Manicube – The $15, 15 minute, in-office manicure/lifesaver

“It should be just as ok for a woman to get her nails done in the office as it is for a man to get a shoe shine.” – Katerina Mountanos, co-founder

Women’s grooming is an endless cycle of makeup, tweezing, manicures, moisturizing, haircuts, hair styling, and shopping.  Whether or not women love it or merely tolerate it, these beauty and grooming practices are most often expected in a professional setting and are always time consuming.  With a demanding job that doesn’t allow for an hour long break in the day, a free hour on a Saturday can seem like a relaxing excuse to get a manicure, however on some weekends, it might just be a necessary waste of a few hours.  Because of course, after getting home with mostly dry nails, there’s always the requisite hour and a half of not being able to do anything that might mess up the manicure.

Enter Manicube, the in-office 15-minute manicure that occupies what used to be the tiny meeting at the end of the hall.


What makes Manicube so effective?

Manicube is the uber of manicures, and the logical next step from in-office shoe shine and dry cleaning services.  The service is all about providing high quality and convenient services, and they do so with an operating model that drives convenience through its simplicity for the end-user.


Business Model

Founded by HBS Alumnae Katerina Mountanos and Elizabeth R Whitman in 2012, and recently acquired by Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa, Manicube’s value proposition is to provide 15-minute, $15 manicures to working women by partnering with Human Resource departments.  Some companies pay for these services for their employees, while others simply provide the space for Manicube to operate, but either way, Manicube has partnered with HR departments by positioning themselves as a benefit for employee morale and retention.  While traditional manicures can involve a full hour spent in a nail salon, these appointments are limited to 15 minutes, allowing them to be scheduled conveniently between meetings.  Manicube also provides pedicures, and for men, they provide “cut and clip” nail services, and barber services.  They see this as the start of offering a long line of in-offices services.  Additionally, Manicube has a social mission of helping female entrepreneurs, which allows employees to feel good about making use of these services.

Source: Betaboston, photo courtesy of Manicube
Source: Betaboston, photo courtesy of Manicube

Operating Model

Location:  Manicube started operating in New York, and its services are now available in Boston, Chicago and San Francisco, all cities full of young professionals with busy schedules.  In these locations, its services will be most in-demand, and part-time employees will be most available.

Source: Manicube

Source: Manicube

In-office convenience: Manicube works with HR departments to provide in-office services.  Instead of paying rent, they are given an office space to work in, and they can get this deal because they can position themselves as being a perk for employees.  Some HR departments even provide this as a free service.  Technicians transport themselves to an office, whereas traditional manicures take place at salons where customers must transport themselves to the salon, generally during or slightly after business hours.  Beyond the office, Manicube advertises that they also send technicians to events and on-demand for one-time occasions.

Experienced technicians: Manicube understands that their customers expect experienced technicians with a focus on personal hygiene, and they ensure that every technician hired is licensed and trained in Manicube-specific protocol.  The specific protocol emphasizes speed – a standard appointment is only 15 minutes, whereas a typical manicure at a salon could not be fit into a work day, unnoticed.

Mobile sign-up: Employees can sign up for their appointment online on their phones and pay by credit card, again increasing convenience.

Uber-like service hiring: Manicube works with an HR department to reliably schedule services.  To book the actual manicurists, Manicube uses an Uber-like interface, where they check to see which of their technicians are available at a given time, and hire services from there.  Technicians can accept or reject an offer to work, as they are part-time employees who often also work at a salon.

Social mission: For each manicure service, Manicube donates $1 to female entrepreneurs in developing countries.  This commitment aligns authentically with Manicube, as it was founded by two female HBS entrepreneurs.


Alignment of Operating Models

The business model and operating model of Manicube are complementary.  The business model is one of unparalleled convenience to the customer, who may both an employer or an employee.  The operating model of Manicube allows employees to take care of routine personal care more quickly than usual, adding time back to the employees life, which creates value for both the employee and employer.  The operating model achieves this efficiency by placing the service in workplaces, by allowing the service to be booked and paid for online, and by making a professional manicure faster than any competitor.  Additionally, a social mission was implemented at the very start of the business that donates money to female entrepreneurs.  The mission is well aligned with the business, and it is seemless for customers.



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Student comments on Manicube – The $15, 15 minute, in-office manicure/lifesaver

  1. Monica,

    This is an interesting idea! I can relate to the issue as I would try to get a manicure during my lunch break at work, being too busy to do it any other time. I was wondering how the issue of waiting for your nails to dry gets mitigated at the office. It almost seems you would need to have the same down time to ensure the mani didn’t get ruined which can create a productivity problem at work. Also, I wonder if offices allowing this kind of service for women wouldn’t spark a conversation to have other services instituted that are more closely linked to work and performance, such as massages to help with stress. I would also think that giving space in an office to a mani service might not trump the need to create spaces for more pressing issues such as private rooms for women to breast pump when lactating. Coming from the corporate world I have seen the struggle that companies face in trying to establish services or practices that cater to women’s needs in an effort to retain female talent. However, I wonder if women would gain more if companies sponsored other services that allowed them to better manage being mother while working, or for that matter, services available to all employees to improve their health (i.e. sit down massages, meditation rooms, etc). I do think though that for less corporate offices, this perk might attract young talent and provide the convenience of grooming that you mentioned.

  2. Monica,

    The idea of having manicure services delivered at your offices is a unique business idea and one that is sure to be of great value to its customers. I particularly think that the convenience part by not having to drive in one’s free time to get a manicure done and by getting the service completed in 15 minutes is a very strong business proposition. However, I do have some concerns regarding its operating model. The first thing I worry about is whether these ‘on-demand’ technicians can truly make themselves available within a few minutes of the time the request is made. Also, my second concern is whether these experienced technicians can really delivery a quality service in the 15 minutes allotted per customer. Typically, these manicures take around 30 min to do, sometimes excluding the drying time, so given that the time has been cut in half I question if the technicians will be able to do justice to the service. Overall, I feel that employers forging partnerships with Manicube is a win-win for both parties. Particularly for the employers, I find this partnership to be an effective way to address some of the retention and morale issues faced by female employees at work by offering such perks that make the female employees feel valued.

  3. Monica,

    I absolutely love this concept–what an incredibly creative way to deliver a needed service to women in a convenient and efficient manner. My main question is how are they able to ensure a timely delivery of their service? Do they employ enough manicurists who are ‘on line’ often enough to meet demand? If they are not able to effectively deliver on demand, I worry they will struggle with user adoption and loyalty.

    I also wonder if there are opportunities to create ‘blocked times’ at employers, to maximize the efficiency–as in the employer could help facilitate sign-ups for a 2 hour block (or some other amount of time) in which the manicurist would come and be able to serve 8 individuals consecutively. In other words, I think there may be a ‘batching’ opportunity here!

    I’m also very curious about how this operational model may be applied to offer other in-office services–such as massages (as mentioned in a previous comment), eye brow waxing, perhaps even a quick hair trim?! The options are endless!!

    Thank you for sharing!

  4. Love this company! I think sourcing labor at scale will be a challenge for this business as demand is highly concentrated at certain times of the day, and part-time labor needs to be sourced to accommodate this. I question how much part-time labor at a given nail salon is available at peak hours to facilitate this, which leads me to believe that manicube appointments are scheduled during traditionally ‘off’ hours of the day. This could be a setback from the demand side, where you may only be able to justify a break, especially while being organized by HR, during normal business hours.

    If Manicube gets this model to work, they could use manicures as a way to get employees to stay in the office for longer (and get more productive time out of them)!

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