Thursday, August 30, 2007

Where should the next Julep be?

Jeanne and I spent the morning yesterday walking around downtown Seattle, scouting locations for the next Julep.

Finding real estate is like trying to get pregnant. There's only so much you can do to make things happen. The timing of events is less in my full control than I'd like. And you may think you want a boy, or a girl, or a red-head (if you're my in-laws), but really you just want a healthy location (1800ish square foot with frontage onto a high traffic street).

Dear guests, where do you think the next Julep should be?

And if you know of any great locations that are available, or anywhere close to available, please let me know immediately.

In anticipation of finding the perfect location in downtown Seattle or Bellevue, we are hitting the streets doing our second round of fund-raising. Next Wednesday, we present to the Zino Zillionaire forum, where the best non-technology and the best technology investment opportunities will each win a $50,000 investment fund.

I wouldn't have characterized us as "non tech" since we have on-line scheduling, and four computers in the parlor that help keep us at the cutting edge of operations. And I'm not sure what's worse - "non tech" or "low tech", which is how we were characterized at the last investor forum.

In any event, we only have 5 minutes to make our presentation. It's like speed-dating, or the first episode of The Bachelor.

Please keep your fingers crossed for us on Wednesday that we get the rose.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Party for Twenty Eight Women Lawyers

We hosted a party for twenty eight women lawyers last night - and it was a blast. It looked like the guests had a great time. Nothing like getting some mentoring advice over a pedicure. It was great to see the newbie chatting with the partners and of counsels.

This is EXACTLY the kind of event I'd been hoping to be able to host at Julep. It's exactly the kind of event I would have loved to attend when I was a lawyer. It beats the skirt off of long sporting events and endless rounds of golf.

But we had fun too! The guests were delightful (having had the chance to nibble on yummy food and drink yummy wine - and YES WE HAD A LIQUOR LICENSE FOR THIS PRIVATE EVENT - if you are the Washington State Liquor Board and you're keeping up on this blog!).

On the service side had our system down. Each vernisseur had a two chair "pod", and we created signup sheets for each of the seven vernisseurs. Then we put into place three "goddesses" who helped seat guests, get the polishes, clean up the foot baths, and generally help everyone be where they needed to be.

I have to admit, when I first took the reservation, I was more than a little scared to tell the verniseurs about it - especially since it was initially booked for about forty.

But it was a great evening for woman power all around.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

New York Times highlights hazards of chemicals found in most nail salons

We're finally starting to see more attention and focus on the hazards of the toxic chemicals found in most nail salons (avoided like the plague at Julep).

The New York Times recently highlighted studies that have found that prolonged exposure to toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate has been associated with poor performance on tests of attention, mental processing speed, memory and verbal learning. And children who were prenatally exposed to the compounds these workers use performed worse on tests for cognitive function, language and behavior.

I think of these compounds like second hand smoke at restaurants. It's a nuisance and unpleasant for the casual guest, but much more of a health threat to the person who works in that environment day in and day out.

Women - please stop the madness! Natural nails can be just as beautiful and strong in almost every case as artificial nails - without the health hazards. (Regular use of cuticle oil works miracles).

This is not, by the way, just an issue at your regular discount salon. Most high-end spas also offer artificial nail services that involve toxic chemicals (just think about the glue it takes to put an acrylic nail in place - and then think about the dissolver it takes to remove that glue).

I'm excited - for our guests and for our employees - that Julep is a natural nails only parlor. Since artificial nails have accounted for most of the growth in this industry over the past decade, when I wrote a business plan that excluded those services, a lot of industry folks were skeptical.

So thank you, dear guests of Julep, for believing in us and being part of a healthier alternative in nail care.

Saturday, August 18, 2007


Our fabulous parlor hostess Kate is on vacation with her family in Greece - but has called back at least three times that I know of (perhaps more not under my watch!).

Guests who come in regularly have come to know Kate's welcoming smile.

Kate, we miss you dearly, but hope that you can relax, knowing that we'll keep the parlor together until you return!

