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University students in China run nail businesses on campus.

By Suzana Li

University student Kelsey Hou Yayuan has been running a nail salon in her dormitory for four years, making RMB ¥2000 to ¥3000 (US $276.40 to $414.60) a month. 

“A manicure session with complex designs costs around RMB ¥400 to ¥700 (US $55.28 to $96.74) for clients coming from outside of school, and RMB ¥100 to ¥300 (US $13.83 to $41.49) for customers on campus which is nearly half of the market price,” Hou says.

“I do not have to pay rent. I can do good design for nail painting. The dormitory’s warden is also one of my customers,” the art major student adds.

Hou’s workplace sits in the common area of her dormitory.

She serves four customers a day when she has no class and two during her school days.

Despite pressure from her studies, the 21-year-old student still devotes her time to her nail business because of her love for nail art.

“I’m a nail art lover. I get a sense of achievement from my beautiful artwork,” Hou says.

Another university student Zhou Yitong makes about RMB ¥13,000 (US $1,797.90) in three months by doing nails at her dormitory.

Zhou has been running a nail salon in her dorm room for two years, having started from scratch. 

“I did not know anything about doing nails. I paid 1,500 RMB (US $207.45) for learning manicure skills from an experienced senior student,” Zhou recalls.

 “When I asked my mom for money so that I could pay someone to teach me how to make nails, she thought it was a scam and refused to help me. She thought I should focus on my studies. So, I asked my friends for help,” the Year Four student says.

Zhou’s mother now has a different view of her nail business, as the student is making money to cover her own expenses. 

“Spending money that I make myself makes me feel much better than asking my parents for it,” Zhou adds.

To reach out to her potential customers, Zhou sends advertisements to WeChat and QQ groups. She also distributes flyers on campus.

“Customers with flyers are offered a RMB ¥5 (USD $0.69) discount. Those who are referred to me by my customers can also get a discount,” the nursing major student says. 

Yan is making nails for customers. (Photo courtesy of Yan Kelu)

University student Yan Kelu also started her nail business at school, but not in her dormitory. 

With support from Shaoxing University’s student entrepreneurship park, she and five other girls set up a nail salon studio in 2022. 

The team was offered a 20-square-meter room in a school building for running their nail business, after their business proposal was approved by the school. 

The outlay of nail shop in school’s entrepreneurship park. (Photo courtesy of Yan Kelu)

“Although we don’t have to pay rent, we have to cover expenses for utilities and decorations like nail supplies, sofas, tables, totaling RMB ¥7000 (US $967.40) at the beginning,” Yan says. 

“I usually take one to two clients after class. Sometimes I have no business.  It is not easy to balance my studies and work. But I find doing nails enjoyable and more importantly I can make money,” she adds. 

Frank Ng Wing-fung, a lecturer at the Department of Management at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, believes it is good for students to have hands-on experience to practice entrepreneurial skills. 

“When I teach entrepreneurship, one of the core principles is to get out of the building… The university provides students a safe space to test the feasibility of an idea. No one criticizes you if you fail,” Ng says. 

“It is important to research the industry, talk to customers and experts, and match personal interests with market needs. Also, one should plan for long-term growth and aim to become an expert in one field,” he adds.

Edited by Lilac Ye

Subedited by Liam Hordijk