Small Business

Chelsea Bagan of Trophy Wife Salon

Back in 2012 we ran a story about Chelsea Bagan, who launched her nail art business, Trophy Wife, ‘accidentally-on-purpose’ back in 2010. It wasn’t long before Chelsea developed somewhat of a cult following, propelled, in part, by her popularity on Instagram.

Today we’re following up to see just how far Chelsea’s business has come in the last three years!

Lucy Feagins

Nail artist Chelsea Bagan of Trophy Wife at work in her Richmond salon. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.


Details from the Trophy Wife salon in Richmond. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

Nail artist Chelsea Bagan of Trophy Wife at work in her Richmond salon. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

Chelsea Bagan of Trophy Wife and her growing team of staff! Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

Details from the Trophy Wife salon in Richmond. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

Details from the Trophy Wife salon in Richmond. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

Chelsea Bagan of Trophy Wife in her Richmond salon. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

Lucy Feagins
9th of July 2015

Chelsea Bagan’s amazing nail art business, Trophy Wife, started as a humble solo operation back in 2010, but after working out of various different Melbourne studio spaces, late last year Chelsea opened her first street front salon in Richmond. The business has swiftly grown to accommodate nine nail artists (!) and various other beauty service providers over the past year. Chelsea has also recently set up a Brisbane Nail Art Studio, run by her friend and collaborator Mel Giandzi, and is currently working on putting together a team in Sydney too! Pretty impressive organic growth for a business built on the back of one girl’s self taught repertoire of handpainted nail embellishments…!

Along with its team of nine amazing girls, Trophy Wife is also slowly growing into a ‘beauty collective’ of sorts. Trophy Wife salon is now home to a group of amazing women who freelance in various beauty fields – including Gin Castro, who runs Trophy Wife Hair & Makeup, Laura Crocker from Tan-Yay Spray Tanning, and Sara-Jane Mackenzie who also does amazing nail art and hand sculpted gel nail extensions. The salon also do lots of special events and pop-up projects, which keeps them all very busy!

Chelsea and her team offer every kind of nail art you could imagine (there is really nothing they cannot paint in miniature!), alongside all the standard nail things, such as gel polishes and manicures. However, please note, they still maintain a ’No Toes’ policy!

We recently chatted to Chelsea about the impressive growth of her little business, and the ins and outs of being her own boss lady.

Trophy Wife Salon
2b Bridge Rd, Richmond

Tuesday & Thursday: 10.00am – 9.00pm
Wednesday, Friday, Saturday: 10.00am – 5.00pm


I am Chelsea Bagan, 70% creative, 30% business.

I own and run a different alternative to common nail and beauty salons.

My office is based in Richmond, with Trophy Wife HQ, but we also have recently opened a secondary Nail Studio in Kangaroo Point, Brisbane.

Our business goal / mission / reason for being was originally to pattern the nails of every person in Melbourne. It has since slowly been transforming into more of a ‘beauty collective’. I want to create a cool beauty destination with a relaxed comfortable atmosphere.


What was the first major turning point for your business?

I think the very first thing was that I so badly wanted to start a business based on my nail art, but wasn’t sure how it would be received, so I started putting photos of my own nails on my Instagram, and people started going crazy for them. I think that really helped me feel more confident that it could work, and very shortly after a writer from ThreeThousand came across me and gave me my first write up. I very quickly (the night before!) put together a Facebook page and website and it has all grown from there!

Best thing about running your own business?

I love that I get to choose the direction it goes in. It’s like my child, I get to nurture it and help it grow into a great person. It’s been the greatest teacher too. I have learnt so many life/career/personal lessons and in a way I have been its child! I also love being my own boss and occasionally taking a sneaky long lunch break.

The most challenging thing about running your business?

I guess there have been two main challenges. When I first started there was not anyone really offering this kind of service here, so it was hard to know how to go about getting it going, and few mentors available. I really think asking heaps of questions is a big key to success.

The second challenge has been financing it all. I worked a full-time job as well as having Trophy Wife for a long time, to be able to get it going and also pay rent. It’s a scary thing to scale down on full time work to get a dream project going, but you really have to throw yourself into it.

What’s the single most valuable asset in your business?

My Mum and Dad! They have always run small businesses, so they have definitely been my rock the whole way along. My Mum helps me with all the tricky accounts and money side of the business, which can be really challenging when you are mostly a creative person. But also just the insight into running a small business. It’s so important to me, because there are so many things you need to know.

I definitely think to run a successful business you need great advice and great mentors. There is 100% no way Trophy Wife would be what it is now without them.


What are the top three e-resources your business can’t do without?

Setmore This is our online booking software. It is really great for appointment scheduling and also has stopped my phone ringing so much!

Square This is our register system where we record all of our transactions. It’s really great because it sends you a report at the end of each day.

Instagram – The small business owner’s amazing answer to free marketing. I love you Instagram!

What is one weekly or daily ritual you employ to enhance your office productivity?

I try to split up my day so that I don’t get bored with the admin tasks. I usually do a few nail appointments then a small break for admin inbetween. I also have a big focus on lunchtime! I think it’s important to take that time to refresh, where you don’t think about work. It’s amazing the clarity I get from eating a baguette.


What do you know now about running a small business that you wish you had known when you started?

Ah! So many things! Having a small business really does take up a lot of your time, so I wish that I had learnt better time management skills early on. It helps to be able to stay sane keeping a healthy work/life balance.

Your top three lessons learned?

1. Ask lots of questions – friends, family, mentors and customers. Take on advice but know when to filter it to fit with your brand’s identity. In the end I think you have to trust your gut, as cheesy as that sounds.

2. If you want to do something, you simply have to start trying to do it. I think a lot of people talk a lot about wanting to do great things, but it is only you standing in the way. So get out there.

3. Collaborate. It’s amazing the way that working with others can open up your mind and give you new ideas, and networking is always important.


Who is one local small business owner you admire and why?

I really admire the guys at Who Gives A Crap. For starters I love a pun. But mostly I love what they do. More than 50% of their profits go towards building toilets and improving sanitation in developing countries, which is such a great idea. I also love the packaging AND they deliver!

If you want to do something, you simply have to start trying to do it. – Chelsea Bagan.

Chelsea Bagan of Trophy Wife in her Richmond salon. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

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