How do you balance raising a young child with an inflexible work schedule? Atinuke Bello of Colour Riot Nails in London found the answer by starting her own salon and setting her own times.

– I had to pick up my then three-year-old son from daycare every day and stay at home when he was sick – that was difficult to combine with working until 9pm in nail bars in central London. So I decided to leave the salon I was working for and go solo – to get more flexibility.

What made you actually do it?

– When I realised that the startup costs would be minimal if I started out as a mobile nail artist.

And then?

– I was lucky to get into doing nails for magazines and fashion shows. A brand ambassador got in touch with me after having seen my social media presence. She said that they needed a nail artist for fashion week. And then things just went from there.

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Two success factors? Being centrally located and adding a new type of service!

Why nails?

– I’m trained in massage and facials, but I gradually realised that I enjoyed nails more, so I decided to focus on that one.

How does the nail industry work?

– When I started out, it was only the rich and affluent who were doing it, the really posh ones. If you were from a middle-class background, you could only afford it if someone gave it to you. Today, it’s really crazy how popular it’s become. But the more centrally located you are, the more money you make.

Seems like you nailed it…

– Haha, I guess you can say I did.

nail salon art
“I’m a nail artist, so I draw on nails, and that was a speciality when I started out.”

What’s the biggest challenge?

– When I started out it was just me. Now I have a team of five to manage, I have to pay wages and make sure that the business is doing well. It’s totally different.

Staffing is really one of the hardest things in the beauty industry. There’s always someone paying more, or a cooler brand to work for. I think I’ve been quite lucky.

How do you manage people?

– I look at myself; I remember how it was. And then I try to be the opposite of how I was treated when working for others. Now, I give my staff as much flexibility as I can, some weekends off. One of my staff has a four-year-old boy, so I try to be extra flexible with her – always giving her two weekends off per month.

tinu bello colour riot nails
Tinu Bello of Colour Riot Nails. Photographed by Gustaf Sjöholm outside the nail bar in Fitzrovia in 2017.

Why do you think Colour Riot Nails became a hit?

– I’m a nail artist, so I draw on nails, and that was a speciality when I started out. So, I’d say adding something new to the market helps, and like I mentioned, it’s key to be centrally located. I opened the first location in Fitzrovia and was lucky to open another one in Shoreditch a couple of months later.

– I also continuously run surveys among my customers to make smarter colour choices. We’re always in the top when it comes to the number of colours we offer compared to other nail bars.

Nice! Any other secrets?

– I think we’ve managed to create a relaxed atmosphere; trying to keep it personal. On Fridays we do some prosecco and cupcakes, that has proven to be very popular.

Cool! Good luck, Tinu!


Tinu Bello has taken payments with iZettle since 2016. “When I was about to take on extra staff, I took an iZettle Advance, it was much easier than going to a traditional bank.”