Katya Kan, Founder of Ruchki da Nozhki Nail Lounge
We met Katya not on the internet - I know, completely out of our norm. We stumbled upon Ruchki da Nozhki by a girlfriend who wanted to a plan a girl date here. At first, we thought it was a Japanese Ramen spot. Then we did our homework and realized it was a chic nail salon in Brooklyn!
Katya was that friendly face we saw when we entered Ruchki da Nozhki. We didn't have a clue she was the mastermind who created this vision to every detail. We then learned she is the Founder and about about how her upbringing plus experience has shaped her to be this killer entrepreneur!
Read more about Katya's thoughtful Spotlight - it goes beyond the nails:
We usually start our Spotlight with the same question - what did you want to be when you grow up?
When I was a teen I wanted to be a Posh Spice. I was obsessed with the Spice Girls in the 90’s and still remember all the dance moves from their first singles. After all these years, Victoria Beckham is still a big inspiration for me. She is a full-time mom, a loving wife, and a successful entrepreneur. She defines a strong independent capable woman that I hope I will become one day.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and what catapulted your entrepreneurial career?
I grew up on Sakhalin Island in the Far East of Russia. My grandparents were from South Korea and moved to Sakhalin region at the time when it belonged to Japan. After the war, the Soviet Union took over the island and my grandparents became Russian citizens overnight. There is a huge community of Korean Russians there to this day and Korean culture is an essential part of the region. Having borscht with kimchi for dinner is a norm as well as mixing Korean and Russian words in a conversational language. It’s a funky place and I would definitely recommend visiting.
I’ve always been interested in beauty and to what extent it enriches our lives. When I was a kid, I’d take my mom’s makeup and polishes and play with them for hours. A mani may sound like a superficial thing but I believe in deep therapeutic effects of it. Perfectly polished nails can save you from depression, brighten a gloomy day, or simply make you feel more together. That’s why I wanted to open a nail salon in the first place - to make people feel good about themselves. It’s a meditation session in a way.
Why “ Ruchki da Nozhki” ? Given the hundreds of nail salons in New York City, what sets your salon apart from other notable salons? Can you dive into what you mean by Ruchki da Nozhki is “socially conscious nails” ?
Ruchki da Nozhki means “little hands and feet” in Russian. The name is very playful and warm at the same time. I hope the vibe transcends beyond the language. The New York market is saturated with a wide variety of nail salons but I couldn’t find anything that would meet my expectations. I wanted a warm and friendly place where I could get superior service, where guests feel relaxed, pampered and not rushed. We have an abundance of plants to soothe the eye, essential oils to calm your mind, and an expert touch of our nail specialists.
Socially-conscious means going above and beyond in taking care of our employees as well as our customers. A series of New York Times articles came out exposing the appalling working conditions in NY nail salons. Interviews of hundreds of nail salon employees uncovered the common practices of long work weeks, low wages, unpaid overtime in addition to hazardous health conditions, like exposure to chemicals and fumes from polish, acetone and nail dust. We addressed this problem by creating safe practices, paying fair wages, and providing a competitive benefits package. We are the first salon in NY to implement a new ventilation system required with a built-in exhaust system to capture vapors, fumes, and dust at the source of exposure. The exhaust eliminates all the fumes from acetone, nail polish and other chemicals from the air. For our customers we pledge to use the healthiest polish on the market, sterilize all the tools after each client, use only all-natural products for our treatments. At the end, we want to create the most comfortable, most efficient, most protective and safest nail salon in the country; where the health and well-being of our workers and customers is the top priority.
Now we are going to go into the design piece of your RDN - what inspired you and/or the designer to create such a beautiful haven and if there are any significances to the details?
It was a long process looking for the right designer and I can’t be more happy we chose MADE that architected, designed, and built the space. My idea was to create a welcoming place with warm atmosphere and beautiful decor that wouldn’t look like a typical nail salon and MADE took care of the rest. It was a fascinating journey to work together and I have learned a lot from designing furniture, pairing different colors and textures, to choosing little accessories that would create a unified space where every element is an essential part of the overall narrative. Another important thing was to make sure the space was ergonomic and functional. Every station is custom made and and we put a lot of thought into getting the right dimensions, planning the flow, making sure the staff would be comfortable performing services without any discomfort or pain. The result was a stunning and ergonomic place where guests enjoy the experience as much as the services. MADE creates beautiful stories with their design and we are proud to present one of their works.
What is your advice for someone who wants to dive into launching her own business?
It is definitely not a part-time job by any means. Be prepared to be fully committed and wake up and go to bed thinking about your business. And if you want to take this journey you should definitely go for it. You will get invaluable knowledge and you will grow as a person. I believe if you truly believe in your idea and give your absolute everything to make it work great things will come your way.
Lastly, what is next for you, Katya and RDN?
Right now I am focusing on building a strong team and improving operations. We are still very young at this stage, 4 months old, and there’s a lot of room for improvement in the long term. There is definitely an opportunity for expansion and launching our private line of polishes and body care products in the future. But I try not to think well in advance, just go with the flow and enjoy this moment. Step by step, and as Gandhi said: “in a gentle way you can shake the world”.
To visit Katya's rad salon, you can go to Brooklyn! Jk, click here to learn more.
Introduction by Chary. Interviewed by Chary + Emily