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Dr. Feelgood: How one woman's hospital experience led to mobile nailcare business

Entrepreneur behind 'Manicare' brings salon to women who can't get to one by themselves.

Kate Arian isn’t just a woman who does nails.

Her company, ManiCare, does give manicures and pedicures to the hospitalized and homebound, but the Mendham, New Jersey, native and former marketing executive for L’Oreal found a circuitous route to nail-care entrepreneurialism.

After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 2011, her cystic fibrosis (CF) required a double lung transplant, with a long recovery afterwards. While hospitalized, she found that care for women beyond the medical – feeling beautiful, tending to one’s daily regimen – went out the window. With that need in mind, she started ManiCare in 2015 and never looked back. Based in Manhattan, the traveling salon now offers its services in Philly, Boston, across the East Coast and in Cleveland and Chicago.

Q: How long after your surgeries did you stew before starting ManiCare?

A: I had the idea for ManiCare while recovering from surgery, but I did actually go on to hold two corporate jobs before becoming the full-time founder & CEO. I had the ManiCare website up, though, within a month of returning home in post-transplant mode in 2011. It’s shocking to me now that I didn’t just sleep and watch Netflix! While the business wasn’t active immediately, I wanted to “place hold” my concept and test reception. The site also helped me to clearly outline ManiCare's objective, identity and price point before official launch. Over the course of the next year, I received emails from those visiting the site, which encouraged me to offer services.

Q: All that pain and distress and you were worried about your nails. Are you used to pampering yourself, and what did not having those amenities in the hospital do to your spirit?

A: [Laughs] I have a “fancy disposition,” my mom says. I have always relished a nice outfit, jewelry and beauty treatments. Beyond that, maintaining my appearance has been a way to improve my mentality and self-esteem when feeling down. My spirits would have been greatly lifted if I could have kept up with my usual beauty and maintenance routines. Feeling and looking your personal best is a very empowering and motivating thing. It can restore dignity and humanity. Sometimes, unfortunately, it’s all you can do for someone who is very ill.

Q: Had you spoken to other women – and men – who had hospital care and felt as you did?

A: I hear from them on a daily basis. We get emails and unsolicited reviews from most of our clients, so I am very in touch with the impact that ManiCare is having and how many people share my gratitude for the small things. At the time of launch, I only had my own experience to go by, but I was very confident that the interest was out there — not just for people like myself but also among the elderly and those with cancer and debilitating diseases. We tend to the disabled, ill and homebound individuals at home as well as in hospitals. That’s crucial for their well-being.

Q: You give a portion of your proceeds to various charities. Have you ever been attached to any charitable and/or person-to-person endeavor before this?

A: My parents run a charity to help patients with CF, and their families afford medical care not covered by insurance and/or lifestyle costs associated with their medical burden. I was taught from a young age about giving back – both from my family and at my Jewish day school – and throughout all of my own challenges, I was always aware that there were those less fortunate.

Q: What is the age range of those who use your services?

A: Our younger demographic is the new and expecting mothers who like our services while on bed rest or in the hospital after birth — 35 to 55 is probably the most common age range. Unfortunately, these are individuals with terminal, chronic or one-time health issues. We also have many elderly users (the oldest recurring clients being 97 and 100) who are gifted the services by family or order for themselves. 

Q: When and why did you move from nails to hair and massage?

A: Hair, massage, facials, makeup and waxing were added about one year ago due to receiving increased requests for these options. Nails are still the mainstay of our business and the service I feel most passionate about.

Q: What is the criteria for whom you hire to do this, because my guess is that they must have some abilities toward therapeutic comforting beyond just gel and scissors?

A: I screen for bedside manner, compassion, cleanliness and intellect; someone that I would want to talk to if I were trapped with them for an hour and a half while they’re doing my nails. They must also have a basic medical understanding of the patient they’re visiting, and they need to be fluent in English. We have a multistep hiring process and use the hygiene guidelines from a nursing home-care agency to thoroughly train our staff.

Q: What is your personal motto when it comes to all this?

A: Face life with a little guts and a lot of glitter … and when “I” is replaced by “we," even "illness" becomes "wellness.”

This interview has been edited for clarity. To learn more about ManiCare services, visit https://mani-care.com.