Since every day is like a month at Julep in terms of changes and developments, when anyone goes away, even for a few days, it seems like they've been gone forever. It's a testament to how much of a difference each person can make that the atmosphere and dynamic can be so different depending on who's there. But it's exciting - every time someone returns from vacation (you'll see, Marika!), we have so much to show off. Like Jessica - our newest, very awesome vernisseur! And our new, beautiful color palettes (thanks Shari!). And rolls and rolls of credit card paper (see below).

Friday, August 17, 2007


What’s exciting about Julep is that we (almost) never make the same mistake twice. We’re really striving to keep learning – as individuals and as a collective.

But, as a fledging young business, there are a LOT of things we’re doing for the first time. Like the first time the faucet handle fell of the wall (Monday), the first time the sanitizer overflowed (also Monday – and actually, okay, okay, that wasn’t the first time), and the first time we ran out of thermal tape for our credit card machine (today).

We are hopeful (delusional?) that our fabulous services and in-service professionalism radiated a sense of calm that minimized the impact of these aggravations that were driving us (me) batty.

Since we had no credit card paper between about 2:25pm and 3:30pm today, the guests who checked out during that time had to take our word for it that we were charging their cards the right amount . . . . Thank you thank you to the patient guests who had strong senses of both humor and empathy. And thank you for your efforts to preserve the environment by cutting down on excess credit card receipt paper.

So it turns out that it’s only a short 4 transactions from the pink “you’re running out” signal on the paper to the “no paper error” that means that you won’t be able to give your guests any record of this transaction.

And that’s hardly enough time to run across to Office Depot, buy credit card machine paper rolls, get back to the parlor, find out that it’s the wrong paper, run back to Office Depot, return the first rolls but find that they don’t have the type you need, run back to the parlor, get your car keys, drive to OfficeMax, buy 200 rolls of the right paper (so this doesn’t happen again, for a long, long time, anyway), drive back and pop the roll into the machine. Now is it?

I actually resorted to putting the credit card processing machine on the top of the counter for one guest to be able to show her exactly what I was punching in. . . (I thought it was resourceful, I think she thought it was overkill).

Tomorrow, Jeanne will say (accurately) that we need a PROCESS to make sure this doesn’t happen again. And then she will magically make that happen.

And Audrey and Michelle will be excited to be able to close the cash drawer with actual paper records of transactions (making things so much more boring!).

Friday, August 10, 2007

A day in the life of Jane

Today was one of my favorite work days since I’ve started my Julep journey. Not for any one reason in particular – just that the sum of the parts ended up being greater than the whole. Here’s the blow by blow (WARNING: This entry is LONG!).

6:15am: I wake up thinking that I’m going to turn over a new leaf by starting to exercise for the first time in eight months. This seems like a good time to start, since my husband and kids are across the country at the beach in North Carolina, and so mornings and evenings are more than a little lonely. I’ve picked yoga as my "gateway class."

6:20 am: Only, “too bad for me,” (as Junie B Jones, the heroine in the books we’ve been reading the kids lately, would say) because the class actually started at 6am, not 6:30 as I had thought.

6:45am: But wait! This being Seattle, a quick search online reveals that there are five thousand yoga studios within a three mile radius of my house. One has a class that starts at 7:45am. It means that I won’t be able to make it to the parlor by 9:15am when Audrey opens, but I’m confident that she doesn’t need me there, so I decide to go to the class.

7:00am-7:25am: But first I check my e-mail, and then get sucked into checking the day’s schedule at our parlor online. I move things around to optimize breaks (which I promised Amy I’d stop doing, which I’m only now realizing as I’m writing this) and even up the workload. It’s like a giant game of chess, or at least what I’ve heard chess is like, since I don’t actually play.

7:25am: I go flip the laundry – I’ve got one completed bag of clean white towels for the parlor. I put the brown ones in the dryer – they should be ready after I get back from my class.

7:30am: I get into my car and drive to my yoga class. I’m so excited. I’ve been to an amazing class near my house (which is at an inconvenient time for me these days) where the poses are so painful they make me tear up, but then I leave utterly revitalized and walking several inches taller. When I retire, I am going to practice yoga hours for every day. Thinking of how strenuous those classes were, I’ve packed my Nalgeen container of water – I want to stay hydrated during a strenuous workout.

7:45am: I find good parking, and am on-time, seated with my bolsters, mat, blocks, strap and eyemask (I’ve never been to such a well equipped class before!). I’m ready to turn over that new leaf!

