Beauty Maven

M! talks to Shabana Karim founder of the Nail Spa
Beauty Maven

"I like to work on the business, rather than in the business" says Nail Spa founder and owner Shabana Karim, who believes in having a hands-on approach by visiting her branches to chat with customers and staff alike!
Shabana Karim has always had a flare for fashion, style and excellence. She found a niche opportunity in the beauty industry here in Dubai during the late '90s and followed her entrepreneurial instincts. Having paired this with her knowledge of trends and sense of style, she has gone ahead to build a large successful chain of nail spas that today, has a growing staff count, list of awards under their belt and a loyal customer base. She shares with Masala! her path to success as well as the latest trends and services available for your next spa appointment.

Can you tell us about your time at College of Fashion and University of Edinburgh, UK?
I was at London College of Fashion in 1982 – it was an amazing experience, being immersed in the world of trends and styles and I was a regular at London Fashion Week. The behind-the-scenes training and experience in fashion drawing, designing, couture, pattern-cutting and fashion marketing I received have been invaluable in shaping my keen sense of style and design.
I was at University of Edinburgh during the early '90s and attained a Masters Degree in Education. I was particularly interested in the training and development of adult learners.

How did you develop and interest in spas?
Being fashion-forward and passionate about excellence in both beauty and service, I found myself, back in the late '90s, not very happy with what I was receiving at the beauty salons here in Dubai. I saw an opportunity in the UAE market to provide a space that offered exceptional beauty experiences. That was the basis of my research – I wanted to create a space for myself first, where the innovative beauty service offerings were exceptional and at prices that wouldn't break your bank account.

Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?
I come from a family of businessmen and entrepreneurs which has had a strong influence on me. At a young age the desire to have my own business was ingrained in me. When I saw my father's intensity and passion when running his business, it inspired me to achieve something on my own.

What challenges did you face while opening Nail Spa?
There were many issues. When we set up in 2002, the first hurdle was finding the right location to open our first spa. And then of course, there was the red-tape dealing with government bodies. I would say that over the years it's become relatively easier to work with them. They understand the industry better now. At that time, we were trying to do things in a different environment. In a nail salon you have many staff but they couldn't understand why you would want so many staff. In a beauty salon, you may have less than 10 staff; however in our spa concept, for every station we need more than one therapist. Then there were government policies on medicals and accommodation issues and where to house the staff.
As far as funding is concerned, we were a small business, so we put in our own savings. Few years down the road, as we were looking for funding, we approached banks. It was not easy for a small company to receive funding then.

How would you describe yourself as a boss?
I would say that my management style is a personable one where I keep in touch with all our stakeholders (customers, suppliers and staff) on a personal level as much as possible.
From time to time I drop into the spas and always make it a point to chat with my customers and hear what they may have to say. While on a spa visit I always make it a point to chat with my staff as well. I believe this contact with the front-liners is an important source of feedback and input into policy-making and planning. Furthermore it is important for their morale. Communication at all levels is important to me. We adopt a bottom-up approach when it comes to making policies. We have weekly and monthly meetings in which staff suggestions are taken on board whenever possible – that helps them to feel a sense of ownership.
I like to work on the business rather than in the business. It is not always possible though!

What are the top three treatments that you would recommend at the Nail Spa?
The top three treatments would be Haute Manicure, Heaven Bee Sting Facial and Everlasting Manicure; Haute Manicure because it is an ultra pampering treat for the nails, with warm sweet almond oil dip for the fingertips to soften the cuticles and giving the nails a boost. We are the only ones in Dubai and Abu Dhabi offering this treat. My favourite is the Heaven Bee Sting Facial – an absolute must-have once a month. This facial uses the magic ingredient, Bee Venom, which tricks the skin into believing it has been stung, therefore increasing blood flow, collagen and elasticity of the skin. The other ingredient is Manuka Honey which is renowned for its soothing and healing properties.
I won't ever be caught seen without our Everlasting Manicure – it uses a non-chip permanent Bio Sculpture gel which lasts over two weeks. It is available in more than 100 fashion-forward colours and is kind to the nails, but its durability is what our clients love most about this manicure.

How would you describe the growth of Nail Spa?
When we set up in 2002, it was with a staff of just 10. We have grown now to around 300. We have seven locations and are opening 3 more in Abu Dhabi. I would say that we've had an organic growth.

What are your hobbies aside from work?
I love gardening, doing yoga three times a week, cooking and watching DVDs of old television soaps.

How often do you visit a spa? What is your beauty regimen?
I am always last-minute with my own beauty treatments; I get a facial, massage and mani-pedi once a month. The longer spa treats (even though I love pampering myself), are not for me. These I fit into my schedules when I am on holidays.

Tell us more about your family. How do you balance your work and family?
As the business has grown, it has become more challenging to balance the demand of business with my family life. I have two children who are grown up and have left the nest, and the youngest who keeps me grounded. Family has always been my priority. When I see my children, I believe that I have been truly successful. My greatest achievement is my children. I am very proud of who they are today; they are kind, compassionate people and go-getters.

What are the hottest beauty tips this season?
Spring colours for 2013 will be full of greens and blues, with bright reds and yellows as well.
These will be the hottest shades:
Poppy red
Lemon Zest
Monaco Blue
Dusk Blue
Tender Shoots
African Violet
Grayed Jade