

Startup Costs

Research indicates most small wholesalers need between $10,000 to $100,000 to open, depending on distribution format and location. Budget appropriately based on your strategy.

  • Legal Formation & Licensing – Forming an LLC costs roughly $500 when considering paperwork and state fees. Some metro areas also require wholesale or distribution licensing adding up to $300 annually.
  • Inventory – Opening inventory ranges dramatically based on variety and order volumes. For example, a lean online shop may launch with $3,000 in nail polish and gel kits. A large-scale distribution house furnishing multiple salons could require $30,000+ in acetone, acrylics, etc.
  • Office Equipment – Outfitting an office or warehouse to manage inventory/orders needs a computer ($1,500), label maker ($200), and printing supplies ($300 initially, $100 monthly) at minimum.
  • Shop Setup – Those running a physical storefront have additional buildout, decor, and furniture expenses averaging $15,000. However, many online or mobile distribution models bypass this cost.
  • Vehicle – A box truck or van allows business-to-business delivery and product pickups, ranging from $25,000 to $40,000. Operation costs like insurance and maintenance add up to $500 monthly.
  • Initial Marketing – $2,000 covers launch promotions like salon mailers, social media campaigns, and nail tech convention sponsorship packages. This generates early brand awareness.
  • Additional Personnel (optional) – Staffing administrative roles pre-launch averages $45,000 in first-year salary and benefits. Many handle order/account management alone initially and expand later.

Ongoing Costs

Once open, be prepared for recurring monthly costs like:

  • Rent – Industrial warehouse spaces average $1 to $1.50 per square foot monthly. A 1,500 square 1,500-square-foot unit equals $1,500 to $2,250 monthly. Commercial real estate generally requires long 3-5-year leases as well.
  • Inventory Replenishment – As you sell through opening inventory, continue sourcing quality supplies in demand. Reinvest 30% to 50% of revenue into new stock continuously. Popular items require an increased reorder budget.
  • Utilities – Electric, gas, water, and trash pickup average $750 monthly for a small warehouse. Double for more spacious units with extensive lighting and ventilation needs.
  • Auto Expenses – For delivery vehicles, allot $300 monthly for fuel, $100 for maintenance, and $150 insurance payments on top of original financing.

Set aside 20% of profits annually for unexpected repairs like broken equipment or events like attending key industry trade shows. These marketing opportunities build strategic relationships with emerging brands and buyer groups.

4. Form a Legal Business Entity

When launching a nail supply distribution business, the legal structure carrying the least personal risk is an LLC (Limited Liability Company). There are four types of business formations to choose from. Let’s break them down here.

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship constitutes the simplest and most affordable option, requiring only a DBA (Doing Business As) filing. However, the owner assumes full responsibility for debts and legal liabilities. Their home, retirement savings, and other assets get leveraged to satisfy company obligations.


Forming a partnership splits liability exposure across two or more founders. However unless meticulously outlined via legal partnership agreements, financial entanglements may still arise. For example, one partner’s business loan default could lead creditors to pursue the assets of all.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

Establishing an LLC necessitates more legwork and filings but provides the best shielding for personal assets. Only the capital invested into the business gets leveraged for financial judgments. An LLC status also lends credibility with wholesale suppliers more apt to extend favorable credit terms.


Formal corporations require the most administrative paperwork, legal compliance, and double taxation. First corporate profits face taxation then shareholders pay income taxes on distributed dividends. An exception known as a C-Corp simplifies by avoiding double taxation but still necessitates extensive filings.

5. Register Your Business For Taxes

While forming your LLC, the next essential step is obtaining an EIN (Employer Identification Number) directly through the IRS. Think of your EIN as the business equivalent of your social security number.

An EIN establishes your company identity in the eyes of tax authorities and vendors. This ID number gets used on state registrations, permits, contracts, and other legal documents underscoring legitimacy.

Thankfully applying takes under 10 minutes via the IRS EIN Assistant. You simply designate your LLC and provide basic contact details, ownership structure, and reason for requesting the number.

Once submitted, your EIN gets issued immediately. Make sure to print documentation for safe record keeping. This also comes in handy when completing your state and local licensing.

Following your EIN, contact your state revenue office to apply for a seller’s permit. Even if selling wholesale initially, someday direct orders come requiring sales tax calculations. Each state has different guidelines so research obligations in your region. Some key requirements:

  • Obtain a permit before collecting any sales tax or making taxable goods available for in-state purchase
  • Report sales tax revenue monthly or quarterly (varies by state)
  • Keep detailed transaction reports backing figures in the event of an audit

Carefully tracking tax rules prevents penalties down the road as operations evolve. While intimidating, licensing equips your business to operate fully above board while commanding legitimacy with customers. Most states only charge minor administrative fees around $20 that support local infrastructure.

With the proper small business classifications in place, you eliminate substantial risk off the bat. Protect your personal assets and hard work while also underscoring credibility with important governing bodies.

6. Setup Your Accounting

Proper financial record-keeping makes or breaks fledgling founders. Fuzzy accounting gives limited visibility into profitability and exposes you to painful IRS penalties down the road. Invest early in the organization for long-term efficiency.

