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Consider how long it takes you to get a manicure. The travel time, the waiting time— all the minutes ticking by from your already-busy day. Katina Mountanos and Liz Whitman, a pair of Harvard Business School grads, knew there had to be a better way. So they launched a service to send nail technicians straight to the office.
"It sounds like a lofty goal, but we say we're trying to change the world in our own little way by developing these female in-office services," Katina explains. "Liz and I started the company thinking about our experiences in financial services. We worked in investment banking, where there was the shoe shine guy, the tailor, the barber, the dry cleaner- really nothing that we would ever take advantage of... The ultimate goal is to be the working woman's secret weapon."
It's been less than two weeks since Manicube launched its 15-minute office manicure service in San Francisco, but working women already have tons of questions about the new business. Racked caught up with Katina and Liz to find out how much the service costs, how to book a Manicube, and whether the pair plans to expand to other roving beauty services.
Can I order a Manicube to my office, or do I have to go through human resources?
Liz: Today, you have to work with the HR department. But if you were to hit our website and say, "I want Manicube in my office," we would work with you to provide the materials to send to HR. or we could get in touch with your HR manager. If you go to GetManicube.com, it will walk you through the different options. There are tons of customers speaking out on our behalf, referring us to HR. And HR managers tend to become customers themselves.
How do employees broach this discussion with HR? Who goes to HR and demands an in-office mani?
Katina: You'd be surprised. It's essentially a productivity play for those employees. We approach HR; we explain that the female employees of the organization deserve to have a service like this in their office because there are tons of in-office services for men in many places. Not only do they deserve it, but they're running out to get their manicure at lunch or they're leaving early to do it because it's a necessity for people who are client-facing and want to look polished in the workplace. Our service is only 15 minutes. We're bringing it to their office and making them more productive. Over time, those small lifestyle improvements can have a big impact.
How many companies bring in Manicube nail techs?
Liz: We serve over 200 corporate offices across [New York, Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco]. Those companies really range across industries; they include Fortune 100 companies, media, retail, law, and finance. One of our earliest clients in New York is a very conservative law firm that actually pays us to bring a second nail technician when we come…because they like the informal networking for the employees. Two women, who don't necessarily work directly together will be getting a service at the same time and start to chat, (versus going to those women's networking events). It's a more organic way to get them conversing.
What does the service cost?
Liz: Our most basic service starts at $15 here in San Francisco. The next tier, the Long Weekend Mani is $18. It's actually the same duration [15 minutes]; it just uses a special kind of polish called CND Vinylux, so it's a long-wear polish. It lasts a couple of days longer. The tier after that is 30-minutes. It's called the High-Maintenance Mani, and it's $20. Even the most premium service is not wildly expensive.
A lot of services are already popping up in San Francisco: On demand massage, hair, makeup, shopping, etc. Do you see yourselves competing in those areas, or are you looking for another monopoly like the one you have with nails?
Katina: One way that we're differentiating from those competitors right now is that we're only going through the [business to business] channel. We actually don't serve customers one-on-one in their homes today. Not that we won't ever, but that's not our business model. Right now, with access to the HR manager, she can market us to all her 3,000 or 5,000 employees. If we did add those services, it would be through that B2B channel-—slightly different than the direct to consumer model, which has a very high cost of customer acquisition.
When you're talking about client-facing employees, it seems like you're dealing with pretty conservative manicures. Is nail art an option?
Liz: We definitely consider ourselves trendy, but not nail art trendy. Nail art is highly-customized; it's not as quick as what we're doing. Since our core value is convenience, it doesn't fit into our recurring model. We do, on occasion, have retail events, and we'll have customized requests for nail art. But in general, it's the basic manicure. In terms of trend, we think through it in our color selection and our brand selection.
You also have a men's option. What percentage of your customers are men?
Liz: About 8% today.
Why was San Francisco your first West Coast expansion?
Katina: The answer to us was super-clear. I think San Francisco invented the in-office benefit. We always thought it would be a place where our service is accepted more widely. There's also a huge startup market here, so we feel like there are benefits to being here in terms of meeting investors and other entrepreneurs.
Are you servicing Silicon Valley as well?
Liz: South of San Francisco, we have San Mateo, Mountain View, Palo Alto, and San Jose.
Do you see this scaling?
Katina: We definitely do. We think of other services, not only within nails, but in beauty and even extended to personal care. We're testing gel polish options. We're looking at eyebrow threading or tweezing as an additional service, which is very similar to the manicures because it's recurring, takes a similar amount of time, and it can be easily done in an office. We're also interested in hair and makeup, and we'll continue to explore both beauty and personal care in the office.
Liz: Broadly speaking, we're thinking about whether we can design a set of services or even products around this working woman. We basically want to take her to-do list and check things off for her. And so it could be things that aren't adjacent to what we do today. It could be grocery shopping, it could be home-cooked meals.
How often do you get your nails done?
Katina: Once a week.
Liz: Sometimes twice a week. It depends on how much time I have to get to the gym and if my nails get chipped.