7:50am: Only “too bad for me” again, because this is not one of those EXERCISE, need your Nalgeen bottle of water type yoga classes. It’s one of those MEDIATING, sit around and CONTEMPLATE classes, where we have to hear a lot about NOT WANTING anything from the universe, and SURRENDERING. The absolute opposite of everything I’m about right now. Am realizing that I would have gotten more exercise at home with my Rodney Yi or Ali McGraw yoga DVDs. Or at home in my bed, for that matter.

7:55am: Oh god I want to get out of here but that would be so rude.

7:56am: Or would it?

7:57am: Of course it would. I’ve got to bear it out. I think about SPECIFIC places in my life this philosophy might apply. Like JUST BEING with my family. Enjoying the moment at Julep, taking a break from constantly glancing around for a stray cup I should put away, and thus missing the great view.

7:58am: But I’m done making that realization, and I’ve got another HOUR left to go. We’ve only done 2 poses, the lights are off, and my heart rate is GOING DOWN, not up. HOW IS THIS GOING TO HELP ME GET JENNIFER ANISTON’S ABS POST BRAD???!!!

9:00am-9:40am: Several naps later, am finally out of there – go home to change, flat iron my newly cut hair all flippy outy, get the brown towels out of the dryer, and I’m off to the parlor.

9:40am: Except I’ve been running with the red empty light on for 2 days. I decide I can PROBABLY make it to the parlor. And there are at least some downhill stretches . . .

9:45am: Draw on eyeliner at the stop light (when I get all greens, I appear at the parlor with the bags under my eyes in full view). Consider (for the umpteenth time) whether it would really be awful to get eyelash extensions. Decide (for the umpteenth time) that despite the promise of instant, easy glamour, the $500 could probably be better spent elsewhere. Like maybe restarting my kids college savings accounts, which we put on hold to fund the first days of Julep. Or just about anything else, actually.

10:30am: Walk into the parlor, immediately get sucked into some voicemails, answering the phone to take appointments, and other random tasks that seem to urgently require my attention for that second.

10:45am: Hooray! A vernisseur candidate comes in for a complimentary service –and she’s articulate, energetic, and I’ve heard from Anthony and Hadassah that she’s an amazing manicurist and team player. I spend the next 45 minutes showing her around. I already feel like she’d be a great cultural fit, and I trust Anthony and Hadassah’s view of her professional talent, so now it’s all about showing her what we’re all about, after which who could possibly resist?

11:30am: I start taking faster and faster because my health care benefits advisor has arrived to discuss getting all of us on a health care plan by September 1st. He’s been waiting patiently, so I try to wrap up everything I want to tell the candidate.

11:40am: Kris and I walk next door to Fondi for a coffee (he pays because I’ve forgotten to bring my wallet). Fondi makes excellent brick oven pizza, by the way. But I can’t suggest having lunch, because I’ve forgotten my wallet.

11:50am: So the rates have gone up since we last talked several months ago. ARGH. And the larger network, Regents Blue Shield, has gone up by more than 20%. Given our census – women in our 30s & 40s, the premiums are pretty crazy. And I feel really strongly about making it affordable for people to make preventative, annual visits that are not just out-of-pocket. Which makes things crazier. And Kris says to plan on 10% increases EVERY YEAR. Who raises their prices 10% every year? What would our guests say if we did that? The doctors I know don’t seem to be getting 10% raises every year, so where does this money go?

12:20am: Kris and I weigh through the options, and choose a program that provides for:

- 4 doctors visits a year with a $20 copay

- A $500 deductible

- Chiropractor visits (with copay)

- Annual vision visit and coverage for prescription glasses

It’s a smaller network than Regents, but better coverage for the money. He’ll come back to our staff meeting on Monday at 5:00pm to present it to everyone and answer our questions. I want to pick a package that will entice everyone who’s eligible to enroll. We also talk briefly about healthcare and dependant care flex plans – and I decide to hold off on those until we’re bigger.

1:00pm: I’m back in the parlor and relieving Audrey from the front desk so she can eat some lunch. It's ridiculous for me to forget my own lunches, but beyond the pale to forget about other people's need for lunch. I apologize and scoot her out of there.

