For Anita Hug-Jones, owner of Domani Nail Spa, her business is about more than nails.
“Nails is the vehicle through which people come to me, but when you sit in my chair, it’s healing. You’re not just getting your nails done,” Hugh-Jones said.
That philosophy has been with her through her 25 years in business on Union Street.
Hugh-Jones spent part of her earliest childhood in London, but considers herself a resident of Schenectady, as her family moved to the area when she was 7 years old. She studied cosmetology through BOCES while attending Niskayuna High School. From there she worked in a salon before starting Domani and working for Odyssey Nail Systems. She also became well known in the nail industry for her participation in national nail technician competitions.
Domani, located at 1606 Union Street #6145, recently won Best Nail Spa in the Daily Gazette’s 2022 Best of the Best competition.
The Gazette recently caught up with Hugh-Jones about how she got started and her advice for budding entrepreneurs.
Q: What made you want to go into business?
A: I am what I consider a second generation migrant from India to here. I have the speed in me. My grandfather came with no money and practically built 17 jewelry stores by the time he was done. This is a rags to riches type of story.
What I learned from my grandfather to my mother, who is probably my biggest hero, is to work. Your life is work.
Q: What drew you to the beauty industry?
A: When I was younger, I did everyone’s hair and makeup. I was called the little beautician in the house and that just stuck with me.
Q: Was it too long after you graduated from the BOCES program to open Domani?
A: I used to work in a salon here on Union Street. I never really left Union Street; it became my little home. Then I decided to go out on my own and had a very small salon to myself.
At the time, I was running the salon, but I was competing. I started working for a manufacturer (Odyssey Nail System) and started competing for nails all over the country. So I was a Schenectadian going up against people all over the world. [The competitions were] called pink-white. I competed for about five years. I got as high as No. 18 in the nation.
I then became the Director of Education at that company and then started working for Nails magazine and wrote articles for them.
Q: How has your salon changed over the years?
A: This month is my 25th anniversary with the salon and I’ve been through it all. Here we have grown to nine technicians. Then, tragically, [six years ago] I was really sick. I was in the intensive care unit for 18 days. I didn’t think I would come back from this. The salon was closed for three months. My entire staff left me because you can’t run a salon if it’s closed for three months. So all my clients left. finished. I put the salon up for sale. I had six potential buyers. None of them passed.
I basically gave it all up and said ok God just lead the way and I’ll follow. I just ran the shop by myself and slowly started to rebuild little by little. I had two other technicians come to join me. Then COVID happened. We closed for three months and that was scary.
During COVID I posted a picture of how we are setting up the salon and what we will be doing to get it open. Next thing you know, I’m the PPE guy for Schenectady because I have all the connections with the manufacturers. I was getting the shields before anyone else could get their hands on them.
So it was easy for us [to figure out how to reopen where other] salon owners didn’t know what to do. I put together a brochure on how to open your salon and help salon owners in the area understand what they need to do to reopen.
Q: Do you have any advice for people who want to become business owners?
A: If you are passionate about what you do, you will do it well. When I was young I worked in a hair salon and I will never forget [a mentor there] said, “If you want to do really well in this industry, you have to eat, breathe and sleep it.” I always knew that from my mother and that’s what I did.
You have to chase your own dream. No one will do it for you. You have to give it your all and see where it takes you. And you have to be kind. This industry is very impactful. There’s a lot of ego and you don’t have to be one. Find your strength and really excel at it.
Q: Is there anything you want people to know about Domani?
A: What makes Domani different from any other nail salon is that we are not a standalone salon. You don’t walk in here and 15 minutes later your manicure is done and 10 minutes later your pedicure is done. It’s more of an experience.
“Let’s Get to Know…” is a weekly theme that spotlights people who are making a difference in the lives of others. If you think we should feature someone, let us know by emailing us at [email protected]
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