For Black women, nail art has always been a form of expression. Whether it be long, coffin-shaped acrylics with sparkling rhinestones, or a colorful, short gel manicure with hand painted designs, getting your nails done is more than an exercise of self-care. It’s an opportunity to show off your personality in an artistic way. 

Located in the West Loop, Tips312, which opened in April 2023, is a nail salon created with Black women in mind. From the vibrant artwork that adorns the walls to the carefully curated R&B playlist stacked with 1990s and 2000s hits, Tips312 is a haven where beauty, comfort, and relaxation can always be found. 

Tips312 owner Meghan Young grew up in the Austin neighborhood. She started getting her nails done around the age of 13, because it felt like the “girly thing to do,” she said. 

“My grandma had really long nails, and I always watched her polish her nails growing up,” Young recalled. “So taking care of my nails was always something that I always loved.” 

While a student at Oak Park River Forest High School, she frequented The Bottom Nail Salon, an Austin neighborhood staple that welcomed Black girls far and wide. 

“This was a place where you walked in and there were women of color doing nails very well,” Young said about The Bottom. “It was one of one–almost the women’s version of a barbershop.”

Elder client at nail salon getting a pedicure
A returning customer of Tips312 enjoying her day out with her daughter to get a pedicure in the West Loop on August 5, 2023. Photo by Ash Lane for The TRiiBE.

By trade, Young is a broker and property manager in luxury real estate. In managing multiple properties in the area, she recognized that the West Loop is one of the trendiest and fastest growing neighborhoods in Chicago. She wanted to contribute to the neighborhood’s growth by adding her Black-owned business to the mix. For Young, owning a nail salon wasn’t always a goal, but the experience of getting her nails done was something that has always stuck with her. 

Modeled after Vietnamese-owned nail salons in efficiency and always welcoming walk-in clients, Young made sure to include personal touches — such as artwork from her home, and coffee table books such as Black Futures by Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham and Black is Beautiful by Kwama Brathwaite— that not only show off her personality, but inspire her clientele to dream big, live boldly, and take up space. 

“Black women are predominantly left out of this industry,” Young said.  “When I think about going to The Bottom, and how much I felt seen in those nail experiences, I wanted to make sure I replicated that feeling in my own way. Tips312 is not only a vibrant space for clients to fully enjoy, but also allows Black women nail technicians at the early stages of their careers to be educated to the fullest.”

Two clients receiving a manicure service by nail techs
Customers enjoying manicures at Tip312 in the West Loop on August 5, 2023. Photo by Ash Lane for The TRiiBE.
Nail tech painting client's nails
Nail tech is doing an acrylic set on client on August 5, 2023. Photo by Ash Lane for The TRiiBE.

In her business, Young wants to lean into mentoring aspiring nail techs and helping them to discover how to pursue their purpose in this industry. Currently, Young is building a nail art curriculum that will not only support her current roster of nail technicians, but those who also want to launch their own businesses in the future. Every year, she plans to offer scholarships for two aspiring nail technicians to get their licenses. On average, nail technician programs start at $3,300 for tuition, books, equipment, and other enrollment fees. 

“Tips312 has the name because it represents everything that is Chicago,” Young said, “but the business is also an umbrella for the other salons I want to open in major cities across the country to help women be able to find their way in terms of building clientele.” 

Young wants to spend the next six months building clientele and strengthening brand recognition across the city. When she opened the salon in April, she was still working her full-time role as a real estate broker with the hopes of making Tips312 a stream of passive income. Four months later, she quit her corporate gig and committed to growing a sustainable business.

Upclose photo of hands & nail designs
A happy customer showing off her latest nail designs by her nail tech at Tip312 in the West Loop on August 5, 2023. Photo by Ash Lane for The TRiiBE.

“As a person who’s just a nail tech by licensing, I didn’t understand the full capacity of what I was creating not only for nail techs, but also for the community,” she said. “Initially, opening  Tips312 was an opportunity for me to build my real estate portfolio and create passive income. But now that I’m four months into owning the business and building a brand, I’m learning that it’s bigger than me.” 

Now that she’s ten toes down, Young plans to expand Tips312 to other cities that include Los Angeles, Miami, Washington, D.C., and one overseas in Paris, France over the next few years. In addition to expanding locations, Young wants to give a few of the nail techs that she hires here in Chicago the opportunity to experience new markets and expand their clientele, too.  

“Opening different nail salons in other cities will give my girls the chance to learn in different markets and build clientele there,” Young said. “Each city has its own technique and style of nail art, and traveling will give techs the chance to expand their artistic range and talent. So if they choose to become a celebrity nail stylist or simply one who moves around, the experience will help them to scale their business.”

is a freelance contributor for The TRiiBE.