2:00pm: Jeanne and I talk through some personnel issues and combo-pricing questions. What’s great is that we make decisions and implement them immediately (we went onto the system and added the new combo pricing – 10% discount on any combination of classic & signature manicure/pedicure treatments).

2:15pm: Michelle comes back to remind me that I’d booked a leg waxing appointment with her at 2:00pm. Oops. I tell her that I will try to fit it in later. Truly objectively, I can say that Mae and Michelle are the best estheticians to get waxing treatment from I've ever come across - and I've been to a lot of different places, as you have to when you're always looking for last minute appointments (thank goodness those days are over).

3:00pm: I sit down with Tracey for only my third pedicure ever at Julep. Each time I sit down, I am amazed at how fun and amazing an experience it is. Despite being there all the time, it’s easy to lose track of what it’s like from the guest perspective. I LOVE being a guest at Julep. But of course, I can’t stop being the problem solver too. Poor Tracey. While she’s trying to give her boss a great pedicure, with a tricky dark polish (the “Lindsey,” which I love on my toes, but I’m thinking we’re going to have to rename given the recent episode of overly generous friends giving her their clothes with cocaine in the pockets), I’m also grilling her on what she’s observed that can be improved. She gives thoughtful, honest feedback while melting me with her massage.

3:35pm: She does a fabulous job on the polish, but before she gets to the all important top coat, someone comes over to tell me that there’s yet another vernisseur candidate who’s stopped by, inquiring about open positions! Tracey immediately reaches for the flip flops, even before I can muster up the courage to sheepishly ask if we could interrupt our regularly scheduled programming for this amazing event.

3:35 – 3:50pm: I talk to vernisseur candidate # 2 for today about her experience in manicuring, customer service, team work and dynamic environments. Then I set up some time for her to meet with Amy on Monday.

4:00pm: I think about going to get something to eat, since I haven’t had anything since my peanut butter and honey tortilla after my failed attempt at yoga. But there are footbath bowls to be taken back and sanitized, the autoclave to be run, floors to be wiped, new manicure trays to be set up, and suddenly it’s 5:00pm and time for Audrey to go home, and Megan to grab a bite, so I cover the front desk again. Truth be told, these are some of the moments I love most about Julep. I'm sure that I'm not nearly as helpful as I imagine myself to be (I think everyone likes it better when I stay away from the front desk since I always leave it littered with cryptic post-its). But it's so fun to greet guests and get them booked and situated.

5:00pm: Hooray – Kate is back! I was away last weekend, then Kate doesn’t work Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so it feels like forever since I’ve seen her. It’s great to have her ten eyes, twenty hands, and ever welcoming smile back with us.

6:00pm: I look down at my cell phone (which I can't carry around with me because I'm wearing my cute brown dress with no pockets) and am very sad to see that I've missed a call from my husband. It's now 9pm on the East coast, but I call back right away and am able to catch an audio glimpse of my kids (quadrouple hooray!). I don't usually talk to them on the phone - and they both somehow sound so much littler to me than they do when they're in my arms with Eli's big ideas and Yumi's big personality. I really miss them, and can't wait until they get home Sunday night.

7:00pm: Where did the time go? Now Michelle and Dawn are coming in. I LOVE that Julep is a regular hang out for them (and the fabulous Megan/Vince/John/Kendra crowd, and many beloved others).

7:15pm: With Megan welcoming at the front desk, Kate orchestrating the parlor floor, and Michelle ensuring that the dispensary is running smoothly (when she’s not doing her amazing waxing services), I sneak across the street to Officemax to buy a new laser printer cartridge – and decide to be crazy and get some sushi to go for dinner. I even order spinach – since my mother always told me that I had to eat all the colors every day.

7:45pm: As I’m crouched under the counter fighting with the laser printer, a manicurist/salon owner friend of Arlene’s drops by. She runs her own business right now – but wanted to know more about Julep because she’s thinking about ramping down and selling her shop. She’s also Korean, and I feel sheepish that my Korean is too poor for me to say anything meaningful.

7:55pm: I help Michelle and Dawn check out - then I stupidly tell Dawn, "you look bigger than the last time I saw you!" - because she's pregnant, you see, (or I hope that I'm remembering properly that she is!) and last time she didn't look pregnant at all, and this time she was starting to show . . . BUT I'm taking away from this experience that IT'S NEVER EVER EVER a good idea to tell ANY woman, pregnant or not, that she's "bigger". HUGE post-it note to self.

