Success at her fingertips: Shabana Karim

Founder and owner of The Nail Spa, Shabana Karim, tells StartUp how she has been able to grow her business to be a leading light in the region’s beauty industry

If there was ever a company which proves that beauty is not just skin deep, it’s The Nail Spa.

Founded in 2002 by Shabana Karim, the company now has nine spas across the UAE, more than 300 therapists who paint about 6,000 fingertips a day, an environmentally friendly and sustainable product range, and educational programmes for employees’ children.

More than a decade down the line, the company has also evolved to develop an umbrella company – House of Enspa, which includes not only The Nail Spa, but two other companies in its fold – and has  recently undergone a large-scale rebranding process.

And it all started when Karim noticed a gap in the market as a customer.

“The thought came about twelve years ago,” she explains. “It came at a point in my life where I’d just had a baby, having worked for several years at the Higher Colleges of Technology, teaching about businesses, how to run them and set them up.

“I thought I wanted to do something different, and one area close to my heart is beauty and nails. Looking at that market I saw there was a huge gap in terms of availability of service – so many times, the salons were closed at the times people wanted to go to them. So I looked at putting something together that gave an efficient, quick service, trained staff, and open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“That’s when I came up with the idea of The Nail Spa. I wanted a place where I could put into it all the things that I couldn’t find as a customer.”

The Nail Spa was the first salon dedicated solely to hands and feet, launching in Mercato Mall at a time when – Karim admits – securing a location was more to do with ‘wasta’ (using connections or influence) than submitting business plans.

She says: “We were fortunate enough to make the right connections and introductions, which eventually meant we got an opportunity to open in Mercato Mall. And that was really our big break.”

The daughter and granddaughter of entrepreneurs, Karim explains how she was surrounded by a passion and excitement for business – traits which are evident when she talks about the secrets to The Nail Spa’s success.

She highlights a yearning to always to better – and wariness not to slip too far into a comfort zone.

“The most dangerous thing to do is to take success for granted.  We never rest on our laurels, and keep working on raising our own bar.

“We have this attitude that our competition is better than us and keep working to stay ahead of them.  We keep on our toes, working on our delivery standards, striving to exceed customer expectations and continuing to evolve to meet the needs and demands of the market.

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