Woman left unemployed by pandemic creates mobile salon business in nine months

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Mariela Vazquez opens the door to the pink van smiling. Inside a lush space awaits with a pink-and-white color interior, modern furniture, a flat screen TV, full air conditioning and a collection of nail polishes. It is everything that anyone would imagine they’d see in a traditional nail spa– but on wheels.

“When customers enter the van, they forget that the outside world exists,” said Vasquez, 50, who started Petite Mobile Salon in September 2020.

Vasquez, who worked in a nail salon in Weston for 1.5 years, was left without a job when COVID hit. She thought desperately about reinventing herself, then started her business with nothing. Nine months later, she now draws 15 to 25 customers a week who pay for services from manicures to eyelash extensions at prices ranging from $20 to $110.

“I never imagined it would skyrocket like this,” said Vasquez. “My next available appointment is next month, I’m booked solid.”

During COVID-19, many people have been afraid to leave their homes. Amazon and others have earned billions delivering packages at doorsteps. And going mobile is also a way many businesses have stayed afloat.

Vasquez took advantage of this. A native of Caracas, she decorated cakes before starting on nails. Her main goal has always been to become an entrepreneur.

In 2017, a year after arriving in the United States, she traveled to New York, where she was captivated by a pop-up nail stand that delivered manicures to business women outside their buildings. Vasquez worked in Vogue Nail Bar until December 2019 because she wanted to go independent.

In January 2020 she rented a suite to do nail services. But after a dispute with the owner, she closed down and was left jobless again.

Months later, on a trip to a wholesale beauty supply store, Vasquez had an epiphany when she met Alejandra Ledezma, who ran “The Barbera,” a barbershop in a van. She stepped outside to check out the mobile barbershop, then recalled the pop-up she had seen in New York years earlier. It was then that she decided to take the risk and create a mobile salon.

Her husband’s business partner had a spare van he no longer needed. He gave it to her if she made the remaining payments.

After she decked it out, Petite Mobile Salon was born.

Click to enlarge. (Photo courtesy of @Petitemobilesalon via Instagram.)

Maria Soto, a busy restaurant cook, has been a loyal client for over two years. She said that Mariela finds space to fit her schedule. Every two weeks she gets a manicure at 7 a.m.

“You feel very comfortable, clean and more private than a regular nail place,” said Soto. “She goes to the parking lot of your house and there you have the salon, it’s marvelous!

Alixfel Seijas, 23, compares Petite Mobile Salon to a princess castle because of the pink colors and shiny atmosphere. She also feels that the salon provides the same treatment as going to see a therapist.

“Mariela’s ears are always open listening to you,” said Seijas. ”I can talk about my problems, I feel like a psychologist is doing my nails.”

In the near future, Mariela wants to convert Petite into a franchise. She plans on adding an additional two vans so that her services are available in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Rebecca Morales is a Broadcast Journalism student also pursuing a minor in Psychology. She is passionate about Communications because it holds a powerful voice through writing and expression. After her studies, she wants to begin a career at a local news station.