The Ten Spot Nail Bar Founder Shares the Secret to Her Success

At 24, Kristen Wood opened her first nail bar; nine years and 14 locations later, she hasn't slowed down for a second. Read on for her best advice on being your own boss

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Back in 2006, a then 24-year-old Kristen Wood found herself in the oddly energizing position of being both unemployed and inspired. A sojourn in NYC made her want to bring some of the Big Apple’s aesthetic-services bounty to Toronto’s fusty spa landscape. So, after getting let go from her graphic designing gig, she decided to open her own business, which would combine the efficiency and price point of an NYC nail bar with a high-end spa experience. And she decided to open it immediately.

“I ended up writing my business plan overnight, then submitted for a loan and found a space two days later,” says Wood, on the phone from her home in Hamilton, ON.

Four months later, she opened Ten Spot on Toronto’s Queen Street West. Since then, Wood has opened and/or franchised 14 additional locations in Toronto, Hamilton, Oakville, Ottawa and Guelph. Locations in Vancouver and Kelowna are in the works and there’s been interest in Calgary and Winnipeg, too. Basically, Wood is aiming for world domination by decade’s end. “I want to be the Starbucks of nail bars,” she says, a few days after she made the cut for the 16th annual W100 ranking of Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneurs, produced by PROFIT, Canadian Business and Chatelaine.

Fresh off her coup, Wood talks to FLARE about the art of turning misfortune into luck, the secret to being your own boss and how the journey to CEO-dom starts with Step 1.

It sounds like Ten Spot started almost on a lark? Yeah, I had always wanted to do my own thing but had always been waiting for that opportunity and this was kind of the kick in the pants for me to be like, Oh, I don’t have my job anymore, so I better figure something out. I better make myself a job!

What were you doing before you were let go? Graphic design. I kind of got into graphic design knowing that one day I wanted to have my own business and do all my own marketing and stuff. Then when I got into it I ended up really loving it, so for [a time] I thought I might end up doing some sort of a business in a graphic design capacity. But then I realized, Oh, it’s not that creative. You just have to do what the client wants…this is not really design.

How many franchises/locations do you have now? The Yonge-Eglinton location in Toronto is going to be number 15 and out of the 15, I own three.

Are you surprised at how the beauty bar concept has taken off? Yeah, totally. I mean I get why it’s appealing. I started it because I wanted something that someone like myself would enjoy going to. You know, for that young, professional person who is really low on time but still wants quality and a great service experience. But yeah, I’ve seen a shift since we opened —a lot of the services that we offer have become necessities versus being luxuries.

How old were you when your first location opened? 24. I’ll be 33 this October.

Thirty-three with 15 locations; that’s impressive. Yeah, it’s good. I still feel like…something I often think is, Well, Martha Stewart wasn’t Martha Stewart until she was in her 50s, so I still have some time to get where I want to be.

So you’re saying you don’t feel that satisfied with where you’re at now? Yeah, not really at all.

Really? I don’t mean to be ungrateful. I am grateful for it and I’m so thrilled and excited. I just feel like… I really want it to be the Starbucks of beauty bars.

What would you say to twenty-something women who have an idea for a business, but lack the confidence to make it happen? When you’re young, you do have the liberty to make some mistakes and take bigger risks. I’m glad I did it then because if I had had a kid and a mortgage I think I would be a little more tentative… And then I think investing your heart and soul and anxiety and stress and everything you have into something—I just kind of feel like fortune favours the bold. If you’re putting that much into it and it’s very genuine and authentic, then it’s probably going to work out.

Did you always want to be your own boss? My dad was an entrepreneur, so the entire time I was growing up he was like, ‘I don’t care what you do as long as you make it a business.’ It was like a non-option for us not to have a business.

What’s your advice to women who want to be their own boss? To not get overwhelmed with the big picture because in my experience it’s just like one long-ass never-ending To Do list. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed and think, Is anybody going to come to my store? Am I going to make rent?

Well, guess what? At this point in time you don’t have a store so let’s not even worry about that. Let’s just worry about Step 1, which is write a business plan. Research online for how to write one and download some templates. That’s Step 1. Step 2 is: how are you going to find some money? Make some initial projections and apply for a loan. Step 3: register your business with the Canadian government.

Just don’t get bogged down in that big picture of things because it can be overwhelming just focus on what you can do at this second.

Yeah, I guess there is a pattern you follow. Yeah, you can’t do step 2 if you haven’t done step 1.