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Ali Elman is a mother to a 3-year-old daughter (with another on the way) and the co-founder of Base Coat, a nail salon founded on the nail industry’s need for safer environments for clients and fair living wages and working conditions for technicians. “My business partner was inspired to found Base Coat when she was pregnant and couldn’t find any place to get her nails done that wasn’t toxic and didn’t make her feel sick,” Elman says. “I loved the idea of what a company like this could stand for and wanted to help be a part of taking it to the next level and growing this incredible brand.”
Co-founding Base Coat would not be Elman’s first time starting a business. With years of experience as a market researcher and estate manager under her belt, Elman has a keen sense and love for finding promising retail and restaurant spaces. She started her first business, Black Eye Coffee, in Denver in 2012. The community-centric coffee shop was an instant hit, and just a few years later Elman opened a second location in Capitol Hill, which Zagat recently dubbed as one of America’s “10 most Instagrammable coffee shops.”
Base Coat has had similar success; Elman and her co-founders Tran Wills and Sarah Simon have opened three locations (DTLA, Denver, and Aurora) with a fourth location opening soon in Fairfax. Elman and her co-founders strive to prove that their business model works—that a nail salon can be profitable for both the business and its employees, and that their work doesn’t have to compromise their health. “It’s incredibly rewarding to have a company that supports other women,” Elman says.
Elman discusses how she manages running two businesses as well as raising her daughter.
As a mother as well as the founder of two successful companies—Black Eye Coffee and Base Coat—how do you make it all work?
You have to allocate your time very deliberately and learn how to trust your people to help you execute your vision. I have been blessed with fantastic partners and employees who all care deeply about these businesses. The key is to know that what you bring to the table is vital and what everyone else brings to the table is just as important. There are times I am stretched too thin and some things slip by me. It can be frustrating, but it’s part of the deal when you take on this kind of work and is a reminder that I can’t do it alone.
When did you first feel successful?
There are days I still don’t feel successful. I think it depends on how you measure success. I have about 60 employees between the Black Eye and Base Coat locations. Sometimes I feel successful when we have a day where everything runs smoothly, although that is rarely the case in the service industry. I truly want all of my employees and customers to be happy in our spaces, and when they are that feels like a success to me.
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