Founder Vivian Xue is turning the nail-salon model on its head as she incorporates her tech know-how and combines it with all she’s learned about business credit cards.
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Born in Shanghai and raised in the Los Angeles area, Vivian Xue captured the attention of the tech world while an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
While there, she co-developed a web platform that allowed people to ask questions online and crowdsource answers. Xue was able to garner investment for this product and left college before graduating to immerse herself in the world of web development and UX design.
Xue eventually became a founding member of the successful on-demand massage service, Soothe.
Yet when she tried to apply her newly acquired knowledge of the on-demand business model to the beauty services industry, she discovered one major challenge: A beauty service provider’s ability to transport a range of products and bulky equipment to customer homes was rather inefficient, if not entirely ill-suited for the on-demand model.
In May of 2017, Xue launched Pamper Nail Gallery, a salon specializing in high-quality, custom nail services in Fremont, California. Her extraordinary designs include portraiture, line drawings and awe-inspiring glitz that provide a creative outlet for this tech-savvy entrepreneur.
Xue’s long-term vision for Pamper Nail Gallery bucks the typical nail salon’s model. Employees are not treated as transitional or easily replaceable. Instead, she offers mentorship, career development opportunities and a generous benefits package. Today, she is fundraising to open additional locations in Las Vegas and other cities.
As Pamper Nail Gallery continues to grow, credit cards have been instrumental in its success and potential expansion.
“Managing cash flow is critical to our business’ survival,” says Xue. “The cards help us manage our cash and enable large purchases.”
Showing no signs of slowing down, credit cards will continue to be a part of this ever-growing business.
What was your beginning like with credit?
I had the occasional credit card or two, but it wasn’t until after college when I started researching and learning about the different types of credit cards. I learned how to use credit, properly build it and what the benefits were. Sites like CreditCards.com, FatWallet and others were instrumental in my self-education.
I’ve definitely been spooked by stories from friends and other adults who have made mistakes borrowing, so I was extremely careful to not get into too much debt. If anything, I wish I would have learned more about credit so that I could have started building a good credit history earlier on in life.
In what ways are credit cards helping you and your business become successful?
One of the key difficulties for us is that we’re a brick-and-mortar startup with the growth potential of your more typical startups. It’s hard for people to understand what we are and what our growth potential is.
We originally started in Silicon Valley, surrounded by an infinite number of tech startups (often with no real product to sell and no monetization plan), but Pamper Nail Gallery is different – we have been monetized from the beginning. We have to grow to a certain point before the typical startup investors and lenders can see our true potential and understand it.
As such, business credit cards have been important in our growth and operating strategy. As you know, managing cash flow in a business is absolutely critical. Supply needs sometimes fluctuate, business traffic can be cyclical and so managing your money can be tricky at times. Credit cards help us in this situation.
Also, in our day-to-day operations, we require customers to supply a valid credit card to secure their appointments, where we take a deposit for their service in order to ensure adequate service time for what they need.
We are, for the most part, a cashless business. A lot of our work is bespoke and time-consuming. Many of our clients come from other cities, and some even fly in from other states. The credit card also serves as proof of identity, which is important for the security of our staff.
Which credit cards do you have and what do you typically charge?
I’ve always been enamored by American Express cards, and so to this day, Amex is my primary for both personal and business expenses.
I primarily use The Business Platinum® Card from American Express. The company takes great care of businesses, especially startups like ours. It’s the most business-friendly card company we’ve encountered.
However, I will say Chase has been also very helpful. In many cases, our product suppliers don’t take American Express, especially those that manufacture overseas – they take Visa or Mastercard. For situations like that, we rely on the United Explorer Business Card from Chase. It also helps to earn some United miles since we’re going to need them as we expand across the United States and beyond.
We charge marketing costs, utility costs and incidentals to credit cards regularly. Being able to purchase supplies and inventory (in bulk) by credit card to keep costs of purchases down is crucial.
Those are great cards for rewards – what are you doing with them?
We are banking the miles we earn for our upcoming expansion of Pamper Nail Gallery into other U.S. cities in 2019. The points will be helpful to offset the cost of travel to and from all of the stores during construction and upon initial soft opening.
Every little bit counts and credit card rewards points are a great way to help startups save on costs while continuing to grow. For that, we are very appreciative of the benefits and rewards American Express and Chase provide.
What lessons have you learned about borrowing money?
Borrowing money is a privilege to be respected – as all business relationships are to be respected. We enjoy protections and advantages from credit cards that we would like to enjoy in perpetuity.
Building a good, long-term relationship from the outset as a small business will help us in the long run.
We always pay our balance in full. American Express and Chase are taking a chance on us, and we need to ensure that the early trust they placed in us remains strong and that we respect that trust.
Sometimes new business owners, in an effort to chase their dreams, max out credit cards and get into a dangerous amount of debt. Staying smart, responsible and organized while making sure you separate personal purchases from business can get you a lot further than getting into debt quickly.