When Maria Kamboykos, an executive assistant at a private bank in Brickell, tried to get her nails done during her lunch break, she quickly realized it was nearly impossible.
“You lose a lot of time in the process, from the time you walk to your car and drive to the salon … even if it’s just a few blocks away, to the time you park your car and walk in. A lot of time is lost and sometimes your nail tech might not be done with her last appointment and you might still have to wait a few minutes more, if not longer,” said Kamboykos, who, along with her husband and business partner, Guillermo Aguilar, opened a Miami-area mobile manicure salon, Pretty Nails 2 Go.
“I’m not a mother, but I have many friends and coworkers who are, and they’ve told me how something that should be enjoyable, like going to the nail salon, can become somewhat of a mission,” Kamboykos, 26, said. “I know women who have said they’ve gone months without doing their nails because they simply don’t have time, either because they’re busy working or taking care of their children, so my idea was to make life easier for people who want to do their nails but don’t have time to go to the salon. The idea was … why not have the salon go to them?”
When Kamboyko got home from work that afternoon she shared her idea with Aguilar, who instantly liked it.
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“I started doing research online and running numbers,” said Aguilar, who works in finance and is a certified public accountant. “When you have a good idea and mix it with a good return on investment, that’s when you know you have a viable business, and that’s when I said ‘let’s do this!’”
The couple bought a 12-passenger Ford E-350, stripped it and customized the van into a full-functioning air-conditioned nail salon, which includes two manicure and pedicure stations, a wash sink, a bathroom, lounge-like seating, a television with Apple TV, electrical outlets and Wi-Fi.
Between customization, county inspections and permitting, the process took about eight months and ran a bill of about $90,000, an investment Aguilar is confident will pay off.
“I’m not an expert on nails, doing or getting them done,” he laughs. “But I know nail salons have a key place in the United States service economy. I think of it this way: There are countless successful nail salons, with much higher overhead than ours, so why wouldn’t ours succeed as well? Plus, our secret weapon is Lorena.”
THE PERSONAL TOUCH
Lorena Sorondo, who has worked as a nail technician for the past 15 years, is the licensed cosmetologist in charge of running the Pretty Nails 2 Go bus. Since moving from Maracaibo, Venezuela, her homeland, to Miami more than a decade ago, Sorondo has worked in several beauty salons throughout the city.
“Pretty Nails 2 Go, for me, represents what I want, the opportunity to be my own boss, something that was lost on me when I worked at traditional nail salons,” said Sorondo, who is responsible for scheduling appointments, performing nail and wax services for patrons and driving the bus from location to location. “In here, I’m the one taking care of everything. I speak to clients to schedule appointments, I clean and set up, I take care of them once they step inside. It’s a very personal experience, always one-on-one. It’s just me and them.”
Sorondo usually works alone, except on days when there are special events like bachelorette, bridal or birthday parties and a second nail tech is called in to assist. However, she has no problem holding her own and has already amassed quite the clientele in the six months Pretty Nails 2 Go has been in business.
Carola Luque, 43, a business manager at HSBC Bank in Brickell, is one of Sorondo’s most loyal customers.
“I love it because it’s so convenient. I barely have any time so whatever time I do have has to be spent efficiently,” said Luque, who boards the bus outside her office building to do her nails every two weeks. “Having the option of the nail salon coming to me and being able to do my nails during my lunch hour is truly wonderful.”
Luque says her first impression when boarding the Pretty Nails 2 Go bus was awe.
“It’s definitely more spacious than what it seems like from the outside,” she said. “It’s modern, clean, comfortable. Lorena is so sweet and sometimes she even has macaroons for us!”
Mariela Antezana, 42, who is a client services officer at HSBC and Luque’s coworker, says she was excited to give Pretty Nails 2 Go a try when she first learned about it.
“I have two small children at home, one is 4 years old and the other is 18 months old, so I would usually have to go get my nails done after work or on weekends,” she said. “What would usually happen is that I’d get stuck in traffic or the salon had overbooked and I had to wait a long time and meanwhile I’m just thinking about getting home to the kids.”
Antezana also said that while some might think of getting a manicure as more of a luxury than a necessity, having presentable nails is important in any professional atmosphere.
“I think it’s great that I can just walk out of the office, hop into the bus and everything is set up and ready to go,” she said. “Thanks to Lorena, I return to my desk with a smile.”
The future, Kamboykos and Aguilar say, is “franchise friendly” and involves the dreams of many other “Lorenas.”
“I see Pretty Nails 2 Go as the Uber for cosmetology,” said Aguilar, who has drawn inspiration from European-style beauty salon franchises and has already purchased a second Ford E-350, which the couple is in the process of customizing.
“We want nail technicians who have worked at salons for many years dreaming of running their own business to reach out to us,” he said. “We can work something out with them, in the form of a monthly rent, or a yearly lease. If they’d like to one day own the mobile salon, we can talk about that too. But the idea is to act as the bridge between their dreams of running their own business and reality.”
Kamboykos and Aguilar would provide “strategic branding and marketing tools” and uphold the uniformity of the company.
Their wish is to expand the Pretty Nails 2 Go brand to other cities and they say they’ve received inquires from as far as Georgia.
While Pretty Nails 2 Go might have been born with lunch-hour visits to business-dense areas in mind, Sorondo also takes appointments in residential areas.
With permission from property managers, she parks the mobile nail salon at Coral Gables condominium complex AVIVA, where she already has a slew of regulars, on a weekly basis. Sorondo also schedules appointments in private residences whenever she’s called.
Gabriela Garza, 25, who lives in the area, was walking her dog outside her apartment building when she spotted the Pretty Nails 2 Go mobile salon and decided to step inside and check it out.
“I was always switching nail salons because I felt like the experience was never great. I was always rushed,” said Garza, who is a studio art student at the University of Miami and does her nails every week. “But it’s different in here. It’s more of an intimate setting, so I feel more comfortable.”
Garza says the last salon she went to was about a mile away, but from the look of it, she’s not going back any time soon.
“No, I don’t think so,” she said. “Why would I? This is so much more convenient, and I love talking to Lorena.”
For more information
Pretty Nails 2 Go offers a range of nail and wax services including acrylic, gel nails, eyebrows and lip waxing, with prices ranging from $5 to $70. The company currently serves the Brickell, Coconut Grove, Coral Gables, Doral and Midtown areas. To schedule an appointment or for more information on franchising opportunities, visit www.prettynails2go.com or call Maria Kamboykos at 954-940-0278.