2022 Grants Challenge

Just Recovery for Nail Salons

This small business development program for Vietnamese women will support a just economic recovery for the nail salon industry in Los Angeles through: 1) A training series on health, safety, and workers rights for nail salon owners, and 2) Implementing a minigrants and coaching program where participants would be required to document improvements made to their salons, including use of safer products, adherence to health and safety protocols, and fair labor practices.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

BIPOC- and Women-Owned Businesses

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

County of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Pilot or new project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

Los Angeles County has the largest number of salons and workers in the U.S., with approximately 3,000 nail salons and 90,000 licensees. More than 90% of nail salons are “mom-and-pop” businesses with less than 10 employees, 80% female, and 69% are owned and staffed by Vietnamese immigrants. The industry faces unique and complex challenges for employers expected to provide low cost services. Vietnamese salons charge approximately 30% less for services than average rates. “Race to the bottom” prices drive owners to cut dangerous corners to break even, and expose workers to exploitative conditions. Pre-pandemic, manicurists earned only $9.06/hour and are routinely misclassified as independent contractors, and lack basic labor protections. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated such conditions. Asians experienced racially motivated hate crimes and violence, with businesses being the top site for incidents. In addition, salons and are at higher risk for COVID-19 due to customer proximity.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

The only way we will get real economic recovery from COVID-19 and stability in our communities is to make sure everyone can earn a good living, with good jobs that sustain our families. We need to raise job quality standards by supporting nail salons to improve working conditions and provide Know Your Rights trainings to working people. CHNSC has strong relationships with both owners who want to do the right thing but do not have access to culturally appropriate training programs. CHNSC proposes the following Nail Salon High Road Program activities: 1)TRAINING & LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT. Hold a training series for nail salon owners that support an equitable and just economic recovery. Topics could include: -Understanding micro-loans -How to promote your business through social media -How to recruit and retain employees -Understanding fair workplace practices 2)HIGH ROAD PROGRAM. Training participants will qualify to join a nail salon high road program, where they must attend individual small business counseling, allow their workers to attend Know Your Rights training, and demonstrate additional improvements in areas such as worker health and safety, and workplace labor protections over a 4-6 month period. Participants who complete the program will receive a stipend. This program will undergo a robust evaluation process with guidance from UCLA Labor Center to determine its effectiveness and ability to be replicated more widely.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

COVID has severely affected the industry. CHNSC and the UCLA Labor Center recently released reports, documenting its impact through 794 worker and 132 owner surveys. Our 2020 report found that 3/4 of owners applied for business loans and needed support in navigating loan/grant programs due to complicated forms and language barriers; many did not know about such programs. Two-thirds of owners were unable/unsure if they could pay for food and other necessities. Our 2021 report showed that 14% of owners were confident they could cover business expenses over the next month, including rent and payroll, and 83% of workers reported a reduction in earnings. If successful, this program will help ensure the sustainability of these businesses, that owners and their workers operate in a safe and just environment, and that fair labor practices and other standards are complied with. This will also help restore the city’s vitality, where many small businesses have shuttered or otherwise suffered.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

We will closely monitor and evaluate this program to track each owner’s understanding of and behaviors in creating a COVID-safe workplace and adopting labor laws through an in-depth comprehensive quantitative and qualitative evaluation. For the training program, attendees will complete a survey upon completion of each training. For the high road program, a survey will be implemented at the beginning, middle, and end of the program. This survey will be anonymous and in-language to capture honest attitudes and behaviors. We will also conduct interviews with each salon owner at the start and end of the program to capture opinions and attitudes that would otherwise not be collected in the survey. Interviews are generally an easier way for respondents to share opinions and collect rich responses. Through the evaluation, we will determine program impact, how much the owners’ behavior and attitudes towards COVID safety and labor laws changed, and recommendations on what did and didn't work.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 50

Indirect Impact: 5,000