Claws Out

From working out of her living room to working on a hit TV show and boasting a high-profile Hollywood client list, Morgan Dixon has her well-styled fingertips on the pulse of a growing industry.
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Fast Facts

“The nail care market is estimated to reach $11.6 billion by 2027.” Globe Newswire
“The global nail polish market is expected to reach $19.4 billion by the end of 2026.” Statista
“The average prices for nail services in the US in 2019 ranged from $22.75 for a basic manicure to $51.29 for a full set of gels.” Statista
“The demand for nail technicians is high, and it’s expected to grow by 10% between 2016 and 2028.” Bureau of Labor Statistics 
“Number of U.S. nail salons: There were 27,963 U.S. nail salons with payroll (employers) in 2019, up 50% from 18,600 just five years earlier. Most are “mom & pop” establishments.” MarketResearch.com


 

Morgan Dixon is a triple threat in all the best ways. An artist, entrepreneur and social media star, Dixon’s New Orleans-based salon — M.A.D. Nails, named for her initials — has garnered the attention of local and national celebrities, as well as a following of more than 37,000 on Instagram.

Yet, while everyone is currently mad about M.A.D. Nails’ top-of-the-line nail treatments for individuals and parties, nail products and more, Dixon is far from an overnight success. She has been hard at work for more than 10 years producing a career born out of both creativity and necessity.

“Something in me told me to get my nail license while I was an extremely broke college student,” Dixon said. “My sophomore year of college (at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville), I was working random jobs as a server in restaurants — while also in and out of every retail job that would hire me — and I just grew tired of spending so much time in places I knew wouldn’t take me past a certain point.”

Always a creative person, Dixon figured out how to do hair at a young age and started taking clients in her dorm room and making house calls to make extra money.

“After a while I knew I needed to get a license before I got fined, so I decided to go to cosmetology school,” she said. “When I signed up, I realized I could not afford to do that, and the best next option would be to get my nail license. ..Nails were honestly the reason why I got my first job in high school (just so that I could get my nails done because my mom told me she wasn’t paying for it).”

Nail art trends consistently make fashion headlines in publications such as Allure, Bustle and Harper’s Bazaar, while at-home kits from companies such as Olive & June have soared in popularity during the pandemic. Now that pandemic restrictions are beginning to ease, salons are experiencing an overall bounce back and a renewed demand.

A recent report from Marketdata notes, “the U.S. nail salons industry was worth $6.5 billion in 2020, down 19% from the prior year. The total market is forecast to rebound and grow 18% this year, with 9% average yearly growth through 2025, to a value of $22.6 billion.”

Celebrities such as Issa Rae, Faith Hill, Solange and Niecy Nash (all prior M.A.D. Nails clients) inspire potential customers to reach out to the professionals to achieve a look that cannot be recreated at home — which translates into big business for the cosmetic industry at large.

According to MarketResearch.com, “the ‘average’ nail salon nationwide was estimated to gross $287,000 in revenues in 2019, with a 17% profit margin. However, salons in some states, and those that are part of a franchise, can average up to $575,000.”

Social media and the attention garnered by an ever-growing audience on Instagram proved to be an invaluable tool in Dixon’s growing business, which she founded after she took a trip to New Orleans to do nails during Mardi Gras and never left.

“Social media has been my No. 1 marketing tool,” Dixon said. “It’s funny because Instagram was just getting started around the time that I became a nail tech, so it’s been something that I’ve used from the beginning to grow my business. Living in Florida, New York and New Orleans, I’ve always known that to reach the community I had to understand social media marketing tools to get people in these different areas to notice me. Social media is something that allows [me] to reach people that, unfortunately, we would have a harder time reaching out to in everyday life. Do not get me wrong though, word-of-mouth is also a very important marketing tool these days and unfortunately gets forgotten about.”

For Dixon, it was that word-of-mouth connection that led to her involvement in the hit TNT television program “Claws,” — a dark comedy series about five diverse nail artists in Central Florida, now in its fourth season — and soon a booming business with clients that now reach well beyond New Orleans.

“An amazing woman by the name of Lauren Boudreaux reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in joining the nail department team. She, at the time, was the nail department head, and brought me in and provided me with such an amazing opportunity. When I say word-of-mouth does more for people than they realize, this is one of those moments. Before this opportunity I was working in a local salon and my name was slowly getting around the New Orleans community for the nail art I was doing. She told me that she reached out to some people on her Facebook to ask who was doing great nails in the city and multiple people mentioned my name.”

Dixon’s initial attempts at launching her career proved challenging. She noted that finding mentors was not really an option. Still, being a self-starter, a skill she learned early on in life, was the key to creating a long-lasting and successful business.

“I remember reaching out to a lot of different nail artists I saw at the time to see if they could provide me with some mentorship, but unfortunately, I think a lot of them saw a mentorship as being some form of competition, and I was gracefully declined any opportunities. If you think about it, the industry was very different at the time. And even prior to that, there were not as many opportunities for nail techs outside of working in a traditional salon. Seeing that I was not going to find a mentor, I just began to create opportunities for myself.”

M.A.D. Nails currently has a team of nine employees, and the Warehouse District salon is set to expand this spring. A wide menu of treatments includes acrylic applications, manicures specially curated for men, women or groups, manicure spa treatments, pedicures and more. Prices can range from $25 to $175, depending on the type of manicure or applications and the time it takes for each treatment.

“I meet so many amazing people on a daily basis, but the ones that mean the most are the ones that I’ve been doing nails for going on seven-plus years now,” said Dixon. “My favorite clients are definitely the people who have seen me grow, trusted my process and stuck with me when I didn’t even know where I was going in my business. I have literally had people coming to me since I was doing this out of my living room and are still sitting in my chair today. They will never understand how much that love, loyalty and trust has meant to me and been the driving force for me to still be inspired to be in business today.”