Open a Business Bank Account

Start by separating all business finances into dedicated accounts. This demarcates personal and company funds clearly when legally required. Open a free small business checking account to use exclusively for inventory purchases, vendor payments, and sales deposits.

Accounting Software

QuickBooks earns widespread praise as the gold standard small business accounting software. The user-friendly interface fully automates categorizing income and expenses flowing through your chosen bank account.

Hire an Accountant

Consider hiring a dedicated accountant, especially if scaling inventory exponentially early on. Expect to invest around $300 monthly for bookkeeping and reconciliation assistance ensuring entries comply with regulations. This gives helpful visibility into money actually in the bank versus owed from outstanding client payments.

Apply for a Business Credit Card

A business credit card also smoothly tracks expenditures separate from personal plastic. Cards for new entities depend on your credit until building a company payment history. Expect starter limits between $500 to $2,000 for the first year. Handle repayments responsibly to qualify for larger lines of credit.

7. Obtain Licenses and Permits

Entrepreneurs overwhelmingly underestimate license and permit requirements to operate legally. Find federal license information through the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBA also offers a local search tool for state and city requirements.

If sourcing chemicals like acetones, glues, and acrylic powders from manufacturers, secure special licensing confirming proper handling procedures. Different goods trigger varying qualifications centered on risk level and local ordinances.

You must also pass written Responsible Distribution Processes (RDP) courses and continuing education around safely managing restricted ingredients. Fees range from $300 to $1,000 every 2 years for testing.

Operating commercial vehicles like box trucks requires obtaining a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) for anyone driving a rig with a Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) exceeding 26,000 lbs. You must document your ability to properly operate heavier equipment via skills tests.

Register transport vehicles locally to legally haul loads in specific jurisdictions. For example, New York City issues concrete permits allowing deliveries curbside rather than requiring unloading strictly from the alley.

8. Get Business Insurance

Business insurance defends against financial catastrophe when the unthinkable strikes. For wholesale chemical supply, coverage provides an essential safety net given inventory hazards. Protect your livelihood against accidents, natural disasters, and liability claims.

For example, imagine a small electrical fire breaks out and smoke damages your entire warehouse. Without insurance, replacing coveted name-brand acetones and gel polish collections could exceed $100,000 out-of-pocket. This kind of instant inventory loss often sterilizes unprotected startups.

Additionally, freak weather incidents like floods from a bad storm could destroy irreplaceable shipments. Again, lacking coverage traps you with devastating replacement costs.

Alternatively, a gel polish ingredient mix-up resulting in customer allergic reactions opens the doors for expensive negligence lawsuits. Out-of-pocket legal fees and settlements drain resources fast.

Rather than roll the dice, follow a strategic pathway to prudent protection:

  1. Inventory current assets and estimate rebuilding costs using an online calculator
  2. Research industry-specific recommendations from leading commercial carriers like The Hartford to set coverage baselines
  3. Access online quotes from multiple A-rated providers via independent insurance agents found through Insure on and Trusted Choice
  4. Review plans side-by-side and enroll with ideal provider backing continuity even in worst-case disasters

Gaining quotes takes less than 15 minutes while unlocking invaluable security. Protect everything fueling your entrepreneurial livelihood from unforeseeable harm. Insurance grants confidence to focus on customers and long-term vision.

9. Create an Office Space

As an entrepreneur, properly equipping a home office for admin makes sense by launching on a shoestring budget. This allows sheltering precious capital for acquiring beloved inventories, not redundantly funding unused commercial spaces.

Home Office

A simple setup with a desk, computer, and filing cabinet efficiently runs back-end operations managing orders and bookkeeping out of your spare bedroom. Expect costs around $2,000 factoring in furniture, tech needs, and internet upgrades enabling seamless productivity.

Coworking Office

Upgrading into professional collaborative spaces like WeWork provides turnkey offices packing luxury aesthetic perks prime for client meetings. From luxe conference rooms to stocked coffee bars and printing stations, these spaces scream big-league contractors ready to deliver. No equipment or decorating labor is needed.

On-Site Office

Expect starting costs of $1 to $1.50 per square foot monthly for a modest 800-square-foot retail space. This excludes utilities and internet averaging another $500 monthly. The freedom and creative license of decorating solo space sparks joy and allows administrative duties to be performed in your nail salon.

10. Source Your Equipment

A nail wholesale operation requires select equipment for receiving and processing inventory before distribution. Carefully source must-have items balancing affordability and reliability.

Buy New

When buying new, staples include salon counters, lacquer, and polish, gel tip materials, nail files, cleaning solutions, LED heat lamps, and more. Check out Shop Salon City for essentials at a wholesale price.

Buy Used

Used equipment offers major savings potential with far less financial risk. Scan local listings on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace for options. Be sure to check that everything works before paying the seller.


Rent equipment needing only periodically next. For example, instead of buying expensive label printers for special product launches, borrow temporarily from neighbors or local entrepreneurs. Sites like FatLlama enable searching inventory available near your zip code.


Only lease equipment used daily that maintenance matters most on. Leasing copies of essential tech ensures the vendor handles repairs, eventually replacing them with upgraded models every few years.

11. Establish Your Brand Assets

Cultivating a recognizable brand identity fuels referral sales and strengthens vendor relationships. Invest early in premium touchpoints conveying polish and professionalism across customer interactions.

Get a Business Phone Number

Start by claiming a memorable business phone number elevating calls above cluttered personal mobiles. Services like RingCentral furnish toll-free 800 numbers with custom-recorded greetings for $30 monthly. Assign extensions to staff routing inquiries smoothly.

Design a Logo

Visually, conceptualize logo designs encompassing the inventory and audience passion points. Use graphic platforms like Looka to browse icons encapsulating glam nails or profit graphs costing $20. Splurge on premium branding kits with complimentary letterhead, social banner assets, and presentation templates all aligned. This consistency sticks in buyers’ minds.

Print Business Cards

Print crisp business cards through Vistaprint sharing essential contact and web details. Carry these to annual trade shows establishing influence with manufacturers. Simple touches signal readiness catering to high-volume opportunities.

Get a Domain Name

Speaking of websites, secure an SEO-friendly domain name representing the venture for roughly $20 annually. Namecheap offers intuitive searches indicating phrase availability. Anchor sites with targeted keywords like “nailsupply” and regional identifiers.

Design a Website

Next, build out an informative e-commerce site or digital brochure conveying core offerings. Leverage DIY sites like Wix packing beginner-friendly templates and 24/7 support to launch solo sites quickly. Or hire web developers from freelance sites like Fiverr to construct complex shops.

12. Join Associations and Groups

Tapping into niche communities primes access to coveted insider wisdom from fellow distributors and technicians. Share proven tactics and common hurdles among local networks building a tribe of mentors.

Local Associations

The Professional Beauty Association unites wider industry players across the cosmetology realms. Attend chapter events as an affiliate member meeting other wholesalers plus salon owners and techs. Yearly dues start around $130 with discounts for new entrepreneurs.

Local Meetups

Sites like Meetup also index regular local meetups and trade shows to mingle with neighbors and prospects in person. Search for combinations of “wholesale distribution” and “beauty business” to pinpoint relevant groups. S

Facebook Groups

Dive into Facebook communities allowing members worldwide to post questions and advice publicly around the clock. For example, the Nails Salon & Beauty Supply Owners – Philadelphia USA and Salon Business Owners Only groups share product releases and marketing techniques attracting over 25,000 engaged participants.

13. How to Market a Nail Supply Business

Strategic marketing spotlights inventory selection and superior services enticing technicians to switch wholesalers. Balancing digital discovery and offline outreach makes new brands unavoidable.

Referral Marketing

Start by incentivizing delighted buyers to endorse offerings within existing networks. Provide 10% off coupons to share with colleagues or small branded merchandise gifts for referrals. Tap genuine word-of-mouth excitement before leveraging broader channels.

Digital Marketing

For digital tactics, launch tailored Google and Facebook ads showcasing beloved professional brands carried or specialty supplies competitors lack. Geo-target metro areas with high nail salon density and dropship requests from landing pages straight to fulfillment centers.

Publishing educational YouTube tutorials also increase visibility around expertise from proper monomer-polymer ratios to achieving perfect cuticle clearance. Position your wholesale operation as the definitive pro resource for product support questions.

Submit articles to niche publications. Share sourcing insights or “day in the life,” thought leadership cementing brand authority. Then promote content through owned channels.

Traditional Marketing

Traditional options better nurture existing relationships through direct mail and in-person trade show sponsors. For example:

  • Send postcards to member lists from local tech meetups advertising wholesale discounts.
  • Have account managers deliver samples and sales sheets to nearby salons detailing unique offerings.
  • Connect at beauty conventions sponsoring competitions, judging events, or hosting booths.

These opportunities build authentic community traction beyond digital means alone.

Embrace consistent omnichannel nurturing through paid ads, organic social posting, SEO optimization, offline direct mail, and conversations at industry gatherings. Meet technicians wherever attention takes them by covering each base until discovering the sweet spot balancing meaningful ROI.

14. Focus on the Customer

Stellar customer service fuels referral sales in the relationship-driven nail industry. Technicians function as brand ambassadors rallying colleagues to suppliers saving them time and money. Deliver premium experiences and watch word-of-mouth accelerate growth.


For example, fast reliable delivery makes all the difference balancing tight salon schedules. Consistently ship preferred items within 48 hours and send tracking notifications as soon as possible. Checking in post-delivery and assessing satisfaction earns bonus points too.

If issues ever do arise, own mistakes sincerely with accountability. Quickly replace defective or damaged shipments without hassle. Follow up to verify replacements meet expectations and offer complimentary rush processing on the next order.

Extend occasional surprise-and-delight gestures as well between branded nail files on birthdays or handwritten thank-you notes for large purchases. These personal touches spark joy and fit naturally within existing relationship building.

By caring deeply and consistently, you become trusted partners – not just suppliers. Technicians then enthusiastically chat within community groups when asked their go-to wholesaler and why.

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