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The manicurist down the hall: Startup Manicube will bring the nail salon to Boston workplaces

Posted by Scott Kirsner  September 23, 2013 08:00 AM

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Being crunched for time is no longer an excuse for having ragged fingernails. The 15-minute, in-office manicure is coming to Boston.

Manhattan-based Manicube plans to begin operations in Boston next month. Its flagship service is a 15-minute, $15 manicure, including nail polish; a men's "clip and clean" is $12. Manicube already dispatches manicurists to 40 workplaces in New York. Founders Katina Mountanos and Elizabeth Whitman, right, say they expect to launch in Boston with more than ten companies participating. Some companies, they say, simply set aside an office for Manicube once a week, while others subsidize the costs of manicures or offer them free as an employee perk.

"When we compared Boston to New York, we found that there were fewer nail salons in Boston, and that the average price of a manicure is about $4 higher than New York," says Whitman. Mountanos says the service is "for working women. It's designed to save them an hour from their weekend, or from having to leave the office for an hour and wind up extending their workday." She says just eight percent of Manicube's customers so far are men. Appointments are booked online, and can be paid for on the web, or at the office, using an iPad with a credit card reader. Manicube communicates with its army of manicurists via text message; they can choose to accept or reject a given job, since many of them also have their own clientele or work part-time at spas.

Manicube launched in Manhattan last year, and raised a seed round of funding this spring. Mountanos says the company is exploring offering additional services, like pedicures, chair massage, and "other beauty services," she says. At each office visit, the company aims to do about a dozen manicures, but there's no commitment beforehand.

Mountanos and Whitman were in Boston last week, interviewing manicurists, talking to office managers and human resources execs at local companies, and lining up office space. They landed at PayPal's StartTank in the Financial District, which offers free space to chosen start-up businesses. Annie Grayson Ode will run Manicube's Boston operations.

Manicube's founders are both graduates of Harvard Business School; they previously worked for Quidsi (now part of Amazon), developing and marketing an e-commerce site called BeautyBar.com.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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