Open till 5am for CNY

Ms Ng Huiwen, who does manicures (above) out of her Housing Board flat (left), worked up to 22 hours straight during the two weeks before Chinese New Year.
Ms Ng Huiwen, who does manicures out of her Housing Board flat (above), worked up to 22 hours straight during the two weeks before Chinese New Year.PHOTOS: NIVASH JOYVIN, NG HUI WEN/INSTAGRAM

At Fling Nails in a Woodlands Housing Board flat, mother-of-two Ng Huiwen spent the two weeks before Chinese New Year working for up to 22 hours straight, peering over her customers' nails until as late as 5am.

The 30-year-old manicurist says the period is "the craziest of the year", with customers showing up for appointments at odd times.

"I'll ask them if they mind coming at 2am and they'd say ok."

She adds that she earns $10,000 to $12,000 in the two-week stretch.

"It is a really busy 14 days for me. I get very little sleep, but it is worth it to see so many people satisfied with their nails, and I see it as my annual bonus."

Running her business at home means that Ms Ng, who charges $28 for a classic gel manicure and $30 for a gel pedicure, can operate at such irregular hours. Malls typically require their tenants to follow retail hours, which usually means closing at 10pm daily.


Ms Ng Huiwen, who does manicures (above) out of her Housing Board flat, worked up to 22 hours straight during the two weeks before Chinese New Year. PHOTOS: NIVASH JOYVIN, NG HUI WEN/INSTAGRAM

Ms Ng, who left her administration assistant job in 2009, says she also appreciates the independence that working at home offers and the time that she can spend at home with her 10-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter.

The business diploma holder, who says her desk-bound job was "so boring (she) really could not take it", attended a beauty course the year after she quit.

She bagged a professional manicurist certificate in 2010, then went on to do ad-hoc nail work, mostly for friends and family members for a fee. She started off travelling to people's houses and working at beauty brand events.

"At the time, home-based beauty services were not as popular and I wasn't confident enough to start my own salon, since I was still fresh and had no customer base," she says, adding that she felt ready to start a salon in 2014.

But even then, she did not want the commitment of a long-term lease - malls typically require tenants to sign three-year leases - or the heavy upfront payments to renovate an outlet.

Instead, she put in $10,000 to renovate one of the bedrooms in her four-room flat, turning it into a nail salon, complete with a pair of armchairs that sit on a wooden platform, textured wallpaper and a shelf filled with bottles of nail polish.

Ms Ng says she regularly sees two to three clients a day and earns about $3,000 to $4,000 a month.

Her customers find out about her mainly through word of mouth and social media.

She does not advertise her services, but has a Facebook page and an Instagram account for her salon.

Her clients run the gamut from young students and office executives to older women in their 60s.

"I think nail art can be very personal, so being able to express my style is important. I'll discuss designs with customers and give them something customised. I think a regular salon will not have time for that," she says.

Melissa Heng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 09, 2017, with the headline 'Open till 5am for CNY'. Print Edition | Subscribe