The state of North Carolina requires all cosmetic arts professionals and salon owners to secure valid North Carolina licenses in order to service clients within its borders. If you intend to open a spa and nail salon, you must have your North Carolina cosmetic arts licenses in place prior to taking steps to securing your salon’s location.

Complete the required education hours with an authorized North Carolina cosmetic art school. Complete at least 900 hours of education to obtain manicurist and esthetician licenses. Secure a cosmetologist license with 1,500 education hours if your nail salon will provide hair services.

Write a detailed business plan for your spa and nail salon to identify the needs and inventory requirements of the business. Identify the salon’s staffing requirements and determine if the salon will hire licensed employees or lease space to licensed contractors. Be sure to identify which licenses are required for each position.

Take steps to create your legal business structure, such as sole proprietor, partnership or corporation. Obtain an Employer Identification Number, or EIN, from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. Apply for a D-U-N-S number with Dun & Bradstreet. Use the identifying numbers to register your business with the North Carolina Department of Revenue.

Identify and secure an ideal location for your spa and nail salon. Consider the demographics of your target market, as well as the industry’s voids and growth trends. Select a location that has plenty of space for the salon’s equipment, and plenty of parking for its customers.

Ensure the selected location meets the North Carolina Board of Cosmetology’s minimum establishment standards, as outlined in Subchapter 14-H of the North Carolina Board of Cosmetology Rule Book. Some of these standards include having at least one working restroom, a working ventilation system and washable floors, rather than carpeting. Be prepared to make modifications, as needed, to comply.

Order the salon’s equipment, if the location was not pre-furnished. Stock the location with the products and inventory the salon needs for efficient operation. Choose multiple color variations, hues, scents and brands to provide an inviting selection for your clients.

Consult with a licensed insurance agent and purchase general liability and property insurance policies for the spa and nail salon. Be sure to include workers' compensation coverage for any employees of your salon. Keep a copy of the insurance policy at the salon and another copy in a secure location.

Apply for a nail salon license after you have secured your location and well before the salon opens for business. Complete the North Carolina Board of Cosmetic Art Examiners Salon Licensure Application at least 30 days before the salon opens. Be sure to include the appropriate fees with the application -- a $25 registration fee, $10 application fee and a $3 fee per active chair, as of 2011.

Expect a state examiner to visit the spa within 30 days of the salon’s opening date.


The state inspector will issue the salon license when the salon passes the physical inspection.


Salon locations that fail the state inspection will not receive a salon license and must re-apply, with the applicable fees, in order to obtain another inspection. All fees are non-refundable.