Meet Ali Elman, Founder of Base Coat Salon

Base Coat was founded in Denver, Colorado in 2013 and was the first non-toxic nail spa in the city, in addition to being one of the few in the United States to be truly non-toxic. The founders, Tran Wills, Ali Elman, and Sarah Simon, saw a need for the nail industry to change the way it provided services. They saw the importance in creating a safer environment for clients and for technicians to have fair living wages and working conditions. We interviewed Ali Elman to learn about taking the leap into entrepreneurship and how she finds inspiration. 

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How long after you started Basecoat did you realize you tapped into something big?

I would say about six months after opening, my partner, Tran and I felt that this concept could expand into something larger. We saw our clients' responses to what we were doing and that there was truly a need for a less toxic place to get your nails done. It made sense to create our own product line and really push the brand forward as a whole. 

The decor is gorgeous and very different than the typical nail salon. When coming up with the design concept, was it a conscious decision to make it look as 'Instagram worthy' as possible?

Getting your nails done should be a time to give back to yourself. We want our clients to walk into a Base Coat salon and have a complete experience and that means the design itself needs to feel welcoming and enveloping -- its meant to give you a small reprieve for the day. Each space we design is inspired by the neighborhood or the building in which we place them. They are not exactly designed with Instagram in mind, but having a space that is worth taking pictures of while you get your nails done gives the client something fun and unique. For most businesses in hospitality, it can't just be about one element. All pieces have to deliver on the same level, from the nails and the service to the interiors. 

You worked with other businesses before starting your own. What was it that made you take the leap into entrepreneurship?

I have always wanted to work for myself and I knew that from a young age. Hospitality in particular was something I loved but I didn't quite know what that meant career wise or how to utilize my business degree within that field. But I loved the idea of making people feel good through experience. Creating is just in my blood-- I was building sets at school and directing plays in 5th grade. I love a good project. 

What blogs/websites/books do you look to for business news and inspiration?

I am not a big blog reader but I do read a lot of random books/mags. Some seem more obvious than others for business--- Fast Company, Entrepreneur Magazine, Bossy Pants. I also love less traditional ways of thinking of business and ways to be successful so my go to's are Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, The Four Agreements, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior. When applying those methods, it really helps you be the best you can be and stay on a path you are meant to be on. 

What advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs?

I would ask them what their motivations are because being an entrepreneur is hard. It means the stakes are usually high and the day to day stress level can be a rollercoaster. For me, I just can't help myself. I want to constantly create and it's what motivates me even more so than the financial success. What it comes down to is that I do not have a safety net. If all my businesses fail, there is no back up 401K or retirement plan. On most days, I am okay with this, but not everyone is and you need to be honest with yourself about that reality. It's different for each individual, but the bottom line is that you are either an entrepreneur at heart or you aren't and you usually don't have any choice in the matter. I often say, "my boss is the worst, she never gives me a break". That boss of course, is me. 

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We are so excited that Base Coat is joining The Collective LA in our gifting suite at our conference! As our guest, not only will you enjoy a full day of fashion, food, and travel, but you will receive special gifts from Base Coat and more. To learn more about conference, just click on the button below. 

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