8:00pm: Bradley Sweeks (from Flux, who did our beautiful custom light fixtures), and his wife Gillian come in for her birthday. It’s his first pedicure ever – and he loves it (of course).

8:05pm: I've fixed the laser printer! I am such a genius.

8:10pm: No one can find any information for a group booking I took over the phone for eight people on Monday morning. We can't do a confirmation call - now all we can do is wait and hope they show up. I am such an idiot.

8:15pm: But I’m excited to see my friends Shannon and Jenn, who are coming in for pedicures. They have started a baby blanket business called Satsuma, making soft, luxurious blankets out of bamboo fiber that naturally anti-bacterial.

8:20pm: Hmm, they are 5 minutes late.

8:25pm: Now they’re 10 minutes late – this is where we typically have to start abbreviating the service.

8:30pm: Jenn calls to say they’re almost here! I draw the footbath water.

8:33pm: They walk in – I immediately grab them, tear off their shoes and douse their feet with the waiting water. VERY relaxing. Oh wait, did they want manicures?

9:15pm: Arlene and Lisa have generously stayed late to finish up my sweet but late friends, and everyone has to get out of there fast because Rooster’s the coffeeshop behind us, is starting to paint and it smells awful. I’m glad they waited until our closing hours.

9:45pm: I drag two very full baskets of laundry to my car. I drive out – and remember that I’m approaching the third day with the empty gas light on – and that’s pushing it even for me, so I swing around and head to the nearest gas station.

10:15: I walk in the door to my house, drag the first load of laundry downstairs, grab an apple, and turn on computer to check e-mail. Skip guiltily past the work related ones to check personal ones first:

  • A reply to my “congrats” e-mail to the marvelous Sharon Marcil, a mentor who has just been appointed (Named? Elected? Annointed? Not sure what the right verb is) Senior Partner and Managing Director at BCG. Am thrilled for her. In our brief exchange, we manage to squeeze in the nick names that our respective daughters have chosen for themselves. (My daughter’s chosen “nick” name is seven words long, with various girly words like “Princess” sprinkled throughout).
  • A note from my dear friend Carrie, who I’ve been thinking about more and more these days because I’ve been thinking and growing so much recently, and going through this exercise makes me grateful for her.
  • Greetings from our friend Benjamin, who is not in Atlanta where we last heard from him, but all the way across the world in Dubai

10:48PM: Open Microsoft Word to begin chronicling this wonderful day. (With quick break at 10:54PM to go flip the laundry).

12:25AM: “And now it’s now” as my dear son Eli says when he finishes telling me about his day. And I’m headed for bed.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Online-Booking Now Live!

I'm excited to announce that we're now live with online booking (thanks to the perseverence of our very own Jeanne Riley).

Now anyone can go online at anytime of day or night to book an appointment for the best manicures and pedicures. Of course, you can still call us at - but isn't it nice to have options.

I was passionate about giving our guests this option because it's exactly what I wanted as a busy working mom. During the days, I was always harried running (literally - I sprained my ankle once when I was 7 months pregnant) to/from back to back meetings. Then I'd race home to my family for dinner - and only remember at about 9:30pm that I'd missed out on making my pedicure appointment yet again.

All my shopping is done online afterhours while watching Sex in the City and Scrubs reruns. Why can't appointment booking be the same?

And now, voila, it can.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Virgin Cosmopolitans Anyone?

We were suprised this week with a call from the state liquor control board letting us know that we couldn't serve our "Girls Night Out" complimentary glass of wine anymore. Sorry all. (Perhaps the front page picture of a guest with a glass of wine in her hand in the Seattle PI business section last Saturday alerted them?)

Apparently there was a bill in the State Legislature last year that would have allowed spas / salons (and hopefully parlors like us too!) to serve a complimentary glass of wine to their guests (I was told by the friendly Liquor control lady). But it didn't pass.

After healthcare reform, this is going to be tops on the Julep lobbying list.

All loyal Julep guests, please contact your state representative to demand your right to live in a world with accessible healthcare and a complimentary glass of wine with your pedicure.