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What are the steps I need to follow to start my own business?


Jarod Johnson Fort Mill, SC

I want to open a nail salon. I have a idea of the locations I'm looking at for the business but that's about it. Are there any veteran programs or anything for business loans or grants?

23 June 2018 14 replies Small Business



Lloyd Calderon Arlington, VA

Looks like you have great advice already but if you want to discuss further e-mail me at or call me at 202-619-0482. Visit your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to learn about how to make a good business plan then just take it from there. They're a great resource and are funded, in part, by my agency, the U.S. Small Business Administration.


25 June 2018 Helpful answer


Jennifer Polhemus Santa Monica, CA

I think you should rough out some financial numbers, especially if you are considering leasing space. SCORE or your local community college business development center can assist you with this. Nail salons are a price-competitive business and you need to be sure there is sufficient profit to support you as owner.

Things to consider:
Will manicurists be your employees, or independent contractors? (big decision in terms of legality & taxes)

If you foresee them renting a station from you, how will you recruit manicurists with established reputations/clientele?

How will you advertise initially?

How will you distinguish your business from the competition? (quality, hours, ambiance, price, loyalty rewards program?)

Lastly, I urge you to NOT be tempted by the companies that want to sell you special "spa chairs." My observation (in Los Angeles anyway) is that customers were unwilling to pay extra for "magic fingers" back massage while having their nails done, and salons that bought spa chairs did not get a good return on their investment. Like I said, it's a price-competitive business.

Best wishes!

25 June 2018 Helpful answer


Bernard Agrest Tulsa, OK

Hi Jarod,

I hope you’re doing well and having a great weekend so far! Thank you for your service, and for posting your question.

First, keep in mind that the requirements for starting a small business are different from state to state. Beyond that, I’d encourage you to take a look at the resources linked below. They could prove valuable as you start filing the paperwork needed to open up a nail salon.

Next, I’d encourage you to utilize our community feature to reach out to advisors who have had experience with starting up their own business. You can search for advisors by location, experience and expertise! Feel free to reach out to as many advisors as you would like, to gain additional perspective. Speaking with them can be useful in understanding common pitfalls that business owners encounter.

Lastly, I’d recommend reaching out to SCORE to see if they could be of any help.
I hope this is helpful, and please feel free to reach out if you have any other questions.



24 June 2018 Helpful answer


Tom Vlasic Carmel, IN

Check out Bunker Labs ( - "Bunker Labs is a national not-for-profit organization helping veterans, active duty service members, and their spouses start and grow businesses". Their "Launch Lab Online" and other programs lead you through different parts of the process. Lots of great advice here but it can be overwhelming at times. Launch lab has helped me organize and focus some of my efforts.


J Leo Fairfax, VA

Hi Jarod -
"Bring the boat closer to the dock before stepping off." You could take out loans up to the sky - but I wouldn't. Every dollar of debt = another risk point. #1 killer of small business isn't "not making money" but debt. #2 is taxes. Surprise!

I'd recommend exploring the business - learn the craft. Start in your home, or in places that would allow you to. Build your clientele, give discounts to referrals, crawl, walk, then run.

Build slow, and steady.

Checkout and learn from other debt free business owners.


Ted Mittelstaedt Portland, OR

Jarod, one of the best answers on here is from Barry. As a successful business owner myself from 2011 who has yet to complete a business plan, he knows what he's talking about. However I have a question for you that may be somewhat politically incorrect - are you a regular customer of nail salons yourself? Because if you aren't - I don't think starting a nail salon would be very smart. Most men I know aren't regular customers (or customers at all ) of a nail salon. Without being a customer - it is far more difficult for you to completely understand what your customers are after.
I've never been a customer of IT services, and when I started my IT consulting company I figured I would be successful because I knew a lot about IT. But, over the years I've found that while I have come to understand what my customers want from an intellectual level, I will never really understand what it _feels_like_ to be dependent on an IT consultant. Fortunately, in IT services this doesn't matter because there's a serious shortage of qualified consultants but I will never truly understand the fear in a company owner's voice when they call me asking to fix something that to me is trivial - there's always going to be a gap between me and my customers that I will never completely bridge. I daresay that is going to be a lot more important with a personal business like a nail salon.
So while working for a nail salon, as Barry recommended, is very important, I would also say you better spend a good bit of time walking into various nail salons and having your own nails done as part of your research.


Reed Benet Birmingham, MI

Hi Jarod. Almost all vets do not know that we can use our up to a no-money-down (depending on your county) $453,100 to $721,050 EACH of VA Loan Guaranty backed home buying power to buy and become a resident/live-in landlord in up to a two-, three-, or four-family property and one of the units can be commercial so long as the commercial space doesn’t exceed 25% of the residential space.

And the SBA 7a Loan could help pay for your business and with the 504 Loan the furniture and fixtures. Also if you are interested in challenged neighborhoods and if you are a minority, female (co-)owned, or service disabled vets the Community Reinvestment Act causes many banks to be looking to lend to you versus the other way around.

So you could have your nail salon that pays you rent in your own building where you live plus have up to 1-3 residential renters paying you rent also.

Check out my firm for more info.

Note though that starting and owning your own business, and being a landlord isn’t for everyone, and particularly doing both at the same time could make things harder, but note this available option. And how much better to work for yourself as the property owner than for someone else as the landlord?

Send me an email if you’d like. Semper Fidelis! Reed M. Benet


Phillip Nelson Tyrone, GA

One other avenue you could consider is a franchise. They can help you answer many of these questions and the best ones will also assist you with real estate, lease negotiations, finding and training employees, marketing, business plans, marketing plans, etc. Many also participate in the VetFran program providing discounts and incentives which can help reduce your startup expenses. Many people discount the idea of a franchise right away because they naturally think about traditional retail and restaurant brands. The fact is, all industries offer franchise opportunities. You may have more options than you realize. I will be happy to help but there are certainly others. I would encourage you to contact a franchise consultant for more details. Thanks!


Paul Trejo Austin, TX

Hello Jarod, and thanks for your years of service.

Ask first about your business qualifications and experience. It is easy, but unless somebody spells it out, it could take years to learn. That's why family businesses tend to work so well when they do. Job training and child education become one and the same.

If you have the benefit of a family business experience, you are way ahead. If you are like most of us, and don't have that, then here is a brief overview:

Every business, big and small -- very broadly speaking -- has seven mandatory departments. They are:

1. Stockholder Ownership
2. Personnel Management
3. Finance and Accounting
4. Sales, one on one
5. Production -- the product or service itself
6. Quality Assurance, Customer Surveys
7. Advertising

Every business in the world -- from the hot-dog vendor on the corner, to Exxon Oil Corporation, with its many hundreds of executives, must maintain these seven general departments.

If you are going to be a one-person Salon, this means you are responsible for all seven departments. Possibly you will hire your service workers and supervise them with your own eyes.

But otherwise you will be so busy advertising, doing customer surveys, selling new customers on the benefits of your new shop, doing all the accounting, payroll, benefits, and banking, and handling the occasional annoying complaint -- that you might not get time to work with a single customer in the chair.

If you hire somebody to co-manage -- even an accountant -- be very certain you can trust that person. You want a long-term relationship. Also, if you are successful and choose to expand to two shops, you will need another pair of eyes as a supervisor to do things your way. Again, be very certain you can trust this person.

That's the overview, Jarod. There is probably nothing more satisfying in the USA that owning and operating your own successful business. The tax incentives are great, and you could become an employer in your community.

Best wishes,


Susan Scotts Pompano Beach, FL

Hi Jarod, I'm a Business Coach, for almost 3 decades I've been helping individuals to first clarify their goals of the business and their life, then work to find a business to meet those goals, a very strategic process. I've got resources for a new military funding program and I've put 5 Veterans into business so far this year! I'd be happy to have a conversation to see if I can assist you!


Michael Hernton Chicago, IL

Find an nail salon for sale. The owner will provide training, you will have built in clientele, operations manual, suppliers, pre existing relationships with bankers etc. You will also have an idea of what your cash flows will be in the business from examining their books. You will also have a model in place for your second and third salon.


Barry Sosnick Greenlawn, NY

People love to recommend business plans but never explain why. Part of the reason for a business plan is it demonstrates to lenders that you did your homework. However, keep in mind that you are also writing to yourself. A business plan helps you think. It forces you to make sure you understand the risks and opportunities as well as the myriad of details that are necessary to manage in order to attain success.

Financing takes time, especially an SBA-backed loan. The best thing you can do is to work at a nail salon while you wait. It will give you an idea about what the customers want and the daily challenges you will face. If you are not willing to get your hands dirty you won't succeed. Part of finance is risk. Working in a salon and understand firsthand how a business operates. This is one of the key ways to mitigate your financial risk.

As an equity analyst on Wall Street, I have seen CEOs of NY Stock Exchange listed companies take time between investor meetings to visit their own stores. Their chief financial officers and investor relations people pleading for them to stop noticing gum on the floor or facing out merchandise (retailers pulling packages to the front of the shelf and having all of the labels facing out). This included the wealthiest man in the world, Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart. This attention to detail isn't learned from a business plan but a dedication to the customer and the understanding that attention to the unglamorous details matter every bit as much as finance.

Remember part of financing is obtaining capital, however, the bigger piece is paying it back. Write a business plan to teach yourself about your business as well as investors. Understand what it takes to satisfy customers; something that you will never learn from a business plan, but from working in the field. I used to start every lecture in my college marketing and also in my small business management college courses with the same quote: the goal of a business is customer satisfaction and the reward is profit. Therefore, it is customer satisfaction that ultimately pays back the loans. Happy customers reduce your risk and the bank's.


Kit Lancaster Chicago, IL


Lots of great resources to consider. I would also look for resources and information from “The Bunker”

Feel free to call if I can provide additional perspective.

Happy to be resource.



Emanuel Carpenter Alpharetta, GA

Jarod - Congratulations on the desire to start your own business. When it comes to getting money for the business, there are a few ways you can go:

1. Ask for a loan or a gift from family and friends. If it's a loan, grant something in return like a piece of ownership or a certain amount of manicures.

2. Raise money on a site like Kickstarter or Indiegogo. You'll have to create a compelling campaign regarding why folks should give you the money.

3. Consider an SBA-backed loan. There are special discounts for veterans, which you can find here:

But before you do any of that, I highly recommend you start with writing a business plan. It will not only help you with securing funding but it forces you to critically think of the strategies you need in place to start your business. For example: What is the proximity of competing nail salons? How will I market to consumers? Where will I find employees and how will they be paid? What type of profits can I expect after five years in business? Should I lease space or buy a building? Can I beat my competitors on price? What taxes and insurance will I need to pay?

Entrepreneur Magazine has a good business plan template here:

Also, consider participating in a VEP program. It is a one-week, all expenses paid training program for veteran entrepreneurs. They are located at various universities across the country. I attended this one:

One final tip: Find a SCORE mentor who will give you tons of advice based on business experience. Here is a link:

Best of